The Australian Wine Industry

Australian wine has won an international reputation for quality and value. Australian wines have taken key international awards, competing favourably against longer-established national wine industries. Innovative Australian winemakers are sought internationally for their expertise.

Just as with the original pioneers of Australia, the innovative free spirit of the winemakers is causing a revolution in the country with a large assortment of grape varieties being experimented with.

Although there are well over a hundred varieties of wine grapes grown in Australia, the wine industry leans heavily on the classic varieties which are all of French origin. The whites are Chardonnay, Semillon, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc with the reds being Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, and Grenache. Another thirty varieties consisting of thirteen whites and seventeen reds also contribute and are considered second tier varietals according to the leading wine journalist-author James Halliday. The other seventy or so varieties are only used by about ten wine producers, but these are also the producers who are pushing the Australian Wine Industry into a new era.

Some of these are exotic grape varieties such as the Graciano from Spain, the Petit Manseng of France, Italy's Lagrein, and the Russian Saperavi. In addition there are also grapes of Australian origin and mutations of others that are being experimented with.

The traditionalist vineyards and winemakers are aghast over the developments of some of these more aggressive winemakers and their use of such a wide assortment of varietals to develop new wines but the fact of the matter is that these new pioneers are introducing new wines that could very well birth the next premium Australian Wine.

These forward thinking winemakers are taking cast off and lesser thought of grapes and blending them into much desired wines. The Viognier variety underwent a similar process in Europe in the 1960s when it was nearly gone with just a few acres in the Rhone Valley and now it is all over France and California as well as being used by over a hundred winemakers in Australia alone.

Australia’s reputation as one of the most technologically advanced wine-producing nations owes much to the industry’s emphasis on research and development. Key research and development sources include the Australian Wine Research Institute, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre, state departments of agriculture and universities. A number of Australian universities and other tertiary education institutions offer courses in viticulture and oenology.

The peak industry body representing winemakers’ interests is the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia. It develops policies and programs to increase net returns to Australian winemakers. The Wine Grape Growers of Australia is the peak industry body representing the interests of grape growers.

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