The Australian wine industry is an ever-changing beast. What started on a tiny scale through inland New South Wales and Victoria has now become the 4th largest exporter of wine in the world.
There are no native grapes to Australia so when the first settlers arrived, so did the first vines. In the early 19th century a small amount of wine was made a sold however it was not until the later part of the 19th century that new migrants from Europe brought with them the skills necessary to make quality wine. The Prussians were especially successful in a newly formed area called the Barossa Valley.
There are rumours of Australian wines winning awards in France as early as the 1890’s however pre- phylloxera vintages were from most reports nothing to write home about. With the onset of phylloxera (barring Tasmania and South Australia) the local wine industry turned heavily to fortified wines and stayed that way for a number of years until the mid 50’s and 60’s when Australian wine began to make a splash on the international scene. One wine in particular was the star, Penfolds Grange Hermitage.
There are a large number of wine regions spread throughout southern Australia (where the climate is best suited) with the states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia being the largest producers. However the Margaret River in Western Australia is fast becoming an industry leader. Some of the more famous regions are the Hunter Valley (NSW), the Yarra Valley (VIC), the Coonawarra (SA) and of course the Barossa Valley (SA). Outside of these regions lie many, many more influential regions and sub-regions but it is as always an ever-changing landscape. Six out of the top seven biggest wines company’s in Australia call South Australia home and it is comfortably the biggest producing state with nearly 50% percent of the annual crush coming from its vines. It is also the only premier wine-producing region in the world to have never been effected by phylloxera.
Major Grape Varietals
Red grapes planted
Hectares 04′ 05′ 06′ 07′ 08′
White grapes planted
Hectares 04′ 05′ 06′ 07′ 08′
A Mediterranean/Continental climate prevails over much of the wine country in Australia with Tasmania and the Mornington Peninsula being the major exceptions.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, Adelaide Hills, Mclaren Vale.
As previously mentioned, South Australia is responsible for nearly 50% of the annual crush. It is home to Australia’s, and some of the worlds, oldest vines. The Barossa Valley and Mclaren Vale are warmer mediterranean climates with the Coonawarra, Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills being slightly cooler. Mainly dark cracking clay, clay loams and sandy soils dominate throughout except down south in the Coonawarra where it has its famous terra rossa to be thankful for. Shiraz is star in this part of Australia but don’t let this fool you into thinking that it is all they do.
Penfolds (Grange Hermitage, Bin 707, Bin 620, RWT)
Henschke (Hill of Grace, Mt Edelstone )
Rockford (Basket Press Shiraz, Sparkling Shiraz)
Clarendon Hills (Australis)
Wendouree (Shiraz, Mataro)
Torbreck (Run Rig, The Factor)
VICTORIA: Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Heathcote
Victoria is located on the southern tip of the mainland is there for a little cooler than than most of Australia. Consequently, cooler climate wines do very well here, especially on the Mornington Peninsula where a more maritime climate prevails. Soil types vary greatly from clay loams and greenstone to sandy soils. Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay have received most of the accolades recently but premium shiraz and fortified wine is also produced.
Bass Phillip (Pinot Noir)
Mount Mary (Quintet Cabernet blend)
NEW SOUTH WALES: Hunter Valley, Mudgee
One of the original wine producers in Australia, New South Wales has a long proud history in the wine industry and the Hunter Valley is its star. A cooler Mediterranean climate provides the perfect setting for Semillon to shine. Grey sandy loams and red soils are the dominant soils however the region is very diverse.
Clonakilla (Shiraz Viognier)
Brokenwood Wines (Shiraz, Semillon)
Tasmania is the only true cool climate wine region in Australia. In recent years it has really started to make a mark with sparkling wine and pinot noirs. Soil types once again vary greatly with sandstone, mudstone and volcanic overlays being the most prevalent.
Joseph Chromy (Riesling, Pinot Noir)
Bay of Fires/House of Arras (Sparkling)
WESTERN AUSTRALIA: Margaret River, Swan Valley
The sheer size of Western Australia is usually what visitors first notice however vineyards only cover a very small part of it. There are plantations scattered all over the south but the Margaret River is the states most famous region. Gritty or gravely sandy loams are the norm but obviously there are exceptions. Chardonnay and Cabernet sauvignon are the strongest performers but not the only.
Vasse Felix (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon)
Moss Wood (Cabernet Sauvignon)
Cullen (Cabernet Sauvignon)
Leeuwin Estate (Chardonnay)
The Australian wine industry is on the cutting edge of modern wine making. Challenges lay ahead for this underrated part of the world but I am confident it will remain and improve as a world leader in wine. As a proud Australian, I am very excited for the future.