Australia’s wine production dates back to the mid-1800’s, but the industry was lackluster until about 30 years aussie flagago. Since then, this wine region has grown to be a world producer with a variety of highly appreciated whites and reds.
With climate regions similar to California, it’s not surprising that much of their product mirrors the popular varieties of that state. But the Australian’s — true to their iconoclastic image — add several distinctive varieties of their own.
Shiraz (or Syrah) is one of the best known recent products, but the lesser-known Durif would be a welcome addition to any meal. Hailing from the Rutherglen, a small town in north-eastern Victoria, it joins the area’s unusual sparkling red wine to form a pair of unique offerings. Rutherglen also produces fortified wines, such as port, Tokay and Muscat that often find their way to other countries.
Victoria also boasts another world-class group of wineries in the Pyrenees (not to be confused with the mountains on the border of France and Spain).
Under cultivation since the early 1960’s, this region now has over 30 vineyards with nearly 600 hectares (1458 acres) growing twenty-five wine grape varieties. Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot are among the reds, with whites represented by Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and others.
Once home primarily to apple orchards, the Mornington Peninsula has turned to vineyards in recent decades. With over 60 wineries, many open for public wine tasting, this area boasts a well-regarded Pinot Noir.
McLaren Vale, bound to the west by Gulf Saint Vincent and on the south by the Sellicks Hill Range, this area enjoys a Mediterranean climate with a dry summer south of the equator. Rarely experiencing frost or drought, the long hot days and short cool nights are perfect for growing wine grapes.
Some vines of the region are still producing after more than a hundred years. The climate and soil conditions combine with modern methods to produce a wine with superior aging qualities. Widely acknowledged as one of the premier producers of Shiraz, harvest occurs from March to early April in the southern hemisphere. With its noted smaller berries, vintners here produce a complex and intense wine.
But Shiraz isn’t the only excellent vintage of the region. Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache both are well regarded. The Grenache, similar to that grown in Spain, grows very well in these distinctive soils.
Among the oldest wine regions of Australia, the Clare Valley is also one of the most scenic. Settled by the English and Irish in the 1840’s, much of the architecture still reflects those early days.
With hot summer days and cool nights, the climate is continental. Some valleys are at altitudes as high as 500m (1640ft) with red soil on graveled rock.
As in much of Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz dominate, but it also produces a Riesling which has been the recipient of international awards.
After struggling back from phylloxera infestations, in the years since the 1970’s, Australia has become the world’s largest exporter of wine to the UK and has earned its reputation as one of the world’s finest wine producers.