Australia is the fifth-largest wine-producing country after Italy, France, Spain and the United States. Wine is produced everywhere around the massive country’s southern shores, where the fresh Antarctic breezes bathe the sun-drenched coast.
We can’t talk about wine without mentioning Australia’s ripe white and red wines available for between a few bucks and a few hundred dollars, and quality is overall high.
Australia’s wine scene is more exciting than ever. From structured, juicy red wines to creamy white, from thirst-quenching bubbly wines to decadently sweet specialties. With a territory as large and varied, it’s no surprise the country’s winemakers can do it all.
Here’s what you need to know.
History of Australian Wine
The first European settlers arrived at what we now know as Sydney in 1788, and with them came the first grapevines. Although it took a few decades to see the birth of the country’s commercial wine industry, the seed for a bright future had already been planted.
In 1833, James Busby, the father of Australian wine, brought the first Spanish and French cuttings, including some of the country’s most cherished grapes — Grenache and Syrah (Shiraz).
The 19th century saw an authentic wine revolution aided by Australia’s numerous gold rushes and increasing population. Still, the country wasn’t spared by the vine-eating pest phylloxera, who destroyed a great deal of the vineyards. Interestingly, thanks to the long distances between vineyards, Australia stopped the pesky threat on its tracks, meaning Australia still has vines planted over one hundred years ago.
Australia became world famous during the 1990s and early 2000s, where, thanks to mechanisation and a scientific approach to growing grapes and making wine, it produced flawless wines with astounding fruit quality, which took the world of wine by storm.
The popularity of the near-perfect wines declined as wine lovers’ preference steered toward terroir-driven, organically grown wines. It took a few years for Australia to catch up on the new trend but today they’re back in the game.
Australian Grape Varieties
The most famous wine grape in Australia is the French Syrah, called here Shiraz. The robust grape adapted to the arid landscapes to produce bold, structured wines with lush fruit and lively spiciness. Along with its stablemates Grenache and Mourvèdre, Shiraz is still king in Australia,
Australia’s coldest wine regions champion Pinot Noir, and the wine can compete with the finest from America and Europe. Along with Pinot, Australian winemakers are also Chardonnay specialists, and the wine is good.
Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling do well, too, but there are at least two dozen distinct varieties in the country, and they’re all worth checking out. Red, white, sparkling, rosé and sweet fortified wines, Australia has an enviable repertoire, and there’s something to please every palate.
Lifted aromas of blackberry, blueberry briary fruits and perfumed violets are complemented by a lick of toasty vanillin oak. The palate is restrained in its youth but delivers depth and concentration with dark forest-fruits, rich fruitcake and a streak of earthy goodness. A wine of fantastic drive and complexity, the delicate grained tannins enhance the lengthy finish.
Growing up a Stone's Throw away on the same vineyard, it is little wonder that these two are fast friends. Riesling's cool minerality meshes with Gewürztraminer's exotic spice and rose water, in this delicious, refreshing blend. Serve chilled as an inviting apéritif or delicious with lightly spiced Asian cuisine.
Australian Wines To Try
This 90+ beauty, this garnet-hued Shiraz opens with a bright set of fruit aromas reminiscent of black plums, cherry liqueur and warm spices over a bold and seductive palate kissed by oak. Complex and lengthy, Jim Barry’s Shiraz is a great ambassador for Australia’s most popular grape.
Some of the most delicate Pinot in Australia comes from the southern Mornington Peninsula, and Paringa Estate’s ‘Peninsula’ is proof of it. Cocoa dusted cherries and lovely earthbound undertones permeate a silken smooth palate that just brings a smile to your face.
Australia is much more than red wine, and Larry Cherubino’s ‘Apostrophe’ is an excellent example. This thrilling blend of Riesling and Gewurztraminer is brimming with white flowers and exotic tropical fruit aromas across a pretty palate with the faintest, most pleasing sweetness.
Let’s Give Australia Some Love
Australian wine is up there with the best in the world. Their vast repertoire, backed up by talented winemakers and their large fan bases, will ensure that this doesn’t change any time soon.
Australian wine is not one, but many. So, if you’re still not in love with the wines from down under, it’s because you haven’t found the one for you, but keep looking because it’s out there.