They’ve been producing wine in this lush and mountainous wine region on the outskirts of Adelaide since the middle of the 19th century, but it was only 20 years ago that the area became an officially recognized Australian Geographical Indication (AGI). The relatively cool climate means that white wine reigns here with Sauvignon Blanc constituting about a third of the area’s total production.
Renowned alongside Chianti, Bordeaux and Rioja as one of the world’s great wine regions, the Barossa Valley is synonymous with deep, richly flavoured Shiraz wines. The area is home to some of Australia’s most venerable and famous wineries including Wolf Blass, Penfolds and Peter Lehmann. The global success of Shiraz from this region has led to wineries planting more Rhone varietals including Mourvèdre and Grenache.
The altitude of the Clare Valley’s vineyards, among the highest in Australia, makes for a relatively cool climate with warm days followed by fresh nights, the ideal conditions winemakers look for when growing Riesling. While the crisp German varietal is its most famous, the mountainous region also produces some excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and, of course, Shiraz.
Coonawarra’s deep red soil, known as terra rossa, is famous throughout Australia and that rich colour is echoed in the wines. Situated along the southern Limestone Coast, the region is often compared to the French wine region of Bordeaux, both for its relatively cool, maritime climate and for the wines it produces: primarily Cabernet Sauvignon along with excellent Merlot and Shiraz.
Situated between the Gulf of St. Vincent and the Mount Lofty Range mountains, the town of McLaren Vale is surrounded by vineyards. Recognized throughout Australia as one of the country’s most innovative regions, winemakers are utilizing a wide variety of techniques to turn out unique styles often utilizing organic or biodynamic principles.
While the Barossa Valley gets most of the attention, nearby Eden Valley is recognized by wine connoisseurs as exceptional in its own right. Like its more famous neighbor, this cool climate sub-appellation within the greater Barossa Zone creates excellent Shiraz, albeit in a slightly lighter style, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.
No grape is more synonymous with Australia than Shiraz. The dark-skinned, luscious grape varietal loves the climate down under and is grown throughout the country.
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Deep, dark and full-bodied, Australian Shiraz is renowned for its powerful character. Notes of black and blue berries are common along with aromas of smoke and cured meats, with everything underpinned by a touch of toasted oak.
TRY IT WITH: A Moroccan spiced lamb leg grilled over coals or just about anything that’s spent a good deal of time on a BBQ: pulled pork, brisket. Hearty braises and stews also relish the company of a good Shiraz.
Falling somewhere between the subtle, tannic style of Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon’s spiritual home) and the fruitier, more plump versions from Napa, Australian Cab strikes a balance that’s easy to love.
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: With notes of black pepper and tobacco, cassis and black currant, Australian Cabernet is no shrinking violet, (although there might be some violet aromas in the glass).
TRY IT WITH: Beef loves Cabernet Sauvignon. Go for burgers, braised short-ribs or skip the meat and try grilled eggplant, a hearty vegetarian lasagna or roasted mushrooms instead.
Traditionally used as a blending grape in Australia, alongside Shiraz and Mourvèdre, Grenache is starting to be recognized for its own unique abilities as a single varietal.
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Pomegranate, strawberry and cherry flavours are often apparent in this medium-bodied varietal.
TRY IT WITH: If you’ve got it, kangaroo would be a great pairing, but just about any game meat from grouse to venison also works well. From maple glazed pork belly to Southeast Asian wok-fried noodles, Aussie Grenache is a wonderfully food-friendly wine.
Oaky, buttery and creamy were the buzzwords around Ozzie chard for many years, and while that style still exists, there’s a move toward a lighter, more nuanced style these days.
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Heaps of ripe melon and citrus, loads of vanilla and a nutty creaminess all wrapped up in a golden, full-bodied voluptuousness.
TRY IT WITH: Freshness and creaminess are two qualities that Chardonnay looks for in a great pairing: Risotto primavera, chicken Marsala or grilled lobster dipped in garlic butter would all be hits.
Since it doesn’t have the name recognition of Chardonnay, Australian Semillon is sometimes overlooked, meaning there are some real bargains to be had.
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Floral scents give way to a crisp and zesty wine. Semillon works beautifully as a single varietal bottling but is often blended in Australia with Sauvignon Blanc.
TRY IT WITH: Linguine with clams, fennel and citrus salad, seared squid or go with an Australian classic and throw some shrimp on the barbie.
The “it” grape of Australian white wine in the past few years, Sauvignon Blanc thrives in the cooler, coastal and mountainous vineyards.
YOU’LL EXPERIENCE: Often showing a grassy, herbaceous character, Australian Sauvignon Blanc is a tart, food-friendly, easy-drinking varietal. Fresh cut lawn, citrus and pineapple aromas are typical.
TRY IT WITH: Gently spiced curries pair beautifully with the aromatic qualities of Sauvignon Blanc. Or try it with an elegant poached halibut with salsa verde or even a humble pizza.