Celebrating Australian Wines

Fun facts about the land of vines Down Under

 


Why would you celebrate Australia Day? Well, for starters, it’s today, and if you’re quick you can still enter into our Australian Vacation Giveaway to win a 10-day epicurean adventure! Who says Aussies don’t celebrate lunch? But of course, there is much to celebrate this Australia Day. From wine to vine, let’s give three cheers for all that Australia has given us, in a top 6 countdown of vinous treasures and fun facts.

And on a more serious note, take a moment today to remember the victims of the devastating floods that have recently affected Queensland. It may be difficult to find wine from Queensland in your local market, but buying a bottle of Australia’s finest can help to make a difference. To help directly, consider donating to the Queensland Government's Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal.

New world – Old vines

We think of Australia as a new-world country making new-world wines. While that may be at least debatable, the truth is that the land Down Under is home to some of the oldest vines on Earth. Through a fortuitous quirk, areas ideal suited to the cultivation of Shiraz -- like the Barossa, McLaren Vale, and Clare Valley regions of South Australia -- did not feel the full effects of the cursed phylloxera louse. Lucky us, since these vines continue to produce some of the deepest, most complex, and delicious versions of Shiraz around. How old? Some of Chateau Tahbilk’s vines date to the 1860s and Barossa Valley’s Langmeil claim some that date to the mid-1850s!

Map courtesy of Kobrand (Click for a larger view)

New world – New wines

Though some of the wines produced in Australia tend to be in the old-world style, the generosity of the climate generally produces fairly robust wines, a hallmark of the new-world style. While sometimes the monikers “new world” and “old world” can seem misplaced, the truth is that Australia’s wine industry did indeed get a relatively recent start. Commercially, Australia’s wine industry dates back to the early 1800s but the difficult climate slowed the spread of those first Pinot Gris, Frontignac, Gouais, Verdelho and Cabernet Sauvignon vines, which turned out to be a good thing for Shiraz -- which didn’t show up until the middle of the 19th century. And we all know how that turned out.

A little bit of America in your glass

Another trait of new-world wines tends to be their distinct oak-imparted character. It’s more than a little ironic that most domestic wines have traded in their domestic oak for a fancy new coat of French (and increasingly Hungarian or other Eastern European) oak. The toasty flavors and insinuations of vanilla and spice can be subtler than those derived from American Oak but, as it turns out, the Aussies like that about American Oak. The bold oakiness matches well with the wine’s innate character, not to mention the consumers!

East vs West

“Australian wine” is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, it all comes from Australia, but have you ever noticed the size of that place? It’s only a little smaller than the USA, and we don’t go around talking about American wine, now do we? No, it’s Napa, or Sonoma, or whatever. We do that because each region produces something unique and different, and the same holds true for Australia. Wines from Western Australia's Margaret River are distinctly different from better-known regions such as the Barossa or Hunter Valley. Time to hit the books, and the bottles. Lucky for us, learning about wine is fun!

Map courtesy of Kobrand (Click for a larger view)

East loves West

The Chinese love Lafite -- and Shiraz! We all think about the power of Australian wine here, or as a big player in the UK, and that is all true, but the growth of exports is, not surprisingly, topped by thirsty China, with a whopping 36% rise in exports in 2010. What kind of wine? Not surprisingly, 99% was red.

That 5-liter in the fridge – Yup

The bag in box was developed in Australia, in 1967 by Thomas Angove. And the use of the stelvin, or screwcap closure, was also pioneered Down Under. In 1977, Pewsey Vale was the first to bottle a wine, Riesling in case you’re asking, under stelvin. While some may think that just goes to show that the Aussies are making inexpensive wines, the facts are that both innovations remain in the forefront of keeping wines fresh, while reducing waste and cost associated with the packaging, transporting and storage of wines. Way to go green Australia!

Australian Vacation Giveaway

If you haven't heard about Snooth's Australian Vacation Giveaway yet or haven't completed your entry, this is your last chance to enter to win an amazing 10-day epicurean adventure! Celebrate like an Australian by getting together with friends for a party, lunch or dinner; take a few pics and upload them to enter. But be quick -- entries close Thursday, 27 January at 11:59 p.m. (EST)! Check out our Australian Vacation Giveaway page for all the details.

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Comments

  • We commend Gregory Dal Paiz's recognition of Australian wine. Amongst the 35,000 wines whose ratings and medals that we track at volunteer-run http://www.WineBestBuys.com, Australian wine stands out as the overall best bargain. Statistically, only about 10% of all wines are worth buying on average, but about 15% of Australian wines (particularly their Shiraz) are Best Buys based on their quality to price ratio.

    Jan 26, 2011 at 1:20 PM


  • Having just moved to CA I was trying to order my favorite Australian wine; McGuigan, online. Is there a valid reason why the websites can not ship to CA?

    Jan 26, 2011 at 3:48 PM


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,040

    Greg
    how come there isn't much, if anything, Margret River wines on the East Coast? Namely Ct., R.I., Ma., and N.H.
    They produce superior wines, especialy there Chardonnay.

    Jan 26, 2011 at 4:53 PM


  • Snooth User: rwor
    426656 17

    The best Margaret River wines are in very short supply. They are not big producers in general.
    It's almost impossible to get the very best wines 6 months after release even in Australia.
    Cullens make a total of 20,000 cases (2009) - Decanter Worlds Best Chardonnay 2010
    Leeuwin Est make 60,000 cases (2009) - One of my favourite Chardys.

    Jan 26, 2011 at 6:35 PM


  • Snooth User: sage56
    703529 12

    Thanks for the support Greg. Lots of brilliant wine down here. Really great small boutique producers making small volumes in the 100's of cases which can regularly stand up with the best in the world.

    Jan 26, 2011 at 7:37 PM


  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 223,796

    Hey Guys Love you wines. It's a world of diversity!

    Hope everybody's Australia Day was a blast.

    Hope to celebrate it with you some day!

    Jan 26, 2011 at 8:18 PM


  • Snooth User: Stephen Harvey
    Hand of Snooth
    220753 1,449

    Great article Greg

    Sadly I had to work on my National Day!

    Unfortunately it is an occupational hazard due lto lots of overseas reporting deadlines [including US companies who have 31 Dec year ends]

    Jan 27, 2011 at 12:02 AM


  • Snooth User: McMon30
    636558 12

    Hi Greg. A big thankyou for raising the needy in the flooded area of Queensland. Add the continuing troubles with flooding as the waters go down the Murray River in Victoria. Many other areas in Victoria and NSW had a dose also.
    Suggest those with difficulties in obtaining their favourite wines email the producers direct and see what avenues they are using to supply USA with their wine.
    Add Rutherglen Wines to your list - especially the fortified varieties.

    Jan 27, 2011 at 12:46 AM


  • Snooth User: McMon30
    636558 12

    ps If you can get PIERO Chardonnay try that - it is also from Margaret River.
    I think it is up with worlds best

    Jan 27, 2011 at 12:50 AM


  • Snooth User: McMon30
    636558 12

    Having reread all the material and comments I add this:
    Because of the diversity even with the areas indicated I would list Margaret River at the top followed by central Victoria/Rutherglen next Coonawarra and Barossa with Eden Valley sitting in the top 3 (Henscke Hill of Grace being one of Australias best). Tasmanian Sparkling is one of the best around as are a couple in central Victoria. In Coonawarra and more west to Padthaway you have many top wineries from Barossa growing grapes to add to their mix and are blending better wines because of this.
    It is great fun tasting your way around good old Aus. The latest area to take most of the medals is actually QUEENSLAND. So keep on tasting and you will find many great delights. I have.

    Jan 27, 2011 at 1:10 AM


  • Snooth User: sage56
    703529 12

    From the west, Peel Estate Wood Matured Chenin Blanc. Much admired for a long time at our house. Narkoojee Pinot and Chardonnay, and Nicholson River Chard, all from Gippsland in eastern Vic. We are so lucky...

    Jan 27, 2011 at 5:34 PM


  • Wine Wisdom for 1/27/11
    Old Vines means nothing, same with Reserve (outside of WA) and Special selection....this is incorrect check our Old Vine Charter and Reserve Charter at Yalumba.
    Special selection well thats a lottery!





    Read more: http://www.snooth.com/articles/wine...

    Jan 27, 2011 at 5:35 PM


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