Unpolished Grape 101: Introduction to Australian Wine

Major Wine Zones

New South Wales
Western Australia

Leading Grape Varieties

White Black
Sauvignon Blanc
Cabernet Sauvignon
Pinot Noir
The above list is not exhaustive

When thinking of Australia, one may assume the continent is way too hot for successful viticulture. And it’s true. So much of the land is uninhabited and too hot and dry for people to live comfortably, let alone grape-growing. However, Australia is home to a major viticulture and wine-making industry due to it’s areas of altitude. Also, parts of the southern coastline are suitable for grape-growing and produces some of the finest wine available on the market!

The most popular white grapes grown are Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay. Shiraz, also known as Syrah in France, is the leading black grape in Australia, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache and many others.

The Warm Zones

Much of Australian wine comes from the warm Southern region, where Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon thrive in the valleys and hillsides. Here, these varietals produce well-balanced, full-bodied wines with soft tannins. Eden and Clare Valleys, cooled by altitude, are known for their refreshing and delicate Rieslings. Coonawarra is home of the highly-concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon, famous for its hints of eucalyptus and menthol from nearby trees. Western Australia produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. Hot and humid Hunter Valley situated on the east coast is known for its light bodied, unoaked Semillon.

The Cool Zones

Heading down to Southeastern Australia in the cooler Victoria Region, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive. The peninsula and valleys are suitable for the cooler growing conditions these grapes prefer. The windy and wet weather drifting from the southern sea allows for structured and complex expressions of these varietals. Cool-climate Tasmania is known for sparkling wine.

Weather Challenges

Grape-growing in Australia is sometimes challenging, as the extreme heat and climate often lead to extreme drought and bush fires. However, water sourced from the Murray River helps to provide relief to vineyards across the region. In addition, careful attention must be kept in the vineyard to protect the grapes from fire and smoke. Often times, producers source grapes from multiple sites to mitigate the risks of widespread vineyard damage. Producers also look to source grapes from sites where cooler air and altitude naturally improve vineyard conditions.


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