Unique Australian Wines
The Australian wine history started when English immigrants set foot on the continent. In order to survive on the new continent, the immigrants brought over essentials, including various seeds, animals as well as grapevines. The earliest vineyard in Australia was located near the former landing site of the immigrants (later developed into today’s Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens).
The real commercialization history of wines dates back to the year 1832, when James Busby brought a large number of grapevines back from Europe, hence starting this era. With the introduction of quality raw materials, commercialized vineyards and wine chateaus sprang up and the majority of vineyards at that time survived till today. In the second half of the 19th century, the wine industry prospered rapidly. Australia has been exporting substantial quantities of wines to England till World War I. As Flagship of the “New World”, Australia seems not to have a long history, but tracing back to wine brewing, the country shares a similar starting point with Bordeaux.
Nevertheless, Australian wines brewed at that time were quite different from today’s dry red wine Shiraz and dry white wine Chardonnay. The leading variety at that time was fortified wine. Such wines can be found even today, with the most typical one called Rutherglen Muscat. Processes are as follows: using wind dry Brown Muscat grapes, partly fermented, fortifying with alcohol (similar to the fortification method of Port) and then aging with the Solera system (similar to Sherry). Roof of the ageing cellar is covered with tinned steel sheet (hot environment similar to Madeira). After aging for years, Rutherglen Muscat becomes the world-class sweet wine, which can be found only in Australia. Premier Rare Rutherglen Muscat must be aged at least 20 years, the unique gem in the wine world from Australia!
How big is the territory of Australia? 7.68 million square kilometers, a little bit smaller than that of China. In this vast land, climate and altitude are diverse. Barossa Shiraz, which we’re familiar with, is not the only Australian wine. Southern areas with lower latitude such as Tasmania Island have a cooler climate, which boast of sparkling wine and pinot noir. Areas with higher altitude such as Macedon Region (500-690 meters above sea level) are cooler, which are ideal for elegant Shiraz and crispy Chardonnay. Coastal Areas such as the MorningtonPeninsula, are famous for first-class pinot noir because the sea mitigates the temperature. Even in South Australia, which in our impression is away hot, areas with higher altitude such as Adelaide Hills brew a series of wine common in cool temperature: Chardonnay, pinot Noir, Sauvignon, Grüner Veltliner, etc. Besides the rich, strong and fruitful Shiraz, Australian wine shows rich diversity.
Though Shiraz is the most famous grape in Australia, the Miracle of Australian Wines on the international market was created by Chardonnay. Mature fruit flavor from a mixture of peach and honey melon, vanilla flavor from the oak barrel, as well as the lactic acid fermentation of apple acid and the rich taste by stirring the barrel, are the unique characteristics of Australian Chardonnay in those years. Such styles led to market protest, i.e. the well-known ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement. The style of such Chardonnay began to change in 2000. In the eyes of enologists of the current generation, who have a better understanding of wine plantation and brewing, Australian Chardonnay doesn’t necessarily need the same maturity, full lactic acid fermentation of apple acid as in the Bourgogne Area. Australian grapes possess high natural maturity, but lack of acidity. Earlier pick can lead to less sufficient lactic acid fermentation of apple acid and a reduced number of stirs in barrels. The new generation of Australian Chardonnay, full of sophora flowers aroma with a shred of hazel nut flavor, boasts of crispy acidity and fine texture! In the eyes of many wine critics, this would be the most breathtaking wine of the world in the next 10 years.
Innovation on wines, at the end, is the confidence obtained from better understanding of terroir and the brewing process. Not only Chardonnay, Australia also takes the lead in exploring Natural Wine and Orange Wine. Adelaide Hills in South Australia is not only the front line of Orange Wine in Australia, but also in the world. These wines, not yet acknowledged by the public, represents the development trend of wines——more natural and purer. Not everyone is fond of these ultimate wines, but how could the industry develop without them?
This is the most exciting and charming age of Australian wines. Without abandoning the tradition, old grapevines of Barossa still brew premier wines. New areas are being better explored and the brewing technology is being innovated continuously. Not only Chardonnay, the entire Australia would become the most breathtaking wine producing countries in the next 10 years.
-Ian Dai, I-WAY Wine Education-