Australia’s vibrant wine history dates back to 1788 when Governor Arthur
Phillip brought the first vines to Sydney. Today, the Australian wine industry is
one of the world’s largest exporters of wine. Australians consume a whopping
500 million liters annually, creating a $3.5 billion domestic market for
Australian wines. Australia’s wine regions are mainly located in the southern,
cooler parts of the country.
With over 200 years of winemaking, Australia has a fascinating wine history to
explore. In 1833, James Busby, considered the father of the Australian wine
industry, brought cuttings from Spain and France, and introduced Syrah and
Grenache to the region. In these early years, Australia produced mainly
sweet, fortified wines. It was not until the 1960s that the country began to
focus on typical table wines.
Australian wine producers are notorious for their innovation. Historically, wines
have been made in a fairly traditional way. Australia’s approach to winemaking
is independent and exceptionally diverse.
The three major wine regions in Australia are South Australia, New South
Wales, and Victoria.
The largest wine production region by far is South Australia. The South
Australian wine industry is responsible for more than half the production of all
Australian wine. This region has a diverse geography and climate, which aids
in the production of a wide range of grape varieties. Across the region, there is
low annual rainfall, which necessitates irrigation to counter droughts.
Some of Australia’s best-known wines like Penfolds Grange, Jacob’s Creek,
Yalumba and Henschke Hill of Grace are all produced here. Adelaide is the
hub of the largest wine-growing region in the entire country. Barossa Valley is
the home of some of the oldest living vineyards in the world. This region is
unique because of its isolation from the rest of the world.
New South Wales
New South Wales is Australia’s most populous state. Additionally, it is the
second-largest wine-producing state in Australia, accounting for 30 percent of
the $5 billion Australian wine industry.
The soils of New South Wales are similarly varied with clay, loam, and
sandstone. The region has also housed a variety of microclimates – which
inhibits the production of the grapes. The wine industry of New South Wales is
reflective of the industry throughout Australia, with a strong presence of large
firms and smaller boutique wineries.
Victoria is the home of over 600 wineries. This region also has more wine
producers than any other Australian wine-producing state. However, it ranks
third in overall wine production due to a lack of a mass bulk wine-producing
area. Early in Victoria’s wine history, most of the wine industry resided in the
cool southern regions bordering Melbourne and Geelong. At the turn of the
20th century, the focus began to move to the warmer north-eastern zone. Victoria
began to establish prominence for its sweet, fortified wines created by harvest grapes that are shriveled to raisins.