Overview of Australian wine

All of the major wine-producing countries of the world, including Australia, produce very small quantities (seldom more than 5% of the total vintage production each year) of fine wines, often described as ultra premium. These succeed because of their quality. The other 95% – and, to emphasise the point, this is as true of France, Italy, Spain and California, to name but a few, as it is of Australia – are technically well-made wines which sell on the basis of their price, which is far lower than that of ultra-premium wines. With the exception of Penfolds Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace, and some of the Penfolds Special Bin wines, the advantage Australian ultra-premium wines have compared to those of France and elsewhere is their combination of quality and price. In other words, they are significantly less expensive than those of France.

Australia has a unique range of climate and soil, greater than any other single wine-producing country in the world. It produces high-quality sparkling wines from Tasmania and southern Victoria which are world class. The notoriously difficult pinot noir flourishes in Tasmania and southern Victoria, but also in the Adelaide Hills (South Australia) and Porongurup (Western Australia). Australia produces an exceptional range of chardonnay and shiraz, both varieties grown throughout all of the 63 official regions. This results in fine, cool-climate styles; richer wines from moderately warm regions; and (especially in the case of shiraz) exceptional wines from the warmest regions.

It has a range of climate and terroir ideally suited to riesling, again ranging from very cool to moderate climates, the latter with cold overnight temperatures.

At the other end of the scale, Australia produces some of the world’s greatest (and unique) fortified wines in North East Victoria, centred on Rutherglen. These are made from either muscadelle (now called topaque, formerly tokay) or muscat (muscat à petit grains). Aged in old oak in a hot part of the winery, they achieve exceptional intensity and complexity.

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