Australia is an extremely important wine producing country, both in terms of quality and the scale of its wine economy. Wine Australia's 2018 annual report describes it as the sixth largest wine producer in the world. In that year output was 1.29 million liters (341 million US gallons), split 52:48 between red and white.
In 2015 there were just over 135,000 hectares (c. 334,000 acres) of vineyards in Australia. 30 percent of this was planted to Shiraz, 18 percent to Cabernet Sauvignon and 16 percent to Chardonnay. Merlot covered 6 percent and Sauvignon Blanc 5 percent.
Australia has developed a comprehensive appellation system. As of 2018 there were 65 designated wine regions. Readers can find more about the wine and labeling laws on our Australian wine label page.
Its vast size and huge range of climatic and geographical conditions, makes it one of the most versatile wine-growing countries in the world. Overall, the climate is affected by its southerly latitude, but regional features such as altitude and proximity to the oceans also play a significant role.
Wine is produced in all of Australia's six states. However, the vast majority is made in the southeast, in New South Wales, Victoria and particularly South Australia. The latter accounts for about half of the country's annual output.
Western Australia only accounts for around two percent of national production. However the best wineries are well known on export markets. The Bordeaux red blends of the Margaret River are the flagship wines of the state.
This variety of growing conditions results in a broad portfolio of wine styles. By way of illustration, blockbuster Shiraz is produced in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. The neighboring Eden Valley, at higher altitudes, is the home of many of Australia's best Rieslings. The Clare Valley portfolio also ranges from gutsy reds to elegant Riesling and Chardonnay.
Coastal influenced areas using cooler climate grapes include Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. Further north, the moderating influence of the sea on the Fleurieu Peninsula produces a Mediterranean climate. The portfolio of grape varieties reflects this. 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of the mainland, Tasmania is best known for graceful Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.
The country has also played a major role in the globalization of wine. Many of its brands have a strong international presence, as do its well-trained and well-qualified wine professionals, who have spread their expertise to many corners of the world.
Australia has long been at the forefront of the New World wine renaissance, with a highly dedicated and professional industry based on research and development. Both Australia and the global wine industry have benefited from the technological advancements in wine-growing made by organizations such as the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI).
Looking backwards, the country has an impressive wine history. Many wine regions date back to the mid 19th Century. This does not compare to many European regions (and some New World ones). But the descendants of many founding families are still growing grapes. Different valleys or towns are often associated with immigration from a particular European country or province. This further adds to the diversity of Australian wine.
The country also boasts some of the oldest productive (ungrafted) grape vines in the world. Some were planted as far as the 1840s, and there are numerous century-old plots. The Barossa is a particular hot spot in this regard. Due to various factors including isolation, and the prevalance of sandy soils, the vineyards here did not experience wholesale devastation by phylloxera.