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Southern Hemisphere

Australia

  • Background
    The explosive growth of wine production in Australia is one of the phenomena that have defined the last twenty years in the wine industry. Steve Charters MW notes that today there are approximately 1,500 wineries in Australia and just over 350,000 acres under vine.


    Australian wine law
    Australian wine law is less strict than some. If a varietal, region or vintage is claimed on the label, 85% must be the varietal, region or vintage stated, and if more than one is listed, then they are to appear in descending order. Geographical Indications (G.I.) include South Eastern Australia, the names of the states, and smaller regions within these states. The most broad is South Eastern Australia, and this includes anything produced in the three largest wine-producing states, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. Wine is also produced in Western Australia, an area of growing importance, and Tasmania. Comparatively little is produced in Queensland.


    Australian wine styles
    Australian wine is quite varied, and it is a mistake to see it as overly homogeneous. It is sometimes thought of as a ripe, fruit-driven, alcoholic style with full body and low acid. This can be true, but it is far from universally the case. The diversity of styles within Australia is striking and the one factor that serves more than anything to unify them is value for money.


    Value
    Australians have based their success in export markets on the concept of value. Part of value is consistency and Australian winemakers will sometimes improve their odds of consistency by using inter-regional blending widely to reduce vintage variation.


    Production
    The wines are also often produced in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks under very hygienic conditions, where controlled fermentations are initiated by cultured yeast after careful cleaning of the must. In order to help ensure stability, fining and filtration are the general rule and acid adjustment is very common.

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  • Margaret River
    Western Australia accounts for only a tiny portion of total Australian wine production, but an increasingly great share of fine wine production. The Margaret River to the south at the bottom of Geographe Bay has a much more temperate climate than the area around Perth. This is due to the maritime influence and the Antarctic current. The region is also distinguished by the fine gravel beds over granite that provide great drainage, allowing the grapes to ripen fully even in the climate, which is cooler than many in Australia. Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon flourish in the Margaret River, where Shiraz is also very popular.

    The superb wines of Cape Mentelle are produced in the Wallcliffe subregion near the banks of the Margaret River itself. Further north in Willyabrup there are many wineries along the banks of the river of the same name.

    Tom Stevenson notes of the Margaret River in his New Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia that "This is Australia's premier region for wine lovers who seek class and finesse, rather than weight and glory… The greatness of Margaret River wines cannot be disputed. This is because the quality of fruit is better than elsewhere in Australia."


    Perth Hills
    Perth Hills and the Swan District are located in the northern section of Western Australia. These areas share a hot and dry climate, with soils of sandy loam mixed with clay. The region is most well known for producing Shiraz and a variety of white wines.

    East of the Margaret River are the regions of Blackwood Valley, Manjimup and Pemberton, and on the southern shores of western Australia, the Great Southern area has a climate similar to the Margaret River but drier. This region encompasses Mount Barker and Frankland.

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  • Adelaide
    South Australia is the state with the largest volume of wine production in the country. One center of importance is the area around Adelaide. This city on the southern coast of Australia is home to the notable agricultural college Roseworthy, which can be compared to the U.C. Davis of Australia, producing many of its finest winemakers.

    North of the city, the Adelaide Plain is fairly hot and dry, although the area to the east of Mount Lofty is known as Adelaide Hills, and they experience the opposite conditions, cool and wet. The soil is fairly fertile, and white grapes are more important than black.


    McLaren Vale
    McLaren Vale is a region located south of the city of Adelaide. Here the climate is more influenced by the sea, and produces mild summers, a cool spring during harvest, reliable rain, and little danger of frost or droughts. The soil is sandy and loamy, and black grapes predominate here, such as Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet.


    Langhorne Creek
    Langhorne Creek is a region east of McLaren Vale on the other side of the Mount Lofty range of hills, with a slightly cooler climate and similar soils. The region also specializes in red wine, and often produces a more full-bodied style than McLaren Vale.


    Barossa Valley
    On the other side of Adelaide Hills lie the Barossa Valley to the west and the Eden Valley to the east. In the Barossa, the climate is hotter and drier, with cold winters. The region is known above all for full-bodied Shiraz.


    Eden Valley
    The Barossa was originally known for Riesling, but now much of the best Riesling is produced to the east of the Barossa in the Eden Valley.


    Clare Valley
    North and slightly west of the Barossa is the Clare Valley, also known for its Riesling. The climate here is hot and dry, with soils similar to the Barossa.


    Riverland to Riverina
    Northeast of the Eden Valley and moving east across the top of Victoria and through New South Wales are the irrigated regions of Riverland, Murray Darling, and Swan Hill located along the Murray river, and Riverina to the east. These hot, dry areas are mostly used for bulk production.


    Coonawarra
    In the southeastern corner of South Australia lies another famous Australian region, Coonawarra. This region is known for its limestone soils, described as "terra rossa" because of its red color. This area, some 250 miles south of Adelaide, has very cool coolest temperatures for South Australia. The Cabernets that the region is known for show good acidity, firm tannins, and clean, well-defined fruit character.


    Padthaway and Wrattonbully
    Padthaway and Wrattonbully have similar soils, but are located to the north of Coonawarra, and so are rather warmer. West of Coonawarra, along the coast, lie Mount Benson and Robe, areas similar to Coonawarra, but showing more maritime influence.

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  • Rutherglen
    In the northeast corner of Victoria lies Rutherglen, a region known for dessert wines made from Brown Muscat, Muscadelle, called Tokay here. The grapes for these wines are dried on the vine, pressed, fermented and fortified. The wines are barrel-aged and sometimes kept outdoors in order to give a Madiera-like effect.


    Central Victoria
    Central Victoria is known as the Goulburn Valley. West of the Goulburn is Heathcote, a cooler region located in the larger Bendigo. Continuing to the west, one encounters the Pyrenees.


    Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula
    The area around Melbourne provides some interesting wines. The Macedon ranges and Sunbury are northwest of the city, and the Yarra Valley (Yarra Yering, Mount Mary) stretches to the northeast along the Yarra River. The Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, across the Port Phillip Bay, and Tasmania all provide good cool-climate growing regions. The soils throughout these regions are varied, but dominated by relatively rich sandy loams.

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  • New South Wales is the historical birthplace of Australian Viticulture. The main wine regions are situated north of Sydney, and this proximity gave the wines an advantage in the 19th century.


    Lower Hunter Valley
    The climate of the Lower Hunter Valley is not conducive to growing grapes; it is hot and rainy, and this can lead to problems with rot and mildew. The most widely planted varieties are Shiraz and Semillon. The Shiraz is done in a full-bodied, low acid style with a rustic edge, often referred to as "sweaty saddles", while the Semillon is unique; crisp and minerally, it is often fermented and aged in oak.


    Upper Hunter Valley
    The Upper Hunter is located northwest of the Lower. This region is known for Chardonnay. It is hotter and drier than Lower Hunter.

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