Have you seen Australian wines at the store but opted for wines from some of the more common wine countries, such as France or Italy? If so, you are missing out on some exceptional wines that are gaining recognition among wine critics and consumers alike. The Land Down Under has developed a reputation for producing outstanding wines. From New South Wales to Western Australia, the country’s vintners continue the tradition of 18th-century pioneers as they produce excellent wines with unique flavors and aromas.
Check out the following list of some of the most common wines hailing from Australia:
Australia’s most popular wine, Shiraz, is known as Syrah in Europe. This hearty red wine features a number of flavors and aromas, including spices and wild black fruit. As this grape grows well in moderate to warm temperatures, it is found in most of the country’s wine regions, but it is especially well known in Barossa Valley in South Australia, where Shiraz vines have been growing since 1843.
Shiraz’s vinification methods vary, but most vintners still use the de-stemming process. Some winemakers make a common blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre (GSM), and many use oak barrels, especially French oak, during the maturation process.
Varying in quality, Australian Shiraz ranges from everyday wine to some of among country’s best collector wines. Shiraz tends to pair well with charcuterie, aged cheeses, and roasted and grilled meats, such as beef and lamb.
The second-most common wine in Australia, Chardonnay has a history in Australia dating back to the 1830s, when James Busby, the “father of Australian viticulture,” brought the first vines to the country. This white wine originally came from France’s famous Burgundy region, and it adapted well to the Australian climate as a result of its early ripening and resistance to disease. Produced in both warm and cool climates, Chardonnay now represents more than half of all white wine produced in the country, having reached 406,000 tons crushed in 2016.
Some of the best Chardonnays undergo an oak fermentation and maturation process, but other winemakers don’t use oak as they age Chardonnay, which results in a fresh style suitable for early drinking. Also, some Australian vintners often allow for extended contact with lees, or dead yeast cells, to give Chardonnay greater aroma, texture, and complexity.
Chardonnay food pairing depends on the specific vintage and aging process, but this white wine tends to go well with creamy dishes, fish, and poultry, or food with a toasty flavor (for oaky Chardonnays). To get the most of your Chardonnay, you should remove it from the refrigerator or ice at least 15 to 20 minutes before serving to allow it to warm to its ideal serving temperature of 48 degrees Fahrenheit.
Australia’s third-most common grape, Cabernet Sauvignon was also brought to the country by James Busby in the 1830s, but the vines failed to thrive as a result of a lack of knowledge in selecting the right sites to grow this grape variety. However, later pioneers, such as Gregory Blaxland and John Macarthur, eventually found success with Cabernet Sauvignon, which was eventually grown in South Australia, New South Wales, and Victoria.
Cabernet Sauvignon tends to grow well in warm or cool regions, with the two most well-known regions for this grape being Coonawarra and Margaret River. In Coonawarra, Scottish pioneer John Riddoch first planted Cabernet in 1893, and the wine has thrived in this region thanks to the area’s red terra rossa soil and ideal climate. Margaret River’s history of Cabernet production is much more recent, with the wine industry launching here in the 1960s. The region benefits from hot daytime temperatures and cool nights, which results in a richer Cabernet than that of Coonawarra.
Australian vintners tend to use traditional vinification processes when making Cabernet Sauvignon, including pre-fermentation cold maceration and one to three weeks of post-fermentation maceration. Winemakers typically age the wine in oak barrels for one to two years, with new French oak having become more common in recent years. Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with firm cheeses (such as Parmesan and Gorgonzola) as well as beef, lamb, braised red meat, and game meats.
Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon are just a few of the celebrated wines coming from Australia. In some regions, vintners are replacing the top-two wines, Shiraz and Chardonnay, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. This spirit of innovation is poised to change the Australian wine landscape and yield wines with flavors and aromas that represent the country’s diverse soil and environment. As Australian wines continue to evolve, the country could produce high-caliber wines that compete with top varieties from the Old World and New World alike.