A guide to Australian Wines
Australians are prolific producers and consumers of wine.
They export and astonishing 750 million litres of wine to the international market and they consume another 530 million litres annually with a per capita consumption of around 30 litres a year. Wine is made in every state in Australia and there are more than sixty designated wine regions that are planted with around 160,000 hectares of vines. The history of Australian wines stretches back into the 18th century when the first attempt was made at planting grapes in New South Wales.
Unlike many European wine making countries, Australia takes a somewhat more liberal approach to wine production and wine laws. The wines must be at least 85% from the stated vintage on the label, 85% of the stated region on the label, and 85% of the stated grape variety. There are no ageing guidelines or rules about what grapes you can grow in each region, no guidelines in harvesting yields, and no rules about terms such as “reserve” on the label.
Australia’s major wine regions
The Barossa Valley is one of Australia’s oldest and most prized wine regions. Located in South Australia, it was first settled in 1842 by European immigrants. There are now close to 150 wineries in the Barossa and they lay claim to some of the world’s most iconic and sought after Shiraz. The shiraz of the Barossa tends to be incredibly powerful and dense in style. The fruit is generous and voluptuous and the alcohol levels usually mirror the warm growing conditions where ripeness in the berry is never a problem. Beside the world class Shiraz production that happens mostly in the low-lying, warmer areas, cool-climate varieties both red and white do very well in the Eden Valley. Riesling in particular is very distinct in this sub-region and has been known to confound the most skilled Sommeliers.
This is the birthplace of the wine industry in South Australia and is home to some of the most iconic and storied old vineyards in the country. There are around 65 wineries and 270 independent grape growers in McLaren Vale. The first grapevines were planted here in 1838 and the temperate Mediterranean climate is especially suited for grape growing and producing world class wines. Shiraz is once again the most important grape varietal grown in the region and accounts for about half the production. The other half of what is grown in McLaren is spread out amongst Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.
This was Victoria’s first planted wine region in 1838 and is now home to more than 80 wineries that range from small family run operations to large multi-partnered wineries. The Yarra produces some of Australia’s finest Pinot Noir and Sparkling wines because of it’s cool climate. The region is also well known for its fresh produce, freshwater salmon, trout and caviar, organically grown fruit and vegetables, and hand-crafted cheeses.
This is one of the Country’s true world class regions and one that is incredibly far away from the previously mentioned regions located in Western Australia about three hours south of Perth. There are more than 120 wineries in the region and Margaret River is home to some of Australia’s best Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and of course Shiraz.
Home to more than 40 wineries, most of which are very small, the Clare Valley lays claim to Australia’s most recognised Rieslings. The majority of them are made in a dry style and have a distinctness that garners serious respect amongst the world Sommeliers. Rubber hose and fresh tennis balls are some of the whimsical things that people love to speak about when describing the aromatic complexity of these Rieslings. Besides Riesling, the regions’ Mediterranean-like climate also works for the production of quality Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Semillon grapes.
This region is Australia’s oldest known growing are where you can find over 150 wineries producing incredible wines from some of the most ancient vines still living on the earth. The region in New South Wales was first planted in the 1820’s and the Wyndham Estate, one of Australia’s first wineries has a museum at the 1866 historical winery, that displays the original wine making equipment. Semillon is highly decorated here and thought to be amongst the best expressions of the variety in the country, however the also grow Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Portuguese variety Verdelho.
Located just a short distance from Melbourne, this region in Victoria is seldom spoken about on the international wine stage, but it lays claim to over 200 vineyards. The climate here is mild and the region is best suited for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The region is best known for its medium-bodied, dry wines and sparkling wines that show decent structure and a fair amount of complexity. Chardonnay made here reflects a wide diversity of styles, but most typically the wines are unoaked and have more citrus and tropical fruit flavours.
This small but recognised region lies just north of Perth in Western Australia. The wineries here are definitely a bit more boutique and many of the 40 plus wineries are understated, family-operated ventures. Swan Valley is best known for its Verdelho, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. They also have found great success with the production of fortified port-style wines.
In Conclusion, Australia is an incredibly diverse wine-growing country with just about every style being offered and exported around the globe. The winemaking theme is to always produce the best possible wines, using the most cutting edge technology, and of course sourcing the most amazing resources that mother nature has bestowed upon their land. The people are always innovating and traveling the world in the off season to find ways to improve their wines. It’s an exciting and trend setting wine region that continues to impress and almost systematically reinvent itself as time goes on.
To get a superb selection of Australian wines visit www.wineman.co.uk where you can choose from over 800 superb wines from many different countries.