Another “up-and-comer,” the Australian wine industry is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine with 750 million liters shipped each year. With the varieties being predominantly Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc, there are two contributing factors to the quality of Australia’s wines: the continent’s hot and dry climate and its wealth of proficient and committed winemakers.
There are more than 60 wine regions totaling up to 160,000 hectares in Australia. The regions cover the southern rim of the country, are for the most part generally close to the sea, and span the Hunter Valley, just north Sydney on the east coast, to the Margaret River, and on the west coast south of Perth. This area covers a distance of approximately 2,000 miles in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland.
The generic designation “South Eastern Australia” is employed in describing blended wines from just about anywhere but Western Australia. Because of the vastness of the landscape, making generalizations about the weather and climate in any one season would be akin to saying Southern California and North Carolina have similar climates. Australia has almost 2000 winemakers—most of them small operations—though the market is dominated by a few major wine companies.
Even within comparatively small areas, growing environments can differ considerably with the ocean’s influence, the altitude, and soil makeup. The usually very hot Barossa Valley in South Australia, as an example, can generate red Australian wines that come near to vintage port in their dried-fruit essence and alcoholic weight. On the other hand, just 50 miles away, some sections of the Clare Valley are appreciably cooler.
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