Australian wine: Wikis

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Australian wine industry is the fourth-largest exporter in the world,[1] exporting over 400 million litres a year to a large international export market that includes "old world" wine-producing countries such as France, Italy and Spain.[2] There is also a significant domestic market for Australian wines, with Australians consuming over 400 million litres of wine per year.[3] The wine industry is a significant contributor to the Australian economy through production, employment, export and tourism.

A vineyard in the Hunter Valley.

Contents

History

Vine cuttings from the Cape of Good Hope were brought to the penal colony of New South Wales by Governor Phillip on the First Fleet (1788).[4] An attempt at wine making from these first vines failed, but with perseverance, other settlers managed to successfully cultivate vines for winemaking, and Australian made wine was available for sale domestically by the 1820s.[5] In 1822 Gregory Blaxland became the first person to export Australian wine, and was the first winemaker to win an overseas award.[6] In 1830 vineyards were established in the Hunter Valley.[4] In 1833 James Busby returned from France and Spain with a serious selection of grape varieties including most classic French grapes and a good selection of grapes for fortified wine production.[4] Wine from the Adelaide Hills was sent to Queen Victoria in 1844, but there is no evidence that she placed an order as a result. The production and quality of Australian wine was much improved by the arrival of free settlers from various parts of Europe, who used their skills and knowledge to establish some of Australia's premier wine regions. For example, emigrants from Prussia in the mid 1850s were important in establishing South Australia's Barossa Valley as a winemaking region.

Early Australian winemakers faced many difficulties, particularly due to the unfamiliar Australian climate. However they eventually achieved considerable success. "At the 1873 Vienna Exhibition the French judges, tasting blind, praised some wines from Victoria, but withdrew in protest when the provenance of the wine was revealed, on the grounds that wines of that quality must clearly be French." Australian wines continued to win high honours in French competitions. A Victorian Syrah (also called Shiraz) competing in the 1878 Paris Exhibition was likened to Château Margaux and "its taste completed its trinity of perfection." One Australian wine won a gold medal "first class" at the 1882 Bordeaux International Exhibition and another won a gold medal "against the world" at the 1889 Paris International Exhibition. That was all before the destructive effects on the industry of the phylloxera epidemic.

In the decades following the devastation caused by phylloxera until the late 1970s, Australian wine production consisted largely, but not exclusively, of sweet and fortified wines. Since then, Australia has rapidly become a world leader in both the quantity and quality of wines it produces. For example, Australian wine exports to the US rose from 578,000 cases in 1990 to 20,000,000 cases in 2004 and in 2000 it exported more wine than France to the UK for the first time in history.

The industry has also suffered hard times in the last 20 years. In the late 1980s, governments sponsored growers to pull out their vines to overcome a glut of winegrapes. Low grape prices in 2005 and 2006 have led to calls for another sponsored vine pull.[7] Cleanskin wines were introduced into Australia during the 1960s as a means to combat oversupply and poor sales.

In recent years organic and biodynamic wines have been increasing in popularity, following a worldwide trend. In 2004 Australia hosted the First International Biodynamic Wine Forum in Beechworth, Victoria which brought together biodynamic wine producers from around the globe. Despite the overproduction of grapes many organic and biodynamic growers have enjoyed continuing demand thanks to the premium prices winemakers can charge for their organic and biodynamic products, particularly in the European market.

Grape varieties

Major grape varieties are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon,[8] Merlot, Chardonnay,[8] Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Riesling. The country has no native grapes, and Vitis vinifera varieties were introduced from Europe and South Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Some varieties have been bred by Australian viticulturalists, for example Cienna and Tarrango.

Although Syrah was originally called Shiraz in Australia and Syrah elsewhere, its dramatic commercial success has led many Syrah producers around the world to label their wine "Shiraz".

About 130 different grape varieties are used by commercial winemakers in Australia. Over recent years many winemakers have begun exploring so called "alternative varieties" other than those listed above. Many varieties from France, Italy and Spain for example Petit Verdot, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Viognier are becoming more common. Wines from many other varieties are being produced.

Australian winemaking results have been impressive and it has established benchmarks for a number of varietals, such as Chardonnay[citation needed] and Shiraz. Moreover, Australians have innovated in canopy management and other viticultural techniques and in wine-making, and they have a general attitude toward their work that sets them apart from producers in Europe. Australian wine-makers travel the wine world as highly skilled seasonal workers, relocating to the northern hemisphere during the off-season at home." They are an important resource in the globalisation of wine and wine critic Matt Kramer notes that "the most powerful influence in wine today" comes from Australia (Kramer).

Red grapes planted
Grape Area Ha (04) [9] Area Ha (05) [9] Area Ha (06) [10] Area Ha (07) [9] Area Ha (08) [9]
Shiraz 39,182 40,508 41,115 43,417 43,977
Cabernet Sauvingnon 29,313 28,621 28,103 27,909 27,553
Merlot 10,804 10,816 10,593 10,790 10,764
Pinot Noir 4,424 4,231 4,254 4,393 4,490
Grenache 2,292 2,097 2,025 2,011 2,011
Mourvedre 1,040 963 875 794 785
Other Red 11,235 10,797 7,002 11,309 10,902
White grapes planted
Grape Area Ha (04)[9] Area Ha (05)[9] Area Ha (06)[10] Area Ha (07)[9] Area Ha (08)[9]
Chardonnay 28,008 30,507 31,219 32,151 31,564
Sémillon 6,278 6,282 6,236 6,752 6,716
Sauvignon Blanc 3,425 4,152 4,661 5,545 6,404
Riesling 4,255 4,326 4,400 4,432 4,400
Other White 23,925 23,365 17,683 24,303 23,109
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GSM blends

GSM is a name commonly used in Australia for a red wine consisting of a blend of Grenache, Shiraz (a.k.a. Syrah), and Mourvèdre.[11] This blend originated from those used in some Southern Rhône wines, including Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Grenache is the lightest of the three grapes, producing a pale red juice with soft berry scents and a bit of spiciness. As a blending component, it contributes alcohol, warmth and fruitiness without added tannins. Shiraz can contribute full-bodied, fleshy flavors of black fruits and pepper. It adds color, backbone and tannins and provides the sense of balance such blends require. Mourvèdre contributes elegance, structure and acidity to the blend, producing flavors of sweet plums, roasted game and hints of tobacco.[12]

Notable production

Grapevines at Russet Ridge Winery near Naracoorte in the Wrattonbully region

Australia's most famous wine is Penfolds Grange. The great 1955 vintage was submitted to competitions beginning in 1962 and over the years has won more than 50 gold medals. The vintage of 1971 won first prize in Syrah/Shiraz at the Wine Olympics in Paris. The 1990 vintage was named 'Red Wine of the Year' by the Wine Spectator magazine in 1995, which later rated the 1998 vintage 99 points out of a possible 100. Wine critic Hugh Johnson has called Grange the only First Growth of the Southern Hemisphere. The influential wine critic Robert Parker, who is well known for his love of Bordeaux wines, has written that Grange "has replaced Bordeaux's Pétrus as the world's most exotic and concentrated wine".[13]

McWilliams winery near Griffith in the Riverina wine region

Other red wines to garner international attention include Henschke Hill of Grace[14][15][16], Clarendon Hills Astralis[17][15][16], D'Arenberg Dead Arm,[18][15][16] Torbreck Run Rig[19][15][16] and other high-end Penfolds wines such as St Henri shiraz.[20][15][16]

Australia has almost 2000 wine producers, most of whom are small winery operations. The market is dominated by a small number of major wine companies. After several phases of consolidation, the largest Australian wine company by sales of branded wine was Foster's Group in 2001-2003 and then in 2004 and 2005, Hardy Wine Company. Hardys, part of the world's biggest wine company Constellation Brands, had the largest vineyard area and the largest winegrape intake in the years 2001 - 2005.[21]

Major wine regions

Zones used for labelling the source of Australian wine
For a list of Australia's wine-producing regions, see here.

The information included on wine labels is strictly regulated. One aspect of this is that the label must not make any false or misleading statements about the source of the grapes. Many names (called geographic indications) are protected. These are divided into "South Eastern Australia", the state names, zones (shown in the map), regions, and subregions.[22] The largest volume of wine is produced from grapes grown in the warm climate Murray-Darling Basin zones of Lower Murray, North Western Victoria and Big Rivers. In general, the higher-value premium wines are made from smaller and cooler-climate regions. Some well-known regions are listed below:

South Australia wine regions
Victoria wine regions
New South Wales wine regions
Western Australia wine regions

The South Australian wine industry is responsible for more than half the production of all Australian wine.

In recent years, the Tasmanian wine industry has emerged as a producer of high quality wines. In particular, the Tamar Valley has developed a reputation for its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which are well suited to the cooler Tasmanian climate.

Queensland is also developing a wine industry with over 100 vineyards registered in the state. Some notable wines are produced in the high-altitude Granite Belt region in the state's extreme south, production is centred on the towns of Stanthorpe and Ballandean.

Export markets

The Australian Wine export market was worth 2.8 billion Australian dollars (AU$) a year in June 2007, and was growing at 9%pa.[23] Of this about AU$2 billion is accounted for by North America and the UK, and in this key latter market Australia is now the largest supplier of still wines. 2007 statistics for the North American market show that Australian wine accounted for a 17% share of the total value of U.S. imported wine, behind France with 31% and Italy with 28%.[24]

New marketing strategies developed for the key UK market encouraged customers to explore premium Australian brands, while maintaining sales of the lower-margin high-volume brands, following research that indicated a celebratory dinner was more likely to be accompanied by an inferior French wine than a premium Australian wine.[25] This is partly due to exchange rate fluctuations, making Australian wines appear much cheaper than French wines in the UK and hence perceived as being of poorer quality. While this situation may be somewhat mitigated by the continued rise in the Australian dollar during 2010, the stronger currency threatens to weaken Australian exports to the crucial US market.

In 2009 the Australian wine initiative Australia’s First Families of Wine was established as a multi-million-dollar venture aimed at resurrecting the fortunes of the AU$6 billion industry, by promoting the quality and diversity of Australian wine.[26][27] First Families chairman and Tahbilk chief executive Alister Purbrick said: “We desperately need to change the global perception of Australian wine. We don’t believe as individual companies we can stem the avalanche of news stories about Australia producing nothing but cheap industrial wines. But together we can present a powerful showcase of terrific regional wines of great diversity.” Some industry commentators lay the blame for this negative opinion on the giant, publicly listed multinational corporations, such as Constellation Wines and Foster’s, which have dominated the industry for years and concentrated on the cheap commodity end of the market, rather than building the reputation of Australia’s finer, regionally distinctive wines.[28][29] The twelve member companies are Brown Brothers, Campbells, Taylors, DeBortoli, McWilliam’s, Tahbilk, Tyrell’s, Yalumba, D'Arenberg, Howard Park, Jim Barry and Henschke.[30]

See also

References

  • The globe in a glass. The Economist (London), December 16, 1999 [1].
  • Clarke, Oz Oz Clarke's Australian Wine Companion. Harvest Books, 2005.
  • Halliday, James A history of the Australian wine industry 1949-1994 Adelaide : Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation in association with Winetitles, 1994.ISBN 1875130160
  • Kramer, Matt. Making Sense of Wine. Philadelphia: Running Pres, 2003.
  • McCarthy, Ed, and Ewing-Mulligan, Mary. Wine for Dummies: A Reference for the Rest of Us. Foster City, CA: IDG Books, 1995.
  • Palmer, Margot. Australian Wine. An Export Success Story [2] (Sydney), December 2007.
  • Phillips, Rod. A Short History of Wine. NY: HarperCollins, 2000.
  • Zraly, Kevin. Windows of the World Complete Wine Course. NY: Sterling, 2005.
Footnotes
  1. ^ G. Dutruc-Rosset, "Extract of the Report on World Vitiviniculture", Australian Wine online (June 24, 2002). "Australian Wine Industry Overview". http://www.winetitles.com.au/awol/overview/world.asp. Retrieved 2006-09-09. 
  2. ^ "Wine industry statistics". Winebiz. 2006. http://www.winebiz.com.au/statistics/wineries_numbers.asp. Retrieved 2007-06-13. 
  3. ^ "Australian Wine Industry Overview". http://www.winetitles.com.au/awol/overview/domestic.asp. Retrieved 2006-09-09. 
  4. ^ a b c Clark, Oz (2004). Australian Wine Companion. Time Warner Book Group UK. p. s.12. ISBN 0-316-72874-8. 
  5. ^ Hartley, Clive, The Australian Wine Guide, Hospitality Books, NSW 2002
  6. ^ Gerald Walsh ([1979]). "The Wine Industry of Australia 1788 1979". Wine Talk ([A.N.U. Canberra]). http://coombs.anu.edu.au/SpecialProj/ERIC/wia.html. Retrieved 2006-09-08. 
  7. ^ Nance Haxton (2006-06-05). "Grape glut: call for subsidised vine pull". PM (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2006/s1655724.htm. Retrieved 2006-08-27. 
  8. ^ a b Walton, Stuart (2005). Cook's Encyclopedia of Wine. Anness Publishing Limited 2002, 2005. pp. s.232, 233. ISBN 0-7607-4220-0. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Halliday, James. Australian Wine Companion (2010 Edition ed.). ISBN 978 1 74066 754 8. 
  10. ^ a b Halliday, James (2008). Australian Wine Companion. Hardie Grant Books. p. 45. ISBN 978-1-74066-515-5. 
  11. ^ J. Robinson (ed) "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 297-298, 333-334 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0198609906
  12. ^ Robinson, Jancis Vines, Grapes & Wines Mitchell Beazley 1986 ISBN 1857329996
  13. ^ The Economist (December 16, 1999 ). The globe in a glass
  14. ^ Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine
  15. ^ a b c d e Langton's Classification of Australian Wine IV, Jancis Robinson
  16. ^ a b c d e Appellation Australia, An exploration of Australian wine
  17. ^ Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine
  18. ^ Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine
  19. ^ Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine
  20. ^ Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine
  21. ^ News & Information for the Australian Wine Industry
  22. ^ "Register of Protected Names (includes textual descriptions of Australia's GIs)". Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation. 2003. http://www.awbc.com.au/RegisterNames.aspx?p=27&s=1. Retrieved 2006-09-05. 
  23. ^ The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Wine Export Approval Report Excerpts
  24. ^ U.S. Department of Commerce U.S. Wine Industry – 2008PDF (37.8 KB)
  25. ^ Winemakers' Federation of Australia Strategy (May 2007), Wine Australia: Directions to 2025PDF (355 KB)
  26. ^ Simon Evans, The Australian Financial Review, Tuesday 18 August 2009, Page 61
  27. ^ Chris Snow, Decanter Magazine, August 17 2009, Top Australian wineries team up to push super-premium wines
  28. ^ "Clans push merits of Aussie wines". Max Allen, The Australian, page 5. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25944040-14440,00.html. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  29. ^ "The Heart & Soul of Australian wine to launch in Sydney on Monday 31 August". Winetitles, Australias wine industry portal. http://www.winebiz.com.au/dwn/details.asp?ID=2691. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 
  30. ^ "First Families forge pact to promote wine". Jamie Freed, Business Day. http://business.watoday.com.au/business/first-families-forge-pact-to-promote-wine-20090817-ends.html. Retrieved 2009-08-18. 

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