Guide to Wine from Australia
If you know a little about American wines you can quickly become knowledgeable about Australian wines. This “down under” continent is located in the Southern Hemisphere, west of South America and east of Africa. Because of its geographic location, harvest takes place in Australia six months before the harvest in the Northern Hemisphere.
Australia has quickly moved up the ranks to become the fifth largest producer of wine in the world. Roughly four-fifths the size of the United States, Australia too is made up of states, seven in total. Out of the seven, four states in particular are well known for wine production: Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.
Like most other wine producing countries, the narrower and more prestigious the geographical appellation declared on a bottle (e.g., Barossa Valley), the higher the price of the wine. By Australian law a wine that claims to be from a specific geographic region must contain at least 85 percent of wine from that particular area. As a result, most value-oriented wines carry the broad “South Eastern Australia” appellation, which encompasses five states and covers nearly 95 percent of Australia’s vineyards. Producers who use the South Eastern Australia designation often strive to create a house style by blending grapes together from different regions.
Australia, like the United States, follows the New World tradition of categorizing their finer wines by grape variety. The top five grape varieties grown in Australia are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Semillon.
Exports have surpassed domestic sales in Australia ranking the country as the fourth largest wine exporter in the world. As a supplier of wine to over 100 international markets, the United States ranks only second behind the United Kingdom as the largest importer of Australian wines.
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