Australian Wine Regions

Friday, June 8th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Australia vineyardMost of Australia’s wines come from the southeast part of the country, where its cool climate makes it ideal for vineyards. There are more than 50 wine regions in Australia, with more regions being recognized as of late.

Unlike in other wine-producing countries, Australia organizes their wine industry by dividing the country geographically into wine zones, wine regions, and sub-regions. This system, referred to as Geographic Indications, is strictly observed and that all Australian wines should indicate in their labels its GI.

Here are the major wine-making regions of Australia.

Adelaide Hills – One of South Australia’s largest regions (as well as the oldest), home to a large number of premium wine and food producers, located at the eastern portion of the city of Adelaide. Its climate of 5°C makes it an ideal summer getaway for many Australians who want to escape from the heat, as well as growing Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay.

The vineyards are situated on Mount Lofty, the lowest of which are sited at an altitude of around 400 meters. The region is further divided into Lenswood and Picadilly Valley sub-regions.

Barossa Valley – Australia’s best-known wine region and South Australia’s most visited tourist destination located about 60 kilometers northeast of Adelaide. It is greatly influenced by its German migrants who first settled here. Most renowned for its opulent styles of Shiraz, although the region also produces fine examples of Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, and Chardonnay.

The soil here varies considerably, from deep sandy soils on the sloping areas to sandy loam and heavy red-brown clay soils on the flats. The climate consists of dominant rainfall during winter and high summer evaporation. It is also home of the most famous wineries in the country such as Jacob’s Creek, Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Peter Lehmann, Saltram, Yalumba, and Seppelts.

Great Southern – A vast region on Western Australia’s south portion, bordered by Lake Miur on the west and Pallanup River on the east. The climate is maritime-influenced Mediterranean, with significant differences reflected between its sub-regions: Albany, Denmark, Frankland River, Mount Barker, and Porongurup. The region’s vineyards are built since the 1950’s, so it’s fairly new. Harvest time here is between mid-February to early April.

Clare Valley – Nestled within the South Australian bush land, known for perfumed Riesling, delicate Semillon, aromatic Shiraz, and elegant Cabernet Sauvignon. The hills of Clare Valley are located 130 kilometers north of Adelaide, and an hour’s drive west of Barossa Valley. The cold winters and long hot days during the ripening period ensures the richness and austerity of its wines.

Coonawarra – Located in South Australia’s Limestone Coast zone, the region nudges the Victorian border 380 kilometers south east of Adelaide. Famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon, the region has vast terra rossa soil and cool Mediterranean climate.

Goulburn Valley – Situated in the northeastern corner of Victoria, this region is known for full-bodied Shiraz and rich Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Marsanne which is rarely grown in the country. It borders New South Wales along the Murray River to its north and extends south in a narrow corridor to just above Broadford in the south. The region is warm and dry in summer.

Grampians – This region in Victoria is suited for growing Shiraz, producing finely-structured wines with intense regional spice. However, it is most famous for its sparkling wine brands as well as its high-quality tabe wine. Although the region is surrounded by mountain ranges, the region itself rests at a comfortable 350 meters above sea level. Vineyards are planted on slopes receiving lots of sunshine for their late ripening varieties.

Heathcote – Nestled between Goulburn Valley and Bendigo is a primium Shiraz-producing area, sitting on the north side of Victoria’s Great Dividing Range at elevations between 160 to 320 meters. The region has Cambrian soil, red and deep with good water-holding capacity. Rainfall is evenly distributed between the seasons and the temperature range is defined as temperate, with cooling winds from the south.

Hunter Valley – A premium wine region of New South Wales, its greatest concentration of vineyards is in the Lower Hunter between Cessnock and Branxton. The region has alluvial flats of the valleys and gently undulating hills, with four rivers (Goulburn, Hunter, Paterson, and Williams) feeding its soils. The region has hot, humid summers and cool winters. Hunter Valley is famous for its Semillon.

McLaren Vale – Only a half-hour drive south of Adelaide is one of Australia’s oldest wine making regions. Its soils consists of terra rossa, light loam over clay, rendzina, soldolic, and Bay of Biscay. Its climate is Mediterranean with good winter rainfall and low relative humidity. The region consistently produces fine wines from Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.

Langhorne Creek – A little-known region in South Australia, but its importance is very much felt, especially in red wines. Known for its fragrant Cabernet Sauvignon with minty overtones. Its fertile soils and vast water sources (such as Lake Alexadria) make it ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay and Verdelho. The climate is characterized by low winter rainfall with moderate daytime temperatures during the growing season. It is also home of a rare mutated variety of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Margaret River – This region in New South Wales runs along the coast from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin in the south. The Margaret River flows east to west through its center and the Blackwood River flows southwest to Augusta. The land is undulating with maximum elevation at 90 meters. The soils are gravelly sandy loams. It has become famous for its fruity, dry whites, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz.

Mornington Peninsula – This region in Victoria produces a vast variety of wines such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as lesser known Viogner and Pinot Gris. Mornington Peninsula lies just an hour south of Melbourne, with volcanic soil and reliable rainfall. Its climate is dominated by strong winds sweeping across Port Phillip Bay on its western flank and Bass Strait to the south.

Mudgee – This wine region is one of the largest among those located on the the Central Ranges, flanked by the Great Dividing Range on three sides. Elevation ranges between 470 and 1080 meters, with lands rich in volcanic soils laced with quartz. Its climate is mild with cool summer nights with spring and summer rain. Mudgee produces wines from Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Padthaway – The plains of Padthaway produces wines of consistent quality and style. Although it is known for its chardonnay, the region in South Australia produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Neighboring Coonawarra, it has climatic similarities and a good slice of terra rossa. The climate is Mediterranean with coastal influences.

Pyrenees – This Victorian wine region is dotted with high quality boutique wineries, with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon as their pride and joy. It lies on the Pyrenees Range on the western reach of the Great Dividing Range. Climate is temperate with variations according to altitude. Soils are acidic, sandy loams with quartz grains.

Riverina – The workhorse of New South Wales’ wine industry, where large volumes of technically-proficient wines are consi
stently produced. However, the region is famous the sweet Botrytis Semillon. Located in NSW’s Big Rivers Zone, it is also the where the first indigenous wine label is located.

Riverland – The largest wine region in Australia by acreage and volume located in the central east of South Australia. Riverland accounts for half of South Australia’s grape production and a quarter of the entire country’s wine production.

It also produces more Chardonnay than all of the South Australian wine regions combined, with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot also being grown here. The region is largely flat and situated only 20 meters above sea level, with temperatures ranging from 32°C to 47°C as well as low rainfall.

Rutherglen – The region is a fortified wine country, highlights of which include the unique styles of fortified muscat and Tokay. Located in the North East Victoria Zone, it is an important producer of fortified wines and red table wines. All the vineyards and wineries straddle the top half of the region the northern boundary of which is marked by the Murray River.

Rutherglen is a flat country sitting at an elevation between 150 and 250 meters. The soils are alluvial, deposited over thousands of years by the Murray, with warm and dry climate with good rainfall during the growing season.

Swan Valley – This is actually a sub-region of the Swan District, an extensive area north of Perth, Western Australia. Swan Valley, a narrow band along the Avon River, has the main concentration of wineries and vineyards in the region. This area is known for its fertile alluvial soils, which is unusual in the dry west. It is most famous for Chenin Blanc and Verdelho. The climate is Mediterranean tempered by the Indian Ocean breezes.

Yarra Valley – This picture-book region in Victoria is one of the country’s popular and well-loved wine regions. The Burgundian varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir perform particularly well. The region borders on the towns of Emerald and Cockatoo to the south. The Plenty River marks the western boundary and the Yarra River over the east.

The vineyards are planted on altitudes ranging from 50 to 400 meters. It has a cool climate, with strong cold winds and occasional frost. The soils are grey-brown loam to the sound and red volcanic soils to the north and west.