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Australian winemakers have developed a reputation for crafting high-quality wines that are enjoyed all over the world, which is an amazing feat considering that Australian wines only became popular in Europe from the 1980s onwards.
Today, Australia is home to some of the most prestigious wine regions in the world, including the Barossa Valley, Hunter Valley, and Margaret River.
This article will look at a brief history of Australian wine, before giving an overview of the popular grape varieties and wine growing regions, and finishing with our recommendations for some great Australian wines for you to try.
Australia is a country with a history in winemaking that dates back to 1788, when Arthur Phillip (a British Naval Officer who became the founding governor of New South Wales) brought the first vines from South Africa to Sydney.
Winemaking spread to neighbouring regions, and by the early 1800s, vineyards were being developed across the whole of South Australia, in many of the areas that are now recognised as Australia's major viticulture areas.
James Busby, often considered the father of Australian winemaking, brought cuttings from Spain and France in 1833 and helped to introduce Shiraz and Grenache to the region.
From the early 19th century until the middle of the 20th century, the majority of Australian wine production was focused on fortified wines, of which it produced a lot of high-quality varieties, with Australia winning international awards for fortified wines dating back to 1873 at the Vienna Exhibition.
It was not until the 1960s when there was increased domestic consumer demand for quality table wines, that there was a significant change in the types of wines produced in Australia. From the 1960s onwards, table wines like Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon gained favour, with new wineries sprouting up across the major wine regions.
It was only in the 1980s that Australian wines became established in Europe. European consumers enjoyed the clean and fresh white wine styles from Australia, and the rich robust reds. It's estimated that in 2020, there was more wine imported into the UK from Australia than there was from Spain.
There are estimated to be over 1000 wineries spread over six main areas across Australia.
The climate in South Australia is perfect for wine production. South Australia accounts for roughly 50% of Australia’s wine production.
Within South Australia, there are certain wine regions of significance:
The state of Western Australia spans nearly a third of the Australian continent, but the main wine regions are concentrated into the south and southwest regions of the state where the climate is more suitable for wine growing.
Within Western Australia, the key wine growing regions are:
The primary wine region in Victoria is the Yarra Valley, which sits just outside of Melbourne.
The cool climate of the Yarra Valley makes it ideal for viticulture, and it is estimated that wine grapes cover over 4000 hectares. The Yarra Valley is famous for classic wines such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz.
New South Wales is home to the famous Hunter Valley, which is one of the oldest Australian wine regions, known for its world-class wine production. The Hunter Valley is perhaps best known for being renowned for producing fine Shiraz, Chardonnay and Semillon.
Tasmania is home to over 200 smaller vineyards and wineries and is renowned for the quality of its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Queensland is not one of Australia's most dominant wine-growing areas, but the wine industry in Queensland has grown considerably over the last decade, and it is now estimated that wine grapes are grown in over 1500 hectares in the state. The grape varieties grown in Queensland include Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
There is no doubt that Shiraz is the wine that Australia is most internationally recognised for. Shiraz accounts for over 25% of Australia's total wine production (over 39,000 hectares of plantings) and is Australia's most exported wine.
Chardonnay is the most planted white grape variety in Australia, accounting for half of all Australian white wine production. Chardonnay is grown across all of Australia's wine regions. Lighter styles of Chardonnay can be found in the Adelaide Hills and Tasmania, with fuller flavoured styles more common in areas such as the Hunter Valley.
Australia is also known as one of the world's top Riesling producers, with areas such as the Clare Valley being internationally renowned for their excellence.
Amongst the 100+ varieties of wine grape that are grown across the country, Australia is also recognised for producing quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Semillon.
We stock a wide range of Australian Wines so why not head over to our dedicated Australian Wines page to take a look?
Below are a few we recommend from our collection:
This easy-drinking Red Rock Chardonnay is full and creamy with tropical fruit flavours. Very subtle oaking has been used in the making of this wine, which gives it a warm, creamy quality.
This popular Viognier is a ripe, juicy white wine from South Australia. It has a fresh, fruity style with a hint of aromatic fruit.
This unoaked Chardonnay impresses with its clean and youthful character. There are aromas of fresh lime and a palate of peaches, apricot and other tropical fruits.