Wine Types of Australia
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
For a country that has no native grapes, Australia has developed a broad wine industry encompassing many of the most familiar European varieties and excelling in producing wines from many of them. Australia’s Shiraz, for example, originally from France’s northern Rhône and known around the world as Syrah, has been so successful that other winemakers have begun using Australia’s term for the red wine variety.
Shiraz is the most popular red wine produced in Australia but Cabernet Sauvignon is close behind, produced mainly around the Coonawarra and Margaret Rivers. Merlot has become increasingly popular recently as Australian wine buyers notice the popularity of the grape abroad, particularly in the USA, and Pinot Noir tends to be used for sparkling wines, especially when mixed with Chardonnay.
Red wine types have long dominated Australia’s wine scene but the country also produces a number of important white varieties. Of these, Chardonnay is by far the most popular, with production more than double that of its nearest rival, Semillon, which until 1982 was the country’s dominant white variety. The grapes are grown mainly around the Margaret River, the Adelaide Hills, the Hunter Valley and the Melbourne “Dress Circle.”
Semillon, despite its decline in favour, is an Australian rarity. The wines produced from grapes grown around the Hunter Valley have a unique flavour especially when they’ve been left to mellow for five to seven years. Today, however, drinkers are more likely to prefer an Australian Riesling. Muscat grapes are also grown in Australia and some are used to produce fortified wines.
In addition to those traditional wine types though, consumers have also shown an interest in newer varieties, and growers have been keen to experiment. Other red wines recently produced in Australia include Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and even Sangiovese, better known as the local specialty of Tuscany.
But it’s not just the range of grapes, with types from all over the world coming together in Australia’s varied climates, that sets the country’s wines apart. It’s also the way they’re produced. While other wine industries have tended to focus on producing single-grape wines, usually from single regions, Australia’s winemakers are happy to blend. Terroir tends to be limited to the top labels and most wines are produced with an eye on the flavour of the grape rather than the place — or places — the grape was grown.