Introduction to Australian Wines

Credit: Photo of Australia by kevgibbo

Because of the struggles of Australian wine until the 1990’s, many people are not familiar with their wine.  This is unfortunate, because Matt Kramer, a noted wine critic, says that Australian wine makers are one of the most important resources in the globalization of wine and that they are “the most powerful influence in wine today”.

Australian wine is the fourth most exported wine in the world today.  It has been a huge help to the Australian economy through production, employment, export, and tourism.  Australia has had a great, yet very rocky, history of producing wines.  The first vine cuttings in Australia came from the Cape of Good Hope in 1788.  By the 1870’s, Australian wines had dominated international tastings.  In fact, in 1873 at the Vienna Exhibition, French judges praised many wines from Australia.  However, once the origin of the wines were announced, the judges withdrew their comments in protest stating that the wine was of such high quality that is must clearly be French.

From then on, Australian wines were winning award after award at international tastings.  Unfortunately, the phylloxera plague of the late 19th destroyed the wine community in Australia.  Wine makers were not able to recover until the late 1970’s.  Since then, they have rapidly started to rise back to their elite status.  The industry has been suffering hard times through 2006.  These difficulties are often because of grape overproduction, which causes government incentivized “vine-pulls” to reduce the amount of grapes being produced.  Most recently, Australian wines have branched out and are now dominating the organic and biodynamic styles of wine as well.

The major grapes that are produced in Australia are Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Semillon.  While Australia has no native grapes of its own, they have been able to easily incorporate vines from Europe and Africa.  The most popular and internationally recognized wine produced in Australia is the Shiraz (known as a Syrah in most parts of the world).

Shiraz has become so popular that many other wine makers across the globe have changed the label on their wine from Syrah to Shiraz.

Many Australians use canopy management and have an attitude towards wine production that has set them apart from the rest of the world.  They travel the world as highly skilled seasonal workers during their off season.  With regards to wine, his has made Australia, arguably, the most influential country in the world.

The latest trend that Australian wine makers have created is known as GSM wine.  GSM wine is a blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre.  Grenache is the lightest of the grapes and creates a pale red juice with very soft berry scents as well as a hint of spiciness.  It adds alcohol, warmth, and fruitiness to the wine.  The Shiraz lends its full-body, fleshy flavors of black fruits and pepper.  It also dominates the color and tannins as well as creating the overall sense of balance in the wine.  The Mourvedre add structure and acidity to blend as well as adding the flavor of sweet plums and tobacco.

There are four distinct wine regions: South Australia wine regions, Victoria wine regions, New South Wales wine regions, and Western Australia wine regions.  The South Australian wine industry produces more than 50% of all Australian wine.  In general, red wines are much more predominant than white wines, however the Tamar Valley is gaining a solid reputation for its Chardonnay.

Australia is known to have over 2000 wine producers, most of which are small winery operations.  The overall market continues to be dominated by only a few large corporations, the largest of which is Foster’s Group.  Hardy Wine Company is also very large.

Australian wines are still rising in prominence as the country is still in recovery-phase.  However, at the same time, it has already proven to be one of the most influential countries in the world when it comes to wine.  New wines are emerging every year, and Australian wine is definitely worth keeping a constant eye on.

Image via Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation
Sonya Lee

Since a child, Sonya has been traveling from the corners of Canada to the far east Asia. Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, she led a normal family life with her brother, mother and dad. A well received job opportunity in Hong Kong for her father put the compass in action from a young age. Sonya loves good food, and I mean GOOD simple food. She loves an occasional drink, be merry and enjoy the good times. Having recently healed herself from a large ruptured cyst, her favorite foods include fresh carrot juice, grilled vegetables, sauteed portabello mushrooms and truffle french fries. Her philosophy? Healthy food makes a healthy body. Read more on the Editor page. When she's not fretting over WAFT, she runs a small design agency called mowie media and shares the good times with her dog, Monster and 3 cats Sabi, Kaeli & Misty.

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