We’re celebrating Australian wine this month. When it comes to wine, Australia has a reputation for being one of the most exciting and experimental countries in the world. While it may be best known for a few big brands, there’s a lot more to Australian wine than you might think! Here are the reasons why.
1. There are now almost 2000 wine producers across Australia, and many of whom are genuine small-scale ’boutique’ producers – and 90% of these wineries have existed only since 1970. It’s a brave New World of wine!
2. Australian wineries are often run by the owners, who get hands-on with viticulture and vinification- like the Barry clan of Jim Barry wines pictured with our buyers Suzie and Justin!
3. Australia is the sixth biggest wine producing nation in the world, crushing and fermenting 12,506,000 hectolitres in 2014. By comparison, France at number one produced 46,151,000 hectolitres and Argentina at number five produced 15,200,000 hectolitres!
4. The Australian Wine Research Institute, based near Adelaide, was founded in 1955 and is devoted to researching applied techniques as well as chemical, microbiological and sensory elements of making wine. The Institute has helped raise the quality of winemaking in Australia to an exceptionally high standard.
5. People travel from all over the world to take part in the annual harvest – young winemakers from California, Washington, Canada and the UK make the journey to get purple hands.
6. The Barossa Valley, home of Australian Shiraz and Riesling, has a strong Scottish and German heritage. Many wineries, families, and place names show their ancestry such as Angaston (where Yalumba are based), Langmiel, and Seppeltsfield. Henschke, one of the top wineries in the north of the Barossa, was founded by German settlers, and Jim Barry Wines names two of its top wines after Duncan McRae Wood in the Armagh area of Clare.
7. The grapes Australia is most famous for are Chardonnay and Shiraz (Syrah). Barossa Shiraz is typically full bodied and voluptuous, however experimentation in different regions – such as Heathcoate, Clare, Padthaway, and Langhorne Creek show that varied and interesting styles are emerging. McLaren Vale is developing an extremely fine reputation for aromatic and complex Shiraz, and has a very high proportion of family-owned boutique producers including Kangarilla Road Wirra Wirra, and Mollydooker.
8. Australia helped launch Chardonnay as the world’s favourite grape before it fell victim to its own success. The big and overly oaky style of yesteryear is a thing of the past, with producers crafting increasingly elegant styles which are distinctively Australian rather than attempts to clone Burgundy. Regions to watch are Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, and most exciting of all, Tasmania.
9. Australia also makes exceptional wines from Grenache and Mourvedre – both classic Rhône varieties alongside Shiraz – classically in ‘GSM‘ blends.
10. Cabernet Sauvignon rules the roost in Coonawarra, which has a moderately cool climate not unlike Bordeaux. It is also grown exceptionally well in Margaret River, Clare Valley and Tasmania.
11. The same cooler regions where Chardonnay performs at its best are also making superb Pinot Noir. Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley and Tasmania are producing top quality wines – both still and sparkling.
12. The Other White Grapes of Australia are Semillon, where the best known are the long-lived wines of the Hunter Valley, and Riesling, where Clare Valley is king. Hunter Semillon is lemony in youth, developing into a full and honeyed rich dry wine in age. Clare Rieslings are piercing, refreshing and classically bone dry with ripe lime and developing deliciously mellifluous beeswax characters with age. There are some excellent examples of Viognier from the Eden Valley, with one producer in particular, Yalumba, at the fore.
So you really wouldn’t want to visit, would you?