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Australia is the sixth largest country in the world in area (about 18% smaller than the U.S.) and is the 7th largest wine producing country in the world.  It produced just under 8% of the worlds wine production in 2001.  There are over 1,100 wineries in Australia and wine is produced in many regions that are widely spread across the southern half of the country.  Each of these regions has different climate and soils and should be considered to be as distinctly different as Bordeaux and Burgundy in France or California and Washington in the United States.

Australia aggressively expanded its wine grape planting and production in the late 1990's and early 2000's.  Australia had approximately 366,000 acres under vine by the end of 2001. While white grapes dominated (57%) of the acreage as late as the 1996-97 growing season, the percentage of red grape varieties as a percentage of recent plantings is overwhelming.  

Australia is one of the most innovative wine regions in the world.  There is a freedom from bureaucracy and regulation that is unheard of in most older wine producing countries.  Most of the vineyards are in the cooler southern part of the country and most particularly along the southeast coast. The most successful grape variety is the Shiraz (known as Syrah, in many parts of the world).  Shiraz accounts for over 37% of the red grape acreage.  Depending on the growing region and the winemaking style, Australian Shiraz can range from light and fruity to big, bold and very long lived.  The other noble grape varieties of the world are also grown (including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Semillon and Riesling).  

While winemaking started in Australia in the early 1800's the quality of the wines was poor until stainless steel tanks and temperature controlled fermentation came into use in the late 1950's.  When modern techniques were introduced, the quality of the wines began to improve almost immediately.

Like many new world wine producers, Australian wineries generally designate the grape variety of a wine on the label.  The laws require that wines with varietal labeling must contain at least 85% of that variety.  Australia has been the primary producing country to market wines with the names of two grape varieties on the label (i.e. - Sémillon/Chardonnay).  In two grape blends, the variety that represents the greatest portion of the blend is named first.  

Australia is in the southern hemisphere and it's growing season is the reverse of the United States and the European countries.  Harvest begins in March and continues into April.

Australia ranks as the 12th largest wine consuming nation by volume and the 21st largest by per capita.  As of 2001, Australians consumed 20.5 liters per capita. This continues a trend of increased per capita consumption in Australia.

Growing Regions by Australian State

New South Wales
Hunter Valley

This is one of the warmest wine grape growing regions in Australia.  It is considered the original home of Australian wine production.  The lower end of the valley is known for it's Semillon and Shiraz while the upper valley, which is drier, is better know for its Chardonnay.  In the dry areas, irrigation is required and there is a tendency to over water to increase production. The valley is a convenient destination for tourists visiting from Sydney, just 30 miles away.  The best of the Semillons can be exceptional and require years of cellaring to reach their potential

Mudgee This is an inland growing area that grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.
Northern Territory
South Australia
Adelaide Hills This area is becoming known for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.

Barossa Valley

Because of its proximity to Adelaide, this area is a popular destination for tourists.  This is a warmer inland region that is known for its deeply colored and intensely flavored red wines produced from Shiraz, Cabernet and Grenache.  The Barossa Valley has a long history of winemaking and is the source of more than 20% of Australia's wine production.  The valley is 40 kilometers in length and has rolling hills.  
Clare Valley

This area is know best for its white wines.  The best Rieslings as well as very steely Chardonnays come from the Clare Valley.  It has a great variety of climates.

Coonawarra This is a cool coastal growing region known for it's intense Cabernet Sauvignons.  It is located between Melbourne and Adelaide.  
Eden Valley Steely Chardonnays and ageable Rieslings
McLaren Vale This coastal area is best known for its well structured wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.  It also produces good Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Padthaway Known for its white wines such as rich flavored Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, this cooler climate region is located north of Coonawarra.
Riverland One of the highest volume wine production areas in Australia. It encompasses the lower reaches of the River Murray. Long hot days, limited rainfall during the growing season. Much bulk wine and some good quality bottled wine. Mostly Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon

Australia's smallest state was the largest wine production state until Phylloxera wiped out the vineyards in the 1870s.  It is now one of the smallest producers in volume but one of the most diverse in terms of grape varieties.  Microclimates vary widely within the region.

Goulburn Valley

This area is known especially for its Marsanne and Shiraz.

Yarra Valley

This cool climate region close to Melbourne grows good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for both table and sparkling wines.
Coal River Valley An area that has developed quickly since the completion of the coal river dam. This region is working primarily with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling although a wide variety of grapes is being tested.
East Coast The combination of good tourist traffic and steadily improving quality over the last decade have made these wines a bit hard to find.
Huon Valley
North West
Pipers River
West Tamar
Western Australia
Great Southern A relatively young area for producing fine wines.  It makes primarily Cabernet and Shiraz and has good possibilities for improved quality in the future.
Margaret River Top quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Semillon and Chardonnay come from this region which opens on the Indian Ocean. This area has also experimented with Zinfandel.

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