Read on for our 'Seven to Know' facts on Australian wines; it's all you need to get started. Still want more? Click here for our Ultimate Buyer's Guide to Australia.
Seven to Know – Australia
As Barossa wine producer Peter Lehmann so colourfully said: 'When God invented shiraz, he did it with Australia in mind.' There's no doubting that shiraz is Australia's flag-bearer when it comes to grapes, producing a variety of different styles. Shiraz from the Barossa Valley is tannic, with ripe black-fruit and chocolate flavours. McLaren Vale produces examples that are lush and chocolatey with smooth oak flavours. From the Grampians, shiraz can be creamy with exotic fruit flavours and Hunter Valley produces great earthy, age-worthy examples.
2. Diverse grapes
Because of Australia's variable terrain, it is capable of producing great examples of multiple grape varieties. The usual suspects thrive here, such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot and sauvignon blanc. But you'll also find more unusual varieties such as the Russian grape saperavi and gewürztraminer, more usually associated with Alsace.
3. Five wine regions
Very simplistically, the country can be split into five distinct wine-producing states: Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania.
4. Western Australia
Western Australia is known for its spectacular scenery, golden-sand beaches and giant Karri tree forests and remote, unspoiled location. A relatively cool Mediterranean climate of warm, breezy summer days and cool nights dominates the wine-producing areas. The resulting wines tend to combine fruit ripeness with freshness (think zesty semillon-sauvignon blanc blends, chardonnay and elegant, age-worthy cabernet).
5. South Australia
South Australia is the heavyweight wine state, producing most of the country's wine and boasting some of its oldest vines. The dry, hot climate ripens grapes fully, making bold, dense and concentrated wines. There are too many regions to list here (see here for each one) but the state boasts the greatest variety, from elegant pinot noirs all the way through to rich, raisin-flavoured muscat.
6. New South Wales
Today, the state is most famous for the Hunter Valley, where Australia's most delicate, age-worthy white wines are made. Picked early and light in alcohol, Hunter semillon is delicious for its dry, tight structure and lemony fruit which becomes toasty and soft in texture with age.
Tasmania is a cool-climate island just off Australia's mainland. Sparkling wine, riesling and chardonnay thrive in Tasmania, but pinot noir can be exceptional, with a delicacy and lift often lacking in wines from the mainland.