Within 50 years of the arrival of Europeans in Australia, South Australia had become the continent's capital of wine production. Europeans brought grape vines to the region with them, and the areas surrounding the coastal town of Adelaide proved to be suitable for their cultivation. Before long, vineyards were popping up all over the place.
The expansion of the Australian wine industry over the past century has been dramatic. In 1914, Australia was producing roughly 4.5 million gallons (17 million liters) of wine. By the mid '70s, that number had increased to over 95 million gallons (360 million liters) [source: Walsh]. South Australia is directly responsible for more than half of all that wine.
With a huge diversity of climate conditions and soil types, South Australia lends itself to the cultivation of a wealth of grape varieties in 17 distinct winemaking regions [source: Wine]. These varieties in turn produce a wide range of wines, from Riesling to Shiraz. The region of Barossa is considered by many to be the birthplace of Australian wine [source: Corrigan]. It produces some of the country's most renowned wine today, and it's home to some of the oldest Shiraz vineyards in the world [source: South Australian Tourism Commission].
On the next few pages, we'll explore what it takes for the South Australian region's vineyards to produce more wine than any other part of Australia. We'll start with a look at the region's history, including why its wineries survived a plague of insects that destroyed vineyards in other parts of the world.