Australia: More Than Just Shiraz
More than Just Shiraz
Over the past two decades the reputation of Australian wine has suffered in the minds of many. A massive oversupply of wine in the early 2000s saw producers bottling inexpensive bulk wines with cutesy eye catching labels, often referred to as ‘critter wines.’ Then there was the stylistic shift of other producers to make a ‘knock you on your face’ overpowering 16.5% alcohol style of Shiraz. Consumers soon began to think of Australia as a one-trick pony when it came to wine, and while Shiraz does make up for around 25% of production, Australia is home to over 130 different grape varieties. The variety of climates and terroirs of Australia allow for great diversity of viticulture.
The cool climate of Tasmania, similar to Champagne and northern Burgundy is ideal for the production of elegant sparkling wines as well as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The fiery Barossa Valley with a climate similar to the southern Rhone produces high quality Grenache and GSM (Grenache/Syrah-Shiraz/ Mourvedre) blends. Grenache has been planted in Australia for over a century, originally used in the production of Port-like fortified wines. Despite being one of the most widely planted grapes in the world, it is a hidden gem of Australia.
While Shiraz still reigns supreme domestically and for export, many other grapes have been able to step out of its shadow. Cabernet Sauvignon is grown throughout the country, but some of the finest, mostly terroir-driven examples come from Margaret River. These powerful Bordeaux-like Cabernets are identifiable by a telltale note of mint and eucalyptus.
Australia’s wine industry is not steeped in thousands of years of history like wines from the Old World that evolved along side regional cuisine. That being said, Riesling and Semillon, two underappreciated grapes, are very food friendly. Stunning examples are produced in Eden and Hunter Valley, respectively.
1977 Pewsey Vale Riesling was the first wine to be commercially released with a screw cap.
The Barossa Valley is home to the oldest vines in the country with Shiraz and Grenache vines dating back to the 1840s.
Vines were first brought to Australia from South Africa in 1788.
Australia is the 4th largest exporter of wine in the world, exporting over 60% of total production.
There are no species of grape indigenous to Australia.