Find out about the different Australian wines; their classifications, different grape varieties and the regional specialities...
Australia is world famous for wine, largely due to its French, Italian and German immigrants. It is the one of the world's biggest wine exporters, although there is also a large domestic market with Australians consuming close to 500 million litres of wine every year.
The popularity of wine in Australia continues to grow, with wine becoming a very important part of the country's culture. Wine festivals attract both Australian and international holidaymakers.
It is one of very few countries to produce all of the major wine styles: red, white, fortified, sparkling and dessert. The large size of the country means that most major soil types can be found. In combination with the range of climates this allows for a wide variety of grapes to be successfully grown. Australian wines have won medals at almost every major international wine competition.
Australia has no native grapes; they have all been imported from Europe. The country is home to some of the oldest vines in the world as many of Europe's vineyards were destroyed by disease in the 1800s. The earliest record of successful grape growth on the continent dates back to 1791.
Wine was initially produced in the coastal region around Sydney. Subsequently early settlers established vineyards in New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia. At the start of the 20th century Australia was exporting 4.5 million litres of wine to the United Kingdom.
By the 1950s the Australian wine industry was focused in the south of the country and thriving. The arrival of many European immigrants following the Second World War brought new wine making skills to the country. This led to the development of new techniques which, combined with an increased taste for fine wines, led to a rapid increase in wine consumption in Australia.
The focus of the Australian wine industry on research and development has given it the reputation for being one of the most advanced in the world. Small wineries have been opened throughout the country and wine appreciation courses are very popular.
Penfolds Grange is probably Australia's most famous red wine and certainly its most collectible. Their first vintage was produced in 1951 by winemaker Max Schubert who learnt his trade in Bordeaux. The wine is predominantly made from Shiraz grapes with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Lindemans and Wolf Blass are two winemakers of the Foster's Group. Wolf Blass is the largest winery in the Barossa Valley and is a major exporter of red and white wine to the United Kingdom. Lindemans was founded in 1843 and has vineyards across South Australia. It is famous for its world leading Chardonnay which is one of Australia's top selling wine exports.
There are approximately 60 wine producing areas in Australia. The majority are in the cooler south east of the country although there are vineyards in the desert of Alice Springs. Major vineyards include:
- Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and Coonawarra in South Australia
- Swan Hill, Yarra Valley and Rutherglen in Victoria
- Hunter Valley, Mudgee and Riverina in New South Wales
- Margaret River and Swan Valley in Western Australia
A wide range of grapes are used in Australian wines. Shiraz was the most widely used in 2006-7, followed by Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other widely used varieties are Semillon, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc for white wine and Merlot, Grenache and Pinot Noir for red.
Australia is associated with rich, full flavoured red wines reflecting the warmth of many of the wine growing regions. However, there are also parts of the country which have cooler climatic conditions more suited to grape varieties, such as the Pinot Noir, that produce lighter and more delicate wines.