Early Australian wine production dates back to the 1791, when grapes were imported from Europe and wine was shipped back to the United Kingdom. Slowly but surely, Australian vineyards in New South Wales, Tasmania, Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia sprouted up.
The industry was furthered by the Land Selection Act, which freed up land that had been locked for gold rush mine development and the removal of trade barriers when the federation was established in 1901. The industry experienced ups and downs during the world wars, due to space constraints, overproduction and changing British government rules, but by the 1950s, the industry was thriving, with South Australia leading the way. Australians have grown to love and appreciate wine even more over the years as their wineries gain international recognition.
You will likely never forget the first time you try an Australian Riesling: as the white wine explodes with hints of apricot, peat and a particularly sweet-and-sour green grape flavor. Compared to German Rieslings, the Aussie variety is drier, with less sweetness and more aroma. Chardonnay is a relatively new variety in Australia, but you can find smooth or crisp varieties, depending on which vineyard you buy from. The Australians sometimes pair Chardonnay with Semillon white wine.
Semillon itself is a drier white that goes well with fish. Unlike Semillon, which is produced in humid regions of Australia, the Pinot Grigios come from the cooler climate regions and are a crisper, more tart wine, as opposed to aromatic and subtle.
Red wines, like Shiraz, are very popular and include ripe fruit, tannins and spices that complement beef, lamb and pork entrees. Pinot Noirs are smooth reds with a long finish that is delicious with ham, duck and cheese. Drier in nature, Cabernet Sauvignon has a bold taste and deep flavor, and is often popular as a “Bordeaux Blend, " mixed with Merlot.
With so many different Australian climates, the wine-producing regions run far and wide. Just North of Adelaide, which is in the southeast region of Australia, you'll find Barossa Valley, an area known for its hot and dry climate and for producing Shiraz and Cabernets. North of the Barossa Valley, you'll find the hotter and drier wines of the Clare Valley, which produces the strongly flavored Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet.
The most southerly vineyard in the South Australian appellation is Coonawarra, which produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, with its limestone subsoils and low heat. In eastern Australia, near Sydney, the Hunter Valley is known for tasty Shiraz, but also its Rosemount Reserve Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
South of Adelaide, the McLaren Vale produces full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Cabernet. In case you haven't figured it out, Adelaide is a good starting point if you want to add an Australian wine experience to your next vacation!
One of the best times to experience Australian wine is to come during one of the Australian festivals. Every month, the Victorian Wine Regions feature a Showcase Series at Fed Square in Melbourne, which features wine from a particular region. You can chat with winemakers and experts from the selected region and try different wineries all in one convenient location.
If you come during January, then there's a Tasmanian Fruit Wine Festival. Melbourne's Food and Wine Festival is in March and the Barossa Vintage Festival in April can't be beat! Brisbane has a nice Fine Wine Festival in July and the Hunter Valley has a “Jazz in the Vines" series in October. Lastly, the Margaret River Wine Region has a festival in November.
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