With a population of just twenty-five million people and a land area of over seven million square kilometres, Australia is a nation of geographic and cultural diversity. Its most iconic images - Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Harbour - are instantly recognised all around the world and its reputation as the ultimate tourist destination is well deserved. A favourable climate, much revered outdoor lifestyle, beautiful coastline and some of world’s most exciting urban areas, make Australia a truly unique and unforgettable destination. Add to this, the alluring appeal of a vast and efficient network of wine tourism possibilities, and you have the perfect place for the budding connoisseur.
Vitis Vinifera vines were introduced to Australia at the beginning of the nineteenth century with the first domestically produced wines offered for sale around twenty years later. Initial growth in the industry was slow owing to the unfamiliarity of the Australian climate, but from the 1850s onwards, with the introduction of key French grape varieties and a deeper understanding of the country’s diverse terroir, Australian wine began to find its groove. International success ensued before the Phylloxera epidemic wiped out much of the nation’s vines, but since re-establishing itself, the Australian wine industry has very quickly risen to the rank of viticultural super power.
Today Australia has more than one-hundred-and-thirty thousand hectares under vine, sixty-five designated appellations and is amongst the world’s most prolific exporters. Each of the nation’s states makes wine in some quantity but the vast majority is produced in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Given its size, topographical diversity and the influence of surrounding oceans for coastal sites, Australia’s range of microclimates is extensive and wide ranging. Hence, the number of grape varieties that have found suitable terroir here is plentiful, and the style of wines produced reflective of this.
Amongst the grapes being cultivated and vinified in Australian vineyards are the French varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, Mediterranean grapes such as Sangiovese and Tempranillo as well as fruits typical of cooler climates like Riesling and the Georgian variety, Saperavi. But undoubtedly the emblematic Shiraz is Australia’s biggest winemaking success, accounting for almost one third of the nation’s vineyards and producing rich, well-structured and intensely concentrated wines, the best examples of which will continue to improve with age.
But Shiraz is not the only star of the Australian wine scene. Everything from powerful, robust reds to crisp, elegant whites and Prosecco-esque sparkling wines exist within this incredibly diverse wine nation, and there is a growing appreciation also for natural wine. The country that gave the world WiFi, Kylie Minogue and Crocodile Dundee, has granted us another gift in its delectable range of wines which continue to shine on the world’s highest stage.
South Australia is the largest wine region in the country, producing almost half of the amount of fruit each year. While there is plenty of bulk production, the state is also home to fascinating sub regions each with their own important characteristics. Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale are just three areas worth exploring further.
New South Wales is home to a number of different wine regions, of which the Hunter Valley is perhaps the most famous.
To the east of South Australia is Victoria, a large region split into six smaller sub regions. Perhaps the best known is the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, located in the Port Phillip zone around Melbourne.