If you were asked to name something quintessential about Australia, wine probably wouldn't be the first thing that jumps to your lips. But for many wine aficionados, it might rank number three or four -- behind kangaroos, koala bears and boomerangs of course. If you're not aware of Australia's foothold in the winemaking community, here's a quick fact: the country is home to an estimated 3,000 wineries [source: Berger].
Australia's diverse landscape and climate, which ranges from warm valleys to cool mountaintops, is able to accommodate a wide variety of grapes. And though a variety of wines is produced in Australia, the country is best known for its Shirazes, followed by its Cabernets, Rieslings and Chardonnays [source: The Snob].
Shiraz is best described as flavorful - what that flavor is, exactly, depends on where the grapes are cultivated and what the wine is housed in before bottling. The flavor of this red wine is often peppery, but can also carry overall earthy notes along with familiar flavors including cherry, plum, chocolate, vanilla, blackberry, oak and tobacco. Australian Cabernets, another red of both the Sauvignon and Merlot varieties, is a popular blend in Australia. Australia's white Rieslings are sweet and fruity, while the Chardonnays run the gamut from woodsy to citrus. Australia's blended wines don't stop with their Cabernets. Wines blended from Grenache, Mourvedre and Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, and Semillon with Sauvignon Blanc are gaining in popularity. It's an impressive array of offerings given that the country doesn't immediately jump to mind at the word wine, as Italy and France readily do.
Like other wine countries, Australia does regulate its wine production. With a focus on quality control, the country requires wineries to submit samples of each wine set for export before they can be certified and sent abroad [source: Articles Base].
If you're fond of Pinot Noir and looking to try an Australian label, you might want to go shopping for that bottle now. Although numerous Australian wineries exist, a heat wave in February 2009 turned many grape fields into raisins. Temperatures soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), breaking heat wave records in some areas. Though the extent of the damage won't be fully known or felt for some time, estimates have placed Pinot grape loss at 25 to 50 percent. South Australian regions have been hit especially hard, where certain regions may have lost 70 percent of this year's grape harvest [source: Steizer].
To learn more about the particular wine regions of Australia and find out what these regions produce, visit the next page.