From that first sip, you know your Australian wine is a good one. Finding that style or brand of wine that best suits you is really a personal odyssey, a close examination of your palette and a quest involving many different tastings. Australian winemakers man nearly 2000 wineries, using 130 different types of grapes, so you can imagine the sort of diversity from one wine to the next. Today, Australia is the fourth largest exporter of wine in the world, with a particular skill in Bourdeaux Blends, which are Cabernet-Merlot mixes, plus Semillon, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Perhaps a journey to an Aussie winery would provide an ideal complement to your next trip!
You will likely never forget the first time you try an Australian Riesling: as the white wine explodes with hints of apricot, peat and a particularly sweet-and-sour green grape flavor. Compared to German Rieslings, the Aussie variety is drier, with less sweetness and more aroma. Chardonnay is a relatively new variety in Australia, but you can find smooth or crisp varieties, depending on which vineyard you buy from. The Australians sometimes pair Chardonnay with Semillon white wine. Semillon itself is a drier white that goes well with fish. Unlike Semillon, which is produced in humid regions of Australia, the Pinot Grigios come from the cooler climate regions and are a crisper, more tart wine, as opposed to aromatic and subtle.
Red wines, like Shiraz, are very popular and include ripe fruit, tannins and spices that complement beef, lamb and pork entrees. Pinot Noirs are smooth reds with a long finish that is delicious with ham, duck and cheese. Drier in nature, Cabernet Sauvignon has a bold taste and deep flavor, and is often popular as a “Bordeaux Blend,” mixed with Merlot.
With so many different Australian climates, the wine-producing regions run far and wide. Just North of Adelaide, which is in the southeast region of Australia, you’ll find Barossa Valley, an area known for its hot and dry climate and for producing Shiraz and Cabernets. North of the Barossa Valley, you’ll find the hotter and drier wines of the Clare Valley, which produces the strongly flavored Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet. The most southerly vineyard in the South Australian appellation is Coonawarra, which produces excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, with its limestone subsoils and low heat. In eastern Australia, near Sydney, the Hunter Valley is known for tasty Shiraz, but also its Rosemount Reserve Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. South of Adelaide, the McLaren Vale produces full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Cabernet. In case you haven’t figured it out, Adelaide is a good starting point if you want to add an Australian wine experience to your next vacation!
Australian vineyard operators say that 2008 has been a particularly bad year for Australian wine industry. For starters, Southern Australia saw 15 consecutive days above 95? F during harvest season, at the height of harvest, causing fruit to shrivel on the vines and decrease in volume. High sugar levels from over-ripened fruit tainted flavors. In the New South Wales Central Highland, cooler temperatures, record-breaking rainfall and flash floods decimated red grapes. Roughly three-quarters of Cabernet Sauvignon production was cut down because the Murray River dried up in a drought. Despite the various setbacks, Aussie vineyards are remaining optimistic, believing that this year was just a fluke.
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