Benjamin Mitrofan-Norris on October 11, 2016 0 Comments If any country proves that it is possible to produce something from nothing, then surely Australia is the one. The land down under has gone from being a barren wasteland operating as little more than a prison colony under imperial English rule, to being a wealthy, cosmopolitan country in more or less one hundred and fifty years. Its wine industry is little different — it wasn’t long ago that vines had never seen Australian soil, and there are no native varietals of grape anywhere in this part of the world. Today, Australia is seen as one of the world’s leading wine producing countries, with an industry dominated by the Shiraz grapes which thrive so happily there under the scorching sunshine and in the harsh, red earth. Not only do they produce vast quantities of wine, but Australian wine is rocketing in regards to its quality, with many small, independent wineries seriously impressing on the world stage in recent years. Prejudices are finally being put aside, and more and more people are beginning to reach for a good bottle of screw-capped Australian wine for their dinner table, their party, and their cellar. Buy Australian Wine on Amazon Humble Beginnings The origins of Australian wine are somewhat patchy, with many aborted attempts at viticulture taking place at the very end of the 18th century, when Australia was the newest of the ‘new worlds’ to be discovered. However, by the mid 19th century, wineries were popping up across New South Wales and in various other regions, as the governors and settlers were keen to experiment with the land and see if anything could be grown on this highly varied but somewhat alien landscape. It wasn’t long before some real success was achieved: in 1822, a settler and winery owner sent a hundred liters of wine from his vineyard near Sydney back to England, to demonstrate that his land was capable of producing great grapes. The wines from the end of the world were the talk of London, and were awarded a silver medal by the Society of Arts. Following this, vines were planted across the country, and wineries sprung up anywhere they could be planted. Many people claim Australia is enjoying such success as a wine-producing country primarily because it is and has always been a land of opportunity and opportunism. This is probably very true — it is an unforgiving land of extreme climatic condition, where experimentation and bravery is the order of the day. The wineries of Australia mix an interest in the classic wines of Europe with a boldness that is all their own, and this results in a set of wines which are at once modern yet reminiscent of more traditional produce. The land is massively varied — across Australia, each territory has its own characteristics, and the terroir is unique from place to place, with different climatic conditions, different minerals in the soil, and different varietals which thrive there. As such, almost every imaginable type of wine is produced in Australia, from strong, deep red wines, to light, zesty whites, delicate roses, fizzy sparklers, and even quality fortified wines which would rival the classics of Spain and Portugal. One thing is for sure — wine in twenty-first century Australia is hot right now. 1. Barossa Valley No article about Australian wine can go by without considerable mention of Barossa Valley. This beautiful wine region, close to the modern city of Adelaide, is widely regarded as the home of great Australian wine. Unlike the rest of Australia, where vines were first planted by the British, Barossa Valley was originally cultivated by German settlers. Despite a rocky time in much of the twentieth century, Barossa today is going from strength to strength, and is internationally recognized as the place to go for flavorful, full-bodied Shiraz wines, bursting with dark fruit notes, alongside complex touches of chocolate and vanilla. One of the reasons why Barossa’s wines are so successful, and a great example of that bold and fearless Australian spirit, is due to the fact that this part of Australia is extremely dry — too dry, in fact, for most normal viticulture. However, the wineries in this part of the country have an ingenious irrigation program, which provides small quantities of water where it is needed most. However, due to the extreme dryness (despite the irrigation), the vines which grow here have very low yields, meaning the quality of the fruit and the flavor they impart in the bottle is exceptionally high, making the Shiraz wines of Barossa Valley the wonders that they are. 2. Yarra Valley If Barossa Valley is warm, dry and full-bodied, then Yarra Valley in Victoria is its cool, collected and lighter cousin. Here, close to Melbourne, the winds temper the sunshine and the unique shape and position of the vast valley provides a calmer, wetter atmosphere for a different set of grapes to grow and thrive. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the real stars here, and the Australian Chardonnays of 21st century Yarra aren’t the flabby, creamy wines of the last century that dropped so quickly out of fashion. Wineries in modern Yarra Valley are avoiding the malolactic fermentation that led to that buttery tone, and producing crisp, lean, acidic Chardonnays that go perfectly with the modern palate and take white Burgundy as their inspiration. 3. Tasmania The Australian wine region which is generating the most buzz in recent years is Tasmania, an island separated from the mainland by hundreds of miles of sparkling southern sea. Tasmania has, over the past ten years, begun to establish itself as a food and wine lover’s heaven, after decades in the (literal) wilderness. Wineries and award winning restaurants have popped up on this relatively virginal territory, and today, Tasmania is becoming associated with a new and powerful wine trend which is making real waves. Organic and Biodynamic wines dominate the Tasmanian wine industry, with winemakers on the island keen to stick as close to nature as possible. Organic wineries aim for minimal intervention, with the idea being that true expression of terroir can only come about if nothing is interrupting the fruit from being itself in the bottle. In Tasmania, it is also common to find wineries avoiding traditional techniques such as using trellises, and utilizing wild, local and naturally occurring yeasts to achieve a fully natural approach to the viticulture. Tasmanian wineries are keen to make the most of their underappreciated land, and want to protect it for future generations through their farming methods. The results? They speak for themselves — Tasmanian wine is about to take Australia — and the rest of the world — by storm.