Though Australia is often referred to as a “New World” wine-producing nation, but the fact is that, Australia now exports wine to the traditional ‘Old World’ wine producing countries such as France, Spain and Italy. The quality of its products is in no way inferior to that of those countries that have been making wine for ages.
Australian Wine – Early History
However, Australia never had a vineyard till 1788. Vine cuttings were first brought from South African coastlines and only after this were the winemaking attempts initiated. But unforeseen problems (that included unfamiliar climatic clash) deterred winemaking for the next 30 odd years when the first lot of Australian wine was made available in 1820. But as soon as production of globally acceptable wine was reached, the country did not wait long to export wine. Gregory Blaxland, a veteran viticulturist became the first person to export Australian wine to the world market as also to win an overseas award for his Herculean task.
With the opening of overseas sales, many free settlers from various parts of Europe congregated to the new country, some of them being expert winemakers themselves, thereby encouraging further growth of this novel industry. South Australia’s famed Barossa Valley was made into a sprawling winemaking region through emigrants from Germany (see German Wine). Wine making had truly arrived at this island nation.
In terms of growth, the Australian wine industry is the 4th largest exporter in the world, sending abroad 400,000,000 liters of the best quality wine every year to a international market which, paradoxically include ‘Old World” wine-producing countries like France and Italy. Nevertheless, Australia’s own domestic wine market is also equally formidable, employing a big chunk of the local population in the industry.
Australian Wine – The Problems
But all said and done, Australian wine industry is not in the very pink of health as over production and sudden loss of business has affected the wineries from time to time. Several attempts however have been made to rationalize the market by way of introducing many innovative methods to rectify the problems. An un-branded variety of Australian wine called “Cleanskin” was introduced in the market some years ago to combat oversupply and poor sales.
Incidentally, Cleanskin need not necessarily characterize the product as a lower grade or of poor quality, it merely is bereft of any label or tag indicating the product quality. Cleanskin’s are much in demand for their low price (as low as the cost of a bottle of beer) which make the producer (because of the high number of sales) and the consumer both equally happy. Also much in demand in Australia is another brand of wine that is popularly called ‘Biodynamic’, the production of which follows a naturalistic path.
Here are some of the major brands of Australian wines – Penfolds Grange Henri shiraz, D’Arenberg Dead Arm, Henschke Hill of Grace, Clarendon Hills Astralis and Hardy wines.
And here are the major wine regions…
- South Australia
- New South Wales.
There are several sub-regional wine areas under each principal region.