The Fairy Tale of Australia’s Wines

There are few things I love more than a glass of wine. But not just any wine. Over the years I have discovered that what I really love is a deep red wine that is big, thick, jammy, bold, and almost … chewable. Now let me say right now, I am no wine guru. I don’t smell things in the bouquet of a wine like tobacco, licorice, chalk, or any of those other wine words that you hear about. But I have started to figure out what I like, and thanks to friends who own a wine bar, and other friends who are also into wine, I have learned a little about why I like the wines that I like. And it just so happens that more times than not, when I discover a wine that I love, it turns out to be Australian.

So I am on a mission to figure out why. After much research, tasting & comparing I have decided to put together a review & comparison on seven main wine producing regions of Australia: New South Whales, Victoria, Goulburn Valley/Great Western Region, Southern Australia, Northern Australia, McLaren Vale, and the Barossa Valley.

Once I started sniffing around, I realized I might be on to something here: Australia’s wine saga starts out like a centuries long fairy tale. There is hostile take over, English Kings, decimation, a phoenix-like rising from the ashes, and a cinderella-like rising to the top. Is it any wonder that the rest of the world has become smitten with the happy ending that has occurred as Australia has risen to greatness in the winemaking industry?

The fairy tale starts like this: In 1788 Captain Arthur Phillip landed at Sydney Cove bringing with him Australia’s first grape vines from Brazil and the Cape of Good Hope. The first vines planted in Sydney were an unfortunate victim of the heat and humidity of the Farm Cove site and the vineyard never flourished. Eventually crops moved South West of Sydney, where commercial vineyards for wine production finally  began thriving in most States by 1850. By 1854 the first wine export to the United Kingdom had been formally recorded – 1,384 gallons.

With this slow start came the birth of a thriving industry which in a mere 200 years or so, would be exporting over 800 million litres of wine to the world. But before that fairy tale ending would come, disaster would have it’s turn on the stage of our fairy tale. In the mid 1800’s, Phylloxera, a small aphid like insect attacked.  It’s victims were the roots of the grapevines, and their attack resulted in the death of the vines. By 1875, over two thirds of the vineyards in Europe were destroyed. Thankfully, there were some strict quarantine regulations put in place, which restricted transporting vine material between Australia’s wine regions. This protected South Australia’s wine regions, such as the Barossa Valley, to stay Phylloxera free, thereby giving us today some of the oldest vines in the world – steadfastly growing on their original European rootstocks!

Over the next century, Australia eventually came to power in the wine making world and has conquered the mainstream market, a king on the throne. In the next weeks we will journey through Australia’s domain; sipping, tasting, comparing and learning why these wines have become such royalty. Join us on the adventure!

Heidi Anderson

Heidi is a professional photographer & writer, eater & drinker in Honolulu, Hawaii. After attending The Academy of Art in San Francisco, she opened a children's photography studio in Los Gatos, CA, but eventually the pull of the Islands brought her back to Hawaii to open a studio there. She has become a renowned children's photographer & has since cultivated her food lust by photographing food for local restaurants, as well as collaborating on a Cuban cookbook project where she is the photographer, writer & recipe tester. With her motto being: Will Work For Food, she also documents her pursuit to "eat, drink & be merry" on her food blog, Swigs & Grinds. You can find her at www.swigsandgrinds.blogspot.com & www.keikiphoto.com

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