Australia Wines

Rated #1 Consumer Reports

The Australian wine industry has been slowly making their mark around the world, and vintages from the region are slowly finding their way on many tables and cellars of connoisseurs. As interest for wine continues to soar, the country is becoming a major exporter and has gradually increased shipment to various parts of the globe. It is the world's fourth largest exporter and ships about 760 million litres annually, the bulk of which goes to the South and Fareast Asia, and India. Domestic consumption also accounts for a major share of the market.

The land down under's terroir including the topography and soil types have been perfect for the various grape varieties. The macro, meso, and micro climatic ranges also add to the varying characteristics of the vintage there.

Among the major grape varieties grown in Oz are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Shiraz. These were brought from grape regions in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries as the territory has no native grapes. Some local viticulturalists have bred other varieties such Cienna and Tarrango. As many as 130 grape varieties are used by commercial winemakers there today.

To date, vineyards in the region adopt their own canopy management and other viticultural techniques. Some procedures are enhancements of those commonly followed in Europe or in California. Innovative in-wine making methods also add temperament to the vintages there.

A notable blend from the region is the GSM red wine, which combines Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. This blend, according to The Oxford Companion to Wine, originated from those used in certain Southern Rhône wines, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Grenache is a pale red juice with soft fruity scents that adds warmth without the tannins. In the meantime, Shiraz provides the colour and the body, while Mourvèdre endows the structure.

Another famous wine is the 1955 vintage from Penfolds Grange, which, according to wine critic Robert Parker, "has replaced Bordeaux's Pétrus as the world's most exotic and concentrated wine." The vintage has won many gold medals in many Wine Olympics and cited as vintage of the year in many magazines.

Almost every state in the country produces their distinctive vintages. The best Australian wines, however, are from the cooler parts of the country. For instance, Barossa Valley in South Australia is well known for Rieslings, Shiraz, and Cabernets. Pinot Noirs from the Yarra Valley in Victoria, which has a cooler and temperate climate, are also popular. Vintages from Coonawarra are noted for their reds such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Penfolds grows some of its Cabernet requirements on the reddish coloured terra rossa soil of Coonawara.

Australia winemakers are quietly making their global presence. The country's distinctive terroir is reason enough to soften the parochial attitude of many wine connoisseurs. Indeed, the best Australian wines are hard to ignore and can be found alongside old world vintages.

Christina has toured coast to coast in search for the best Australian wines. He recommends Australia wines for those with the pioneering spirit, and Napa ones for flamboyant types.