Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wine Enthusiasts Guide to Australian Wines

By Benji Monosier

Some regions of the world have been producing wine for thousands of years, but Australia isn't one of these. That doesn't mean it's not into wine, however - production started within fifty years of European contact with this continent. Before long, the country was full of vineyards, mostly concentrated in the south.

Over the past century, the expansion of the wine industry in Australia has been a dramatic one. As of the mid 1910s, Australia was producing about four and a half million gallons, or seventeen million liters of wine every year. Sixty years later, that figure rose to closer to ninety-five million gallons, or three hundred and sixty million liters - an impressive increase fueled by more worldwide demand for Australian wine.

Australia's large variety of climate types and soil conditions leads it to be favorable to cultivation of many different grape varieties and many types of wine. These climates run the range from cool and damp to very hot and arid, with some conditions coming very close to the climates in the best European wine regions. Some regions are irrigated to help them produce wine grapes.

Soil types mostly involve clay and limestone (if you dig deeply enough) but vary just as much as the temperatures and overall climate. This allows the winemakers to match different types of grapes with the soil that will grow them best, creating high quality fruit and getting a better yield.

For a long time, Australian wine was relatively unknown to the rest of the world, with nineteenth century judges insisting that fine Victoria wines must actually be French, since Australia couldn't possibly produce that kind of quality. However, in the late twentieth century, the first Australian boom occurred. High quality Australian wines first came to the attention of wine lovers around the world, and production soared.

More recently, a boom in the less expensive varieties from Australia also occurred, with customers taking a look at very inexpensive Australian wines. Some feel that this has backfired, and over-saturation of the market has caused wine lovers to be bored with Australian varieties. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take the time to check out some of the higher quality varieties, however - they're just as good as ever.

As the fourth biggest exporter of wine in the world, Australia can offer a lot, and it sells to some of the world's biggest wine producing countries. In fact, this country has been called the most powerful influence in wine, and is well known for GSM blends made from Mourvedre, Shiraz and Grenache, well balanced wines that stand up well against the competition. Australian wine shouldn't be overlooked.

If you'll be visiting Australia on your next holiday, don't forget to have a look at some of the country's excellent wine regions, and try a few wines. If you can't make it to Australia, be sure to look at the options the next time you buy wine for your table. There are some really great wines waiting for you to find them.

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