Varietal wine styles

By James Halliday.

For better or worse, there simply has to be concerted action to highlight the link between regions, varieties and wine styles. It’s not a question of creating the links: they are already there, and have been in existence for periods as short as 20 years or as long as 150 years. So here is an abbreviated summary of those regional styles (in turn reflected in the Best of the Best lists).

  • Pinot Noir

    To make great pinot noir is often considered the pinnacle of a winemaking career. Incredibly fussy about where and how it is grown, the ever-delicate pinot noir grape requires patient, skilled handling from vine to bottle.

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  • Merlot

    For the better part of 25 years, merlot was seemingly unstoppable. Why? Because it’s a varietal that doesn’t necessarily need to be cellared...

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  • Pinot Gris

    Like a Shakespearean tale, what we have in pinot gris and grigio is two wines, both alike in dignity and yet different in style. Named for its grey-red colour as a grape...

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  • Riesling

    When it comes to a wine with as much to offer as riesling has, the hardest part is choosing where to start…

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  • Cabernet Sauvignon

    The tough-skinned cabernet sauvignon can be, and is, grown in all regions, but it struggles in the coolest (notably Tasmania) and loses desirable varietal definition in the warmer regions, especially in warmer vintages...

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  • Chardonnay

    This infinitely flexible grape is grown and vinified in all 63 regions, and accounts for half of Australia’s white wine grapes and wine. Incredibly, before 1970 it was all but unknown...

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  • Fortified Wines

    Rutherglen and Glenrowan are the two (and only) regions that produce immensely complex, long-barrel-aged muscat and muscadelle, the latter called tokay for over a century, now renamed topaque...

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  • Sauvignon Blanc

    Two regions, the Adelaide Hills and Margaret River stood in front of all others until recently joined by Orange; these three produce Australia’s best sauvignon blanc...

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  • Semillon

    There is a Siamese-twin relationship between semillon and the Hunter Valley, producing a wine style like no other in the world for well over 100 years...

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  • Shiraz

    Shiraz is by far the most important red variety and is tremendously flexible in its ability to adapt to virtually any combination of climate and soil/terroir. Unlike chardonnay, a recent arrival...

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  • Sparkling Wines

    The patter is eerily similar to that of pinot noir, Tasmania now and in the future the keeper of the Holy Grail, the Port Phillip Zone the centre of activity on the mainland.

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