Grapes of the Land Down Under

With over 40 viticultural regions and over 2000 wine producers, Australia is irrevocably a top player in the world of wine. Australia is one of those countries that remain to be one of the most enviable nations worldwide, not only with its high-quality wine production but also with its world-renowned talents and breathtakingly beautiful natural marvels.

I believe that Australia is, without a doubt, one of the most enticing and astonishing countries in the world. I would like to demonstrate, one by one, why I think everything that comes out of Australia is gold:

1. Adorable species like Kangaroos and Koala Bears.

2. Amazing natural sites like the Shark Bay and Uluru.

3. State of the art cities such as Melbourne and Sydney, both of which are repeatedly selected two of the ten most livable cities in the world.

4. Miles-long white sand beaches like Whitehaven and Bondi.

5. Utterly talented and gorgeous actors/entertainers/musicians like Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth, Naomi Watts, Nicole Kidman, Jim Jeffries, Rebel Wilson, Sia, and Julia Stone.

6. And the last but not least, acres of beautiful vineyards that yield some of the best tasting wines in the world.

If I could try to express what sets Australian wines apart in a very broad way, the words ‘ripe fruit’ would do it. Indeed, Australian wine is often very fruit-forward.

Australian wine, in a way, diminishes the seriousness most people attribute to wine-drinking and turns it into a more casual and fun act, which would explain the popularity of Australian wines among the younger demographics, especially in Canada and the United States. However, this does not mean that Australia does not produce ‘serious’ wines. Australia, in fact, has been producing wine for over 100 years, and it has some of the oldest vineyards in the world — some date all the way back to 1840s.

Grapes grown in Tasmania, Victoria, the southern regions of South Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales account for around 90% of the wine production in Australia. Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley, Margaret River, and Tamar Valley are the most prominent wine regions, not to mention their beauty. While the most popular wine type in Australia is white; Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay are the most common grape varieties. Though, we certainly cannot overlook their production of fine Merlot and Riesling.

Australia produces over 1 billion liters of wine each year and is the 6th largest wine-producing country in the world just behind Argentina. While the amount of wine consumption is about the same as the amount of wine exported, the volume varies roughly between 450-550 million liters. In addition to being one of the top wine-producing countries in the world, Australia is also the 4th biggest exporter of wine.

Just to paint you a picture, Australia exported just over 160 million liters of wine to the United States in 2014 for nearly $310 million, which makes Australia is the second largest exporter of wine to the US, just behind Italy.

Barossa Valley

The Barossa Valley is not only very significant in wine production but is also a very important part of the Australian viticulture history.  Just outside of the city of Adelaide, the Barossa Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in Australia and produces exceptional wines, such as Riesling that is more fruity than floral and Shiraz that is immensely ripe and jammy. Despite the general British influence that one may note in other wine regions of Australia, Barossa has a much more prominent German influence, which certainly explains the Australian rendition of Riesling.

Furthermore, the hot climate of the region is the primary reason for Australian Shiraz being more fruity and less acidic. The Barossa Valley is also home to some of the most affordable and highly-regarded wineries of Australia, names that we often encounter in North America, like Wolf Blass, Yalumba, Penfolds, Jacob’s Creek. Penfolds Grange is possibly the most representative of Australian Shiraz as Penfolds is perhaps one of the most important wineries in the history of Australian winemaking.

Penfolds: A Viticultural Landmark

While Christopher Penfolds and his wife Mary, a couple from Sussex, England, officially founded Penfolds in 1844, they had already been in the winemaking business for a different reason. Christopher did not set out to become one of the biggest names in the world of wine, but he did believe in the remedial benefits of wine. After He and Mary had attained the 500-acre Magill Estate, they planted French vines they had brought over from England and began producing fortified wines for Chris’ patients. Once the winery started getting a lot more attention they had expected, they decided to found what is now one of the most important landmarks of Australian wine production. It was evident from the beginning that Penfolds was going to be a force to be reckoned with and today it certainly is, which is evidenced by the winery’s many accolades.

Over the years, vintages of Penfolds Grange has swept up upwards of 50 gold medals. In 1995, Wine Spectator named the 1990 Grange the red wine of the year. And in 2013, Wine Enthusiast selected Penfolds as the best new world winery of the year

You may have been to the land down under before or you may plan to soon, but until you get to experience everything Australia has to offer in person, I firmly recommend that you make Australian wines part of your everyday life as they are a big part of mine. Next time you are having grilled chicken or fish for dinner, I highly recommend you consider picking up an Australian Chardonnay or Shiraz if having beef or barbecued meats.

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