Australia is a major wine producing country. In fact, it ranks fourth in the world when it comes to the volume of wine exports. With more than 750 million litres of wine produced in Australia every year only 40% of that is actually consumed locally and the rest is exported to other countries. The Australian wine industry is a significant contributor to the economy of the country.
Wine is produced in all the states of Australia and there are more than 60 designated wine regions. There are more than 160,000 hectares that are dedicated to grapevines in Australia. Though winemaking is practiced all over the country, the major wine regions can be found in southern part of Australia which is cooler than the rest of the country.
The wine regions there produce different types of wine that take advantage of the climate, soil and the location of the area. The major varieties being grown in Australia include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Semillon, Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay.
History of Winemaking in Australia
Winemaking in Australia got its start when vine cuttings from South Africa were brought over to New South Wales by Governor Phillip back when it was still a penal colony. Soon, settlers started making their own wine and by the 1820s, Australian wine was available for local consumption. It was Gregory Blaxland who first exported Australian wine and was also the first winemaker to win an international award.
Winemaking in Australia was greatly improved by the influx of free settlers into the continent. For example, the Prussian emigrants were instrumental in making the Barossa Valley in South Australia as a major wine region.
The first winemakers in Australia had a hard time at first because they had to struggle with the unfamiliar climate of the new territory. But when they were able to overcome such hurdles, wines from Australia started to gain notice from abroad. Today Australia is one of the biggest exporters of wines in the world. There are times that there is an overproduction, but that does not mean that the quality of Australian wine has deteriorated.
The Major Wine Regions in Australia
As mentioned earlier, there are more than 60 wine regions in all of Australia and they produce a considerable amount of wine which has made the country a major wine exporter. We have listed here some of the more important Australian wine
Hunter Valley, New South
Hunter Valley is actually the oldest wine region in Australia. Settlers planted the first vines in Hunter Valley. The most iconic wine there is the Hunter Valley Semillon but other varieties are also planted in the valley and that includes cabernet sauvignon, verdelhoshiraz and chardonnay. Since the valley is just a two hour drive from Sydney it is an ideal destination for wine tours. One great stop for tours in the area would be the Wyndham Estate which is one of the oldest vineyard in all of Australia. Another attraction would be Audrey Wilkinson winery which has an exhibit of original wine-making equipment.
Barossa Valley, South Australia
Barossa Valley is also an old wine region in Australia, but aside from being one of the first wine regions in the country, it also holds a reputation as one of the finest in the world. European settlers first came to the valley in the 1840s and one can still feel the Old World charm there.
There are more than 150 wineries in Barossa Valley and what sets it apart is the variety of the conditions in the region when it comes to growing vines. There are areas there that are warm while there are also parts of the valley that are known for its coolness.
Clare Valley, South Australia
The Clare Valley in South Australia is known for its Mediterranean-style climate and is an ideal place for growing Chardonnay, Merlot , Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Semillon. There are more than 40 wineries that can be found in the Clare Valley and most of them are located between the towns of Auburn and Clare.
McLaren Vale, South Australia
The McLaren Vale is considered to be the birthplace of the Australian wine industry. It is also home to some of the world’s oldest grape vines. The oldest vines that can be found there were planted back in the 1830s. Today there are more than 60 wineries there and most of those are small ones. With its Mediterranean-like climate, McLaren Vale is really ideal for growing varieties like Shiraz.
Other major wine regions in Australia include:
• Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
• Yarra Valley, Victoria
• Margaret River, Western Australia
• Swan Valley, Western Australia
It might be said that the Australian tradition of winemaking is relatively young when compared with those of other countries but it cannot be denied that it has come a long way. The Australian wine industry now is a major player in the world market.