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Australia Wine Regions: Not Just Shiraz

Australia spent millions of dollars to build a brand around Shiraz –Australia’s word for Syrah. The marketing paved the way for Australia wine production to triple since 1990. However, despite the success, Australian wines have suffered some serious drawbacks in the media. Wine critics often disregard most Aussie wine as “Critter Wines” –referring to the cute animal designs that adorn wine labels.
 
It’s time to dig deeper than the bottom shelf at the grocery store and find out what Australia wine regions are all about. There’s more to Australian wine than Yellow Tail and Little Penguin.
 

Australia Wine Regions Map

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What is Australia Known For?

As you might guess, Australia’s main vineyard produce is Shiraz followed by Chardonnay. The two varieties make up 44% of the total wine production.

What the production totals don’t say is that Australia is trying to diversify. Many of the Chardonnay and Shiraz plantings are being ripped out in favor of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.

Where is Australian Wine Country?

The largest wine production region by far is South Australia. One major city in South Australia is home to the Australian Wine Research Institute (awri). AWRI is responsible for much of the world’s research on dry farming techniques and commercial wine operation. Besides South Australia, keep your eyes peeled for the two up-and-coming wine regions: Western Australia and Victoria.
 

How Big is the Aussie Wine Industry?
There are 420,000 acres (2009) of vineyards planted throughout Australia that produce upwards of 1.46 billion bottles of wine a year–enough wine to fill up a honda civic gas tank 26,000 times.

 

Top Australia Wine Regions

The three major wine regions in Australia by shear volume are South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.

South Australia and New South Wales are known for their warmer climate varieties such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon whereas Victoria is known for cool climate-loving Pinot Noir.

South Australia

Adelaide is the hub of the largest wine growing region in Australia. A few miles from Adelaide is Barossa Valley, South Australia’s most prestigious growing area. It’s interesting to note that the majority of the wine from the area is actually grown in Lower Murray and Fleurieu (see the geeky list of Geographic Indications below)

Welcome to Barossa Valley… good luck finding a road sign.

 
Barossa Valley–oldest living vineyards in the world?!
45 minutes from Adelaide are the rolling hills of Barossa Valley. The region is unique because of its isolation from the rest of the world. Phylloxera hasn’t yet infected vineyard soils in Barossa, which means it’s home to some of the oldest living vineyards in the world.
 

Drinking some serious Barossa juice with Fraser Mckinley, the winemaker of Massena and Standish Wine Company.

What to seek out from South Australia
Old Vine Shiraz is definitely top notch, it’s both smoky and rich with spice. Famous producers in the area include Penfolds, Elderton and Rockford. Keep your eyes peeled for red blends called GSM: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre –The major blending grapes used in French Southern Rhone wines.

The view from Paulett’s Winery looking into Clare Valley.

Barossa Valley is flanked by two famous regions for white wine. Clare Valley produces some of the richest Riesling in Australia and Eden Valley is known for its very minerally and dry Rieslings.


South Australia in Focus

Check out the expert’s guide to South Australia – especially if you plan on going on a winecation.

See Guide

 

New South Wales

The major production in New South Wales comes from the inland Big Rivers Zone. This area has historically produced much of the commercial Chardonnay and Shiraz from Australia. However, because of severe drought in recent years, more wine grape growers are experimenting with drought friendly varieties like Tempranillo and Verdelho.

Victoria

Commercial winemaking in North West Victoria makes up the majority of wine production in the entire region. However, the growing areas of interest are cooler and closer to Melbourne such as Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley. The cool climate areas in Victoria have received a lot of praise for their Pinot Noir.

Up-and-Coming Victoria Wines

Check out the expert’s guide to Victoria – especially if you’re keen on cool-climate wines.

See Guide

A hot day in November in the middle of nowhere South Australia

The Great Big List of Australian Wine Regions

South Australia

Zone Geographic Indication (GI)
Barossa Barossa
Eden Valley
Mount Lofty Ranges Adelaide Hills
Adelaide Plains
Clare Valley
Fleurieu McLaren Vale
Southern Fleurieu
Kangaroo Island
Currency Creek
Langhorne Creek
Limestone Coast Coonawarra
Mount Benson
Robe
Mount Gambier
Padthaway
Wrattonbully
Lower Murray Riverland
Far North Southern Flinders Ranges

New South Wales

Zone Geographic Indication (GI)
Big Rivers Murray Darling
Riverina
Swan Hill
Perricoota
Hunter Valley Hunter
Central Ranges Mudgee
Orange
Cowra
Northern Rivers Hangings River
South Coast Shoalhaven Coast
Southern Highlands
Southern NSW Canberra District
Hilltops
Gundagai
Tumbarumba

Victoria

Zone Geographic Indication (GI)
Port Phillip Mornington Peninsula
Geelong
Yarra Valley
Macedon Ranges
Sunbury
NW Victoria Murray Darling
Swam Hill
Central Victoria Goulburn Valley
Strathbogie Ranges
Upper Goulburn
Heathcote
Bendigo
Western Victoria Henty
Grampians
Pyrenees
NE Victoria Glenrowan
King Valley
Beechworth
Rutherglen
Alpine Valleys

Western Australia

Zone Geographic Indication (GI)
SW Australia Margaret River
Geographe
Great Southern
Pemberton
Blackwood Valley
Manjimup
Greater Perth Peel
Perth Hills
Swan District

Queensland

Granite Belt and South Burnett

Tasmania

Tasmania has a Southeastern growing area and a Northern growing area both under the Tasmania GI
 
Sources
Australia wine statistics including Chardonnay and Shiraz accounting for 44% of production, size of acreage, production volume statistics and variety breakdowns from wineaustralia.com

About Madeline Puckette

I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me out there in the wine world @WineFolly