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home > food & wine dictionary > Australia

Food and Wine Dictionary

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Although Australia has had vineyards since the late 1700s, it wasn't until the late 1950s that Australian winemakers really started to focus on TABLE WINES. By the 1980s Australian wines finally began to get the attention of the rest of the world. As in California, the European (particularly French) grape varieties are the most popular. Shiraz (SYRAH) is the most widely planted red grape, followed by CABERNET SAUVIGNON, GRENACHE, and PINOT NOIR. MUSCAT is the leading white variety, followed closely by CHARDONNAY and RIESLING along with SÉMILLON, TREBBIANO, SAUVIGNON BLANC, and COLOMBARD. A fair amount of PALOMINO and PEDRO XIMÉNEZ is still grown for the production of Australian SHERRY. SULTANA is also widely grown, and although most of the production is used for table grapes or raisins, some finds its way into BULK WINES. Australia is quite large-the subcontinent is about four-fifths the size of the United States. However, the vineyard land, like the population, is clustered mainly in the southeast and the southwest. The vast quantity of wine comes from areas collectively known as the Riverlands, which are located along the Murry and Murrumbidgee Rivers in the states of New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria. These areas are Riverina and Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) in New South Wales, Riverland in South Australia, and Sunraysia in Victoria. The better-quality wines come from a variety of distinct areas: HUNTER VALLEY and MUDGEE in New South Wales; Geelong, Goulburn Valley, Great Western, Milawa, Rutherglen, and YARRA VALLEY in Victoria; Adelaide, BAROSSA VALLEY, Clare Valley, COONAWARRA, Padthaway, and SOUTHERN VALES in Southern Australia; and the LOWER GREAT SOUTHERN REGION, MARGARET RIVER, and Swan Valley areas of Western Australia. In Queensland the only area of note is the Granite Belt. On the Australian island of Tasmania, with its somewhat cooler climate, there are high viticultural hopes for areas like Pipes River and Tamar Valley in the north and Coal River, Derwent Valley, Huon Valley, and the East Coast on the south portion. If an Australian wine label indicates a single grape variety, the wine must be made of at least 80 percent of that grape. If the label indicates multiple varieties-such as Cabernet-Shiraz, Shiraz-Cabernet or Semillon-Chardonnay-the varieties must be listed in descending order of quantity. If the label indicates that the wine is from a particular region, 80 percent of it must be from that region. A wine blended from wines of different regions (which many Australian winemakers prefer) must label the regions in descending order of volume. VINTAGE Australian wine must be at least 95 percent from that vintage.

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Material adapted from the The New Food Lover's Companion

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on
THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

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