New South Wales, Australia, is a wine region like no other. While wine making is a growing industry, it's far from the sole focus of the area. Here, viticulturists share the fields with sheep, goat and cattle, and ranchers and farmers of cotton and honey. Exploring the countryside, you might see wallabies, dingoes, feral horses or rampaging toads -- not exactly what comes to mind when picturing hillsides covered with grape vines [source: NSW DECC]. Local vineyards' names represent an incomparable mix of English, French, Italian and Indigenous Aborigine.
In the past three decades, New South Wales' (NSW) wine production has leapt from local to international, now sharing their varieties with the world. But in their homeland, the wineries remain overwhelmingly family owned (over 75 percent in New South Wales, compared with 33 percent nationally), with more than 351 cellar doors [source: NSW Wine]. The annual crush -- the amount of grapes devoted to wine production -- is more than 5,500 short tons (5,000 metric tons) [source: NSW Department of State]. New South Wales now produces the leading wine import of the United States, the Yellowtail brand [source: NSW Department of State].
Clearly, things have come a long way since Monty Python's Flying Circus lampooned Australian wine in a 1972 skit, which featured Eric Idle as a snooty sommelier proclaiming, "This is a bottle with a message in, and the message is 'beware'" [source: Monty Python's Flying Circus]. Oenophiles everywhere know that New South Wales wine must be taken seriously indeed. The future of Australia as a whole appears to include some great wines.
In this article, we'll take a look at the history and agriculture of the NSW wine region, along with some of the standouts -- or "regional heroes" -- among its wines.