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    No New World wine-producing country has had such an influence on the entire philosophy of wine as Australia. The wine industry was also established here by European immigrants. Australia set about a radical change in wine-making techniques so that good wines could be made for a few Australian dollars.

    The European industry tried for years to protect themselves against these Australian wines but the public proved en masse to prefer the tasty Australian wines that were ready to drink, amenable, comforting, rounded, full-bodied, and warm. What is more they were much cheaper. It seems as though after years of battle Australia has not only won market for itself but also much more. Countless 'flying wine-makers' from Australia now fly from one European company to another to teach them how to achieve the same kind of results.

    More and more Australians are also establishing themselves in the South of France in order to make Franco-Australian wines. No other New World country has similar achievements.

    Australian Wine

  • Wine History of Australia

       Australia's wine history is certainly not as old as the land itself. Southern Australia was first discovered by the Dutchman Abel Tasman and then eastern Australia was discovered much later

     by the Briton James Cook. The Aboriginal people certainly drank no wine.The first vines arrived in the late eighteenth century, intended for a botanical garden. The first official wine-growers arrived in the early nineteenth century. The Scot James Busby, with some experience of winegrowing and making acquired in France, successfully planted the first vineyards in the Hunter Valley. Vines were soon growing elsewhere in Australia. Apart from Hunter Valley on the east coast, they were planted in the south, around Adelaide, Southern Vale, and Barossa.

    The initial wines tasted somewhat like the present day Rhone wines through the excess of sun and too little water, although they were sold somewhat cheekily in London as 'Australian Burgundy' or even 'Burgundy'. The wine industry was given a sudden and unexpected impulse after World War I when thousands of soldiers were suddenly discharged with no work for them.

    The government encouraged soldiers to make a new life for themselves in growing and making wine. This proved to be a success, indeed perhaps too successful given the hefty over production of wine that arose. The growers directed their efforts increasingly towards the production of port and sherry type fortified wines. This gave the growers two ways of getting rid of their surplus. The demand for fortified wines was huge and wine spirit was needed in order to make them.

    Up to the 1960s most Australians preferred to drink beer or gin to wine. The Australian wines were mainly intended for the local Greek and Italian immigrants and for export. When the Australian government took measures to reduce drinking and driving, the pattern of alcohol consumption began to change.

    Consumption of wine gradually increased in Australia, both at home and in restaurants, bars, and such places. Better wines started to be drunk but the bulk wine market remained very active. Wine in a can, bag, or box is still widespread here. With a consumption of 19 litres of wine per capita per annum the population of Australia still lags well behind that of most European countries, but a new style of life is clearly to be seen.

    The drinking habits of the world consumers changed in the 1970s. Far less sweet wine was drunk, with dry wines becoming far more popular. Australian producers reacted well by seeking out cooler places to grow their grapes such as the Eden Valley and Coonawarra which are more suitable for grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Colombard, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay.

    A similar change also occurred with red wine. Because Australian

     wines have now been discovered throughout the world, the Australian wine industry has seen explosive growth which continues into the new millennium. The Australian government has developed far-reaching plans to make Australia, one of the world's largest producing nations, after Italy, France, and Spain.

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  • Wine-growing conditions

     Australian wine-growing is quite typical of the New World scene with huge vineyards spread across enormous territories between South Australia (Barossa and Coonawarra),

    Victoria (Yarra), and New South Wales (Hunter), plus hi-tech equipment and methodology and staggering yields. Despite all this Australia is not anywhere near the output of wine-producing countries like Italy, France, and Spain. A large proportion of the potential harvest is destroyed by natural hazards such as hail, rain, extreme heat, fire, kangaroos, foxes, crows, and greybacked silvereyes.

    Considerable government support has been invested developing and extending the local wine industry. Up to the 1970s the most popular wines were mainly sweet Rieslings. The plantings of Riesling have been decimated since the arrival of Chardonnay vines, because the wines from these are more successful in the export market.

    Chardonnay is now the most widely planted grape variety but Shiraz is also gaining ground too. Besides these there are also a number of other varieties which are new to Australia that are gaining popularity.

    Hence in addition to new plantings of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Ruby Cabernet (Cabernet and Cinsaut), increasing numbers of Sangiovese and Barbera vines are also being planted. The white grape that surprises everyone and is gaining popularity at the expense of Chardonnay, Semillon, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Muscadelle, and Traminer is the Verdelho.

    Australian wine-makers are often accused of putting more emphasis on the variety of grape than on the aspects related to terroir. The criticism is not entirely justified because each wine is a combination of factors: the grape variety, soil, climate, and of course the underground water.

    Australian winemakers can guarantee their customers constant quality by blending together wines from different areas. This can compensate year in year out for the vagaries of the Australian climate. The result is a superb wine with a distinctive character. Australian wines are almost always produced from a number of vineyards. It is possible for 'single vineyard' wines to be made in Australia, but given the enormous size of many of them, this would lack credibility while also adding unnecessary costs and uncertainty. This would also be contrary to the 'flavour for dollar' policy that has made Australian wines world famous. A 'single vineyard' wine would vary in quality from year to year and this is not what today's consumers want.

    It is often essential in Australia to irrigate the vines. This is strictly forbidden in most European countries, even during the most extreme periods of dry weather. New World wine countries though regard irrigation as a perfectly natural occurrence. Their systems are so well refined that the vines can be drip fed at whatever height is required. Spray equipment is installed on both sides of the vines but it is also possible to spray from just one side. This gives the vine a contrasting signal so that the leaves absorb water rather than the grapes in order to maintain a good balance between sun and moisture.

    The technique by which the skins are left in contact to extract the maximum possible aromatic and flavour substances in the juice (maceration pelliculaire), is only used in poor years in Australia. The grapes normally have more than adequate aromatic and flavour substances in them as a result of the good sun/moisture balance.

    The malolactic fermentation with lactic acids that is used in Europe is only partially used here. Australian wines do not by nature have high levels of acidity, so that it makes no sense, nor is it desirable for a complete malolactic fermentation to take place. The sun also has a beneficial effect on the growth of the vines. Australian winemakers rarely need to add fertilizer to the soil. Those in favour of organic winemaking do not need to ring any alarm bells here as they do in Europe.

    Australian wine-makers ideas about cask maturing in wood are also different. In order to provide plenty of flavour at a price they have used wood chips to give cheaper wines a characteristic 'oaked' taste. This is a thing of the past though for today the best Australian companies use huge tanks in which a sort of giant wheel constantly agitates the young wine.

    This gives the wine regular contact with large oak planks that can be pushed into the tank through special apertures. The length of time that the wine spends in these tanks is determined by the desired strength of the taste of oak required. The eventual result has much greater finesse than the use of oak chips.

     High-technology therefore can also have its good sides. In this way the top wines are still matured in oak casks, while cheaper ones acquire their oak taste more quickly and efficiently. This system is also more environmentally friendly and considerably reduces the number of oak trees that need to be felled.

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