Limestone Coast, Australia - A rich powerful nose of cassis with overtones of spice and cedar. Lush, ripe palate dominated by black fruits, cherry and dark chocolate. Full bodied with savory, integrated fruit and oak leading to a persistent finish. From the Bryson family estate.
The success of Australian wines means Australia is consistently one of the world’s largest exporters of wine. Consumers increasingly turn to Australian wines for both easy-drinking, everyday wines and ageworthy, world-class wines.
English seafarers delivered the first vines to Australia in 1788, and within a few decades were exporting thousands of gallons of wine back home. Settlers learned that conditions on the New World continent varied from tropical in the north to desert in the central regions, making grape-growing impossible in much of the country. But vineyards would thrive in the coastal areas and river valleys of the states of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. Today more than 100 different grape varietals are planted there.
Because of their position in the Southern Hemisphere, the more than 60 recognized Australian wine regions benefit from generous sunshine, low humidity and little rainfall throughout the year. Their bountiful harvests typically take place six months before harvests in the Northern Hemisphere.
Australia, like the United States, follows the New World tradition of categorizing wines by grape variety. Australia’s top five varietals are Shiraz (known as Syrah to much of the world), Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Semillon.
Shiraz is the best-known and most widely planted varietal for Australian red wine. Rich, full-bodied and potent when grown in warm climes, Australian Shiraz may be showcased on its own or blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
Chardonnay is the predominant Australian white wine. The quintessential oaky New World style is produced here, as is, increasingly, a more crisp and balanced Chardonnay, grown in the country’s cooler zones.
Australian winemakers also produce sparkling wines in a range of styles, from classic blends of Champagne varietals to a unique, off-dry sparkling Shiraz. Excellent sweet and fortified desert wines are also produced throughout Australian wine country.
As in most other wine-producing countries, the narrower and more prestigious the geographical appellation declared on an Australian wine label, the more distinctive the wine. By law, if an Australian wine claims to be from a specific appellation, at least 85 percent of the wine’s grapes must have been grown there. As a result, many of Australia’s value-oriented wines carry the broad South Eastern Australia appellation, which encompasses five states and covers nearly 95 percent of Australia’s vineyards. Producers often use the South Eastern Australia designation when they strive to create a consistent house style by blending grapes from different regions.
Red grapes produce an amazing array of red wine types: from the boldest, heartiest big reds, to elegant and structured dry red wines, to sweet and simple picnic sippers. So much depends on where grapes are from and what the winemaker does with them, but the most important factor is the variety of the grape itself.
There are the familiar international red varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and more – produced in the world’s top winemaking regions. Then there are regional red varieties, which produce types of red wine nearly synonymous with their place of origin, such as Sangiovese, from Italy, and Tempranillo, from Spain. There are hundreds more red grape varieties regularly used to make wine around the globe.
Most red wine varietals fare best in warmer climates, where they can ripen fully before harvesting. So climate and soil – as well as market demand – determine the best grape types to plant in a particular vineyard. In Europe, centuries of tradition, trial and error determined what wine grapes grew best where, and modern regulations have enshrined those winemaking practices into law.
Our red wine guide details the flavor profiles and regions of the most popular red varieties – plus a few you may not yet know. Use it as a road map for Total Wine & More’s selection of more than 8,000 wines. You’ll learn everything there is to know about your favorite red wines, and we’re sure you’ll find some new red wines to love.