Australian Shiraz, or Syrah as it is known in Europe became extremely popular in the 1980s and is now easily the most widely planted red grape variety for the production of fine Australian red wines, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. The French varieties Grenache and Mourvedre are also becoming popular as are, to a lesser extent, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese and Tempranillo.
Of the Australian white wines, Chardonnay is by far the predominant grape with over 30,000 hectares grown around the country. Semillon comes a distant second although is highly prized in areas such as the Hunter Valley, with Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling popular in other areas. Also grown in smaller amounts are Pinot Grigio / Pinot Gris and Viognier.
The finest Australian sparkling wine originates from the cooler climate vineyards in Tasmania or the more southerly parts of the other states and are bottle fermented. Little Pinot Noir is used, particularly unblended, while Chardonnay is the popular white grape. Red sparkling wine has developed a following both in Australia and over here, and is almost always made from Shiraz. It is usually quite sweet and extremely fruit driven although a few more serious, oaked versions can be found. Peter Lehmann’s Black Queen Shiraz is a great example.
Among New South Wales’ more famous regions are the Hunter Valley, the Riverina and Mudgee. South Australia probably boasts some of the most well known: Barossa, Clare and Eden Valleys, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, the Adelaide Hills and several others. The state of Victoria has more wineries than any other although in total production lies third as there are fewer bulk producers. The Mornington Penninsula and the Yarra Valley are particularly famous for excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Tasmania’s cooler climate is also ideal for the growing of these two varieties, and produces many top quality sparkling wines. Western Australia’s vineyards lie in the south west corner of the state, mainly in the areas around Perth and further south to the Margaret River and the Great Southern region which encompasses Albany, Denmark and Mount Barker.