Wine Regions: Australia
The first vines were planted in Australia by the first settlers in 1788. and although production on a commercial scale took some time to develop, the Australian wine industry today is very important and expanding. Unfortunately the very finest of its wines are seldom seen outside Australia. The U.K. and U.S. however, import some. Both English-speaking countries are coming to appreciate Australian wines in their own right, not merely as the dark red ‘tonic’ wines that first made their mark in export markets. A large proportion of the crop is distilled, much of it for use in fortified wines and brandy, but a wide range of fortified and table wines is also produced in the wine regions. These because of the size of the country, are extensive. There are many firms which are family concerns, and wines sold under family names and bearing the names of estates on their labels are representative of Australia’s best in many instances. Examples are Angove, Hardy, Lindeman, McWilliams, Penfold. Seppelt and Wynn among others.
A further point of interest is that in some regions, such as the Hunter River. The Phylloxera did not invade, so that the wines are made from ungrafted stock. For the most part, classic grape varieties are used, but Australian oenologists have contributed to the improvement of wine throughout the winemaking world. Roseworthy College is famous among oenological institutions, so that certain grapes not usual alone in European vineyards are used to make first-rate table wines, such as the Schiraz.
It should be remembered, when appraising wines bearing a vintage on their labels, that the vintage in the southern hemisphere occurs in the spring of the year of its date, so that such wines will be approximately 6monthsin advance of European wines of the same age. But in fact, although many Australian wines improve greatly with age. there are not usually great climatic variations between one year and another, so that the vintage date is useful for indicating maturity rather than the individuality of a particular year. Also, the great wineries usually make a whole range of wines, still wines of all types, sparkling and, often, dessert and fortified wines, each indicative of the style of the establishment, so that the name of the producer is of prime importance. Although the descriptive names supposed to relate to European vineyards -Chablis, Burgundy, Sauternes – are still sometimes used, nowadays Australian wines are beginning to drop these names, and assert themselves in their own right, as well as using some estate names.
The main areas of Australian wine production, together with some of the great estates and wineries, are: Western Australia, with the Sandalford. Valencia and Houghton vineyards, the Swan Valley, Margaret River, Mount Barket; South Australia, with the great Barossa Valley wineries, including Seppelt, Gramp (Orlando), Penfold, Smith (Yalumba), Saltram (Angaston), the Kaiserstuhl Co-operative, and Buring (Chateau Leonay); in the Southern Vales region a famous name is Reynella, founded in 1838, and others are Seaview, and Hardy’s Tintara. Near Adelaide is the Magill region, also McLaren Vale, and there are also the important vineyards of Coonawarra, Clare, Watervale, Modbury, Hope Valley and Highcombe, and the Murray River Irrigation Area, where Angove and the Lyrup Co. are proprietary firms, and others include Waikerie, Renmark, Berri and Loxton.
In Victoria possibly the most important prestige name is Tahbilk, and the significant name for sparkling wines is Great Western; this, it should be noted, is nothing to do with the American sparkling wine (see Finger Lakes). It is a vineyard, owned by two firms, one of them Best, but the larger holding being that of Seppelt, who make the sparkling wine Great Western. This and Yellowglen are considered as the best in Australia, where they are quite legally referred to as ‘CHampagne’. Rutherglen, Glenrowan, Wahgunyah, Wangaratta and Mildura are other important vineyards – wines made by the Chaffey Brothers at Mildura are marketed under the name Mildara, which should not be confused with the vineyard name.
New South Wales is where winegrowing on a commercial scale was first started in Australia, and many of the estates and wineries are still in the hands of the families who founded them. The region may be roughly divided into three: the Hunter River, Corowa and the Murrumbidgee irrigation area. Penfolds, Lindeman and McWilliam are the important producers of quality wines; some of the estates are Cawarra, Ben Ean, Dal wood, Glen Elgin, Mount Pleasant, Rosehill, Happy Valley, Bellevue, Tyrrell’s HVD and Lake’s Folly.
In addition to sparkling wines, Australia also produces pearl wines, which are slightly more sparkling than petillant wines but not fully mousseux. These are not usually seen outside their homeland, nor are Australian brandies; but one liqueur, Marnique, is occasionally found on export lists.