When it comes to technical know-how, the Australians are streets ahead of the pack. Wine was being commercially produced here as long ago as 1850 but in modern times Australia has become one of the most successful wine-producing countries in the world.
At the top end of the market, an emphasis is being placed like Orange and Wrattonbully. Mny of the new sites are in cooler areas, where the grapes provide better levels of natural acidity and aromatics. Australia built its reputation on wines showing ripe fruit flavours, often accompanied by noticeable use of oak, and in today’s commercial middle ground, there’s an enormous amount of wine being made to a standardised recipe, all backed up by full-throttle maketing.
The main wine-producing regions are hear the cities of Perth in Western Australia, Adelaide in South Australia, Melborne in Victoria, and Sydney in New South Wales. The climate rends to be hot, so irrigation is often necessary. The vast size of the country means that the states provide different growing conditions. Some of Australia’s most elegant wines are made in the relatively cool climate of Western Australia. White wines from the Chardonnay, Semillon, Riesling, and Verdelho grapes have been successsuful, along ‘Bordeaux Blends’ from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
South Australia includes the premium regions of the Barossa Valley, Coonawarra, and Adelaide Hills. Barossa Shiraz is world-famous for its inky, concentrated style, whilst Coonawarra, with its coole climate and Terra Rossa soil, provides ideal conditions for some af Australia’s outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon wines. The Adelaide Hills vineyards, situated at 450 metres above sea level, are proving to be a prome area for Riesling, Pinot Noir and bottle-fermented sparkling wines.
A great range of wines is produced in Victoria, including the unique liqueur Muscats. The Yarra Valley benefits from one the coolest climates in Australia, resulting in fine Pinot Noirs, Rieslings, Chardonnays, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Australia’s ultimate cool climate location however, is Tasmania. The island is home to some of the very best Pinot Noirs.
In New South Wales, the lower and upper Hunter Valley, locared norh of Sydnay, has established itself as an area of ‘classic’ wines such as Semillon and Shiraz. Both of these can develop with bottle age.
Hungary is a relatively small Central European state with the greatest distance from east to west being 530 km (331 miles) and 270 km (168 miles) from north to south. The climate is determined by changing fronts from three different climate systems: the severe Russian continental climate, the pleasant Mediterranean climate, and remnants of a moderate maritime climate. Winters are moderately cold and the summers are hot.
Hungarian wine-growing dates back to the time of the Roman emperor Probus who had vineyards planted on slopes along the Danube in about 276 AD. These vineyards were significantly extended during the period that the Austro-Hungarian Empire flourished. During the period of Soviet domination Hungary was ‘permitted’ to produce large amounts of steel so that the wine industry was to a large extent neglected. The Hungarian wines of that era were produced in huge agricultural plants and disappeared to the USSR.
Penedès is situated to the south of Barcelona, divided between the provinces of Barcelona and Tarragona. While the centre for Cava production and trade is San Sadumi d’Anoia, the main centre for still wines is Vilafranca del Penedès. The vineyards are sited between the coastal strip of the Mediterranean and the central plateau, the Meseta. In practice Penedes is subdivided into three large sub-regions. The vineyards of Baix Penedes lie along the coast at a height of 820 feet (250 metres). This is the hottest area and the wines produced here are for daily consumption.
The taste of a wine depends principally on the grapes from which it is made. Different climates, soils and winemaking tehniques also play a part.
White wine is almost always made from white grapes, although black grapes can be uses if contact between the skins (where colour is obtained) and the juice is avoided. All grapes varieties have individual characteristics and ripen at different times, the type of grape exerting a heavy influence an the taste of a wine.
Broadly speaking the style of white wine produced can be broken down into three categories: light-bodies white wines such as German Riesling, aromatic white wines such as Gewürztraminer, and full-bodied and wooded white wines such as Chardonnay or Sémillon.
Today world's most popular white grape, Chadonnay express its varietal character in many forms: from the racy, steely, and nervy wines of Chablis, to the fuller-bodied, buttery rich wine made in the Napa Vally, California.
This is an aromatic grape, which ripens early and is mostly grown in cool-climate vineyards. Its range extends from featherweight tangy, dry white wines like Sauvignon de Touraine, to the ripe, almost tropical-like fruitiness obtained in California, where the less common addition of oak is often adopted and labelled 'Fume Blanc'. Sauvignon Blanc thrives on chalk or gravel soil.
The Riesling grape is seen by many as the most versatile variety of white grape in the world. It is without doubt a class act with a number of strengths, not least its ability to outperform Chardonnay in the longevity stakes.
Arguably one fo the most underrated verieties of grapes, Sémillon, Bordeaux's most widely planted white grape, makes delicious dry and sweet wines. With an almost honeyed texture, Sémillon is often partnered by Sauvignon Blanc to lift the acidity, although Australian winemakers also blend Sémillon Trebbiano.
An extremely versatile variety of grapes, Chenin Blanc is capable of making dry and crisp white wines that are great as an aperitif, through to medium, unctuous and sweet styles. Due to the keeen and vibrant acidity often found in Chenin Blanc grape, they make brilliant food wines and can stay in good shape for many years after the vitange.
This distinctive grape variety is known by its friends simply as Gewürtz but sometimes also as Traminer. It provides interese aromas, reminiscent of lychee, rose petals and spice.
California’s climate is quite varied, which is not surprising given the large area of the state. In rough terms the climate on the coast is similar to the Mediterranean with warm summers and mild winters. Summer in the Central Valley is exceptionally hot and dry, while summer in the area immediately behind the coast is much moister and can be misty.
The highest temperatures are in the Central Valley and the mildest are on the coast. The North Coast vineyards get the most rainfall. The soil is also varied as a result of the many earthquakes that hane occured throughout the area. The soil varies from alluvial and sedimentary deposits to strata of volcanic origin.
The notion of terroir that is so strong in Europe is not given much credence in California. The variety of grape is far more likely to be chosen as suitable for the climate than the soil.