Wine Regions of Australia
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
Although Australian winemakers tend to emphasize grape variety and climate over terroir and soil, the country’s wine industry can be divided into four main regions.
South Australia alone is responsible for more than half of the country’s wine production, helped by a varied climate and diverse geography. The hot, dry Barossa Valley, for example, is one of the country’s oldest wine-growing areas and is best known for its Shiraz wines, although white Chardonnays, Rieslings and Semillons are also grown higher up on the hills. The Mount Lofty Ranges, however, tend to be cooler and with a climate closer to that of the Mediterranean. The area is known for its Chardonnay and Rieslings but is also having success with Sangiovese and Cabernet franc.
New South Wales is Australia’s most populous state and also produces some of its most populist wines. Responsible for some 30 percent of the country’s wine production, many of the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Semillon grapes grown in the area eventually find their way into box wines and mass-produced brands. The area covers 800,000 square kilometres and includes a variety of different microclimates, from Hunter Valley’s warmth and high humidity to Canberra’s cooler temperatures. New South Wales is also the site of the country’s first vineyard, planted with South African vines in the garden of the colony’s Governor in Sydney.
While New South Wales focuses on mass-producing wines, Victoria, to the south, has more wine producers than any other region — but produces less wine than its northern neighbour. Its 600 wineries are spread out across the state and take in major wine regions that include Heathcote, the Yarra Valley and Rutherglen. The area is known for its single varietal wines (much of Australian wine is blended) that include Shiraz and Chardonnay but also the rarer Viognier, Pinot Noir and Tannat. It’s also in this region that you can find fortified wines like Liqueur Muscat.
Finally, Western Australia is the largest of the wine-growing states but produces less than 5 percent of the country’s total output — and much of that in the south. As a site for wine-making, the area is changing. In 1970, as much as 90 percent of the state’s production was focused in Swan Valley, an area believed to be the hottest place in the world to produce wine. By 1996, that number had fallen to just 15 percent as winemakers moved southwest to the Margaret River, and in particular, to the Great Southern Wine region, a huge rectangle 200 kilometres across and 100 kilometres deep with nominated sub-regions.