Australian wineries are known for producing world-class shirazes and chardonnays. But there’s more to the Australian wine industry than these traditional varieties. Look a little closer and you’ll see Australia creates some of the world’s most unique wines.
They key to the diversity of Australia’s wine industry is the rising popularity of boutique vineyards. These smaller wineries are often run by families or friends brought together by their passion for wine making. Without the large export deals of their more well known competitors, the boutiques can follow their instincts and take more risks to create something truly original. In fact, more tourists are passing over the large labels and seeking out the boutique wineries in their search for that elusive perfect drop.
Chambers Rosewood Winery in Victoria’s Rutherglen region creates wines that are popular in Europe, but rarely seen in Australia. Their range of more than 30 different wines includes cinsault, chasselas, and gouais. The family-owned winery’s biggest drawcard is their muscadelle, also known as tokay in Australia.
Sevenhill Cellars in South Australia’s Clare Valley is unlike other wineries in Australia. It’s run by the monks of the nearby St. Aloysius Church, who produce sacramental wines alongside an unusual range of whites, reds, and spirits. Old favorites like rieslings, semillons, and merlots share centre stage with lesser known wines like chenin blancs and grenaches. The winery’s monks are also masters at the art of blending wines. The College Red, made of cabernet franc, barbera, cabernet sauvignon, and malbec is a highlight of any tasting experience.
Wines are traditionally made with grapes, but Australian boutique wineries love to break the rules. Wineries all around the country have recently begun to develop wines made from all different kinds of fruits, and the results may surprise you.
North Queensland is famous for its tropical fruits, so it makes sense that Paradise Estate Wines has shunned grapes for these exotic treats. Bananas, coconuts, pineapples, and mangosteens give Paradise Estate’s white varieties a sweet sherbety tang. The vineyard’s delicate reds are flavored with fruits like bananas, red mangoes, and pitayas.
Holgate on the New South Wales’ Central Coast isn’t an area known for winemaking, yet it is home to one of Australia’s leading fruit wineries. Firescreek Fruit Wines combines figs, berries, and tangy citrus fruits with herbs, flowers, and even chilli. Surprising combinations like parsley and lime, and basil, blackcurrant, and green tea produce wines that are bold and full of flavor.
Tasmanians love their fruit wines so much, there’s a festival honoring these original creations. Every January fruit wineries and amateur wine makers showcase their favorite wines made with local berries and stone fruits. The Tasmanian Fruit Wine Festival is a highlight of the state’s social calendar, and a great opportunity to sample unique fruit wines, liquers, and meads.
But just because a winery makes wines the old-fashioned way doesn’t mean it’s staid. In fact, many Australian wineries have developed new grape varieties which are used in the development of exciting and unique wines. These new grapes have been embraced by big labels keen to create contemporary wines from hardy grapes.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization worked with the Australian wine industry in 2000 to create new varieties developed to withstand the harsh Australian climate. They crossed the French Cabernet Sauvignon with the Spanish Sumoll to create four new species: the Cienna, the Tyrian, the Vermillion, and the Rubienne. These grapes produce full flavored reds with a hint of spice. Major wineries including Yalumba, Brown Brothers, and McWilliams were all quick to create wines with these hardy new grapes.
Over 120 grape varieties, and many other fruits, are used to create wines in Australia. Yet many of us continue to drink wines using only a handful of these. Australia creates exceptional traditional wines, but there’s so much more to this country’s wine industry. Dare to be different, and bypass the shiraz for something unfamiliar. It may surprise you.