The production of wine in Australia dates back to the mid 19th century but only came to prominence in the last thirty years or so. Within this relatively short period the continent has produced a wide variety of highly regarded reds and whites.
As some regions bear a climate similar to California, it’s unsurprising that many wines mirror the popular varieties of the Sunshine State. But true to their iconoclastic heritage, the Australians have added several distinct varieties of their own.
Shiraz (or Syrah) is of course one of the better known wines but the lesser-known Durif would be a welcome guest at any table. Hailing from Rutherglen, a small town in North East Victoria, it joins the area’s unusual sparkling red to form a pair of unique offerings. Rutherglen also produces fortified wines such as Port, Muscat and Tokay that have become popular exports abroad.
Victoria also boasts another world-class set of producers in the Pyrenees (not to be confused with the mountains along the French-Spanish border!).
Since the early 1960’s the region now boasts over thirty vineyards with nearly six hundred hectares growing twenty-five different varieties. Shiraz, Merlot and Pinot Noir are amongst the red range, whilst white wine is represented by Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc amongst its offerings.
The Mornington Peninsula area has also turned to winemaking in this period. Once chiefly home to apple orchards it now has over sixty wineries, many open for public tastings and is home to a well-regarded Pinot Noir.
McLaren Vale, bound by the Sellicks Hill Range and the Gulf Saint Vincent, the area enjoys a Mediterranean climate with a dry summer. Rarely suffering from frosts or droughts, the long hot days and short cool nights create the perfect climate for growing.
Some vineyards in the area are still producing wine more than a hundred years after first being planted. The soil and climate combined with modern techniques produce a wine with superior ageing qualities. Widely acknowledged as one of the premier producers of Shiraz, the harvest from March to April with its noted smaller berries produce a complex and intense wine.
But Shiraz isn’t the only renowned product from the area. Both Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache are well reputed. The Grenache (similar to its Spanish counterpart) grows well in the region’s distinctive soils.
Amongst Australia’s oldest wine growing regions is the Clare Valley (its also one of the most scenic). English and Irish settlers moved into this area in the 1840s and much of the region’s architecture still reflects this early period.
The climate is continental with hot summer days and cool nights. Some valleys enjoy altitudes as high as 500m with red soil over gravelled rock.
Like much of Australia, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz dominate but it also produces a Riesling which has scooped international awards.
After struggling back from phylloxera infestations in the years since the 1970s, the country has grown to become the world’s largest exporter of wine to the UK and earned a reputation as one of the its finest producers.