Australian Wine and Grape Varieties

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Australian wineThe Australian wine industry is the fourth largest exporter of wine in the world, with over 400 million liters being shipped out every year to large international markets that even includes Old World wine-producing countries like France, Italy, and Spain.

The island also has a significant domestic market for Australian wines, and the local wine industry is a significant contributor to the country’s economy through production, employment, export, and tourism.

Major grape varieties that are being grown in Australia include Shiraz (or Syrah), Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Riesling. However, Australia has no native grapes, as the Vitis vinifera varieties were introduced from Europe and South Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

About 130 different grape varieties are used by commercial wine makers in the country, and over recent years many wineries have begun exploring on "alternative varieties," including those from the Old World like Petit Verdot, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Viogner.

Australian winemaking has been very impressive and it has established benchmarks for a number of varietals, such as Chardonnay and Shiraz. Also, the local wine makers have innovated in canopy management and other viticultural techniques. Their general attitude towards wine making sets them apart from European producers.

Australian wine makers travel the world as highly-skilled seasonal workers, relocating to other wine-producing countries during off-season at home, making them an important resource in the globalization of wine.

The country’s most famous wine is the Penfolds Grange. This great 1955 vintage was submitted to competitions since 1962 and over the years has won more than 50 gold medals.

The vintage of 1971 won first prize in Shiraz at the Wine Olympics held in Paris, while the 1990 vintage was named "Red Wine of the Year" by the Wine Spectator magazine in 1995.

Other red wines to garner international attention include Henschke Hill of Grace, Claredon Hills Astralis, D’ Arenberg Dead Arm, Torbreck Run Rig, and other high-end Penfolds wines like St. Henri Shiraz.

Australia has about 2000 wine producers, most of them are small winery operators. However, the market is dominated by a small number of major win companies.