Strict rules and stuffy wine laws don't apply here! The beauty of Australian wine lies in its growers' maverick attitude and uninhibited approach to winemaking. Sure, you'll find fruit-forward shiraz and generously oaked chardonnay. But our cousins down under make wines that are beautifully elegant and restrained too: you just need to know what to look for.
Australian grape varieties: Shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot for reds. Chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc and Semillon for whites.
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 – Rioja
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.
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.
Five wine regions
Very simplistically, the country can be split into five distinct wine-producing states:
- Western Australia
- South Australia
- New South Wales
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).
Elegant, ageworthy cabernet sauvignon originally put the spotlight on Margaret River and is still its trump card.
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.
Clare Valley represents Australia's pinnacle for riesling.
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.
Hunter Valley, where Australia's most delicate, ageworthy white wines are made.
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.
The Tamar River in Tasmania.
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