New South Wales
The area around Sydney has the longest history of grape growing in Australia. The original plantings of vines were at Sydney Cove in 1788 and this was followed by the Macarthur plantings near Camden and Blaxland’s vineyards around the Parramatta River in the early 1800’s. James Busby’s collection of 362 vines, originally planted at the Botanical Gardens, was the most significant development in the early history as cuttings of these vines made their way to other parts of NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
While grapes were first planted in cooler parts of the Sunshine State more than 100 years ago, until relatively recently, Queensland was not known as a wine grape growing area. It was considered too close to the tropics and too hot to produce quality wines. But perceptive grape growers and winemakers noted that in the higher altitudes of the ranges running inland, there were cooler climates and rich volcanic soils. As the pioneer vignerons to the Granite Belt region suspected, being 700 to 1000 metres above sea level does have a significant cooling effect and allows the production of some stunning wines as the grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Viognier grow through warm springs and summers and relatively cool autumns.
South Australia is the most important wine producing state and is consistently responsible for almost 50% of Australia’s annual production. It is also home to some of the most famous regions, historic estates and oldest vines in the country. It is the driest state in Australia but diagonally dissected by the Murray River which supplies critical water for irrigation in many regions. There are a multitude of different soil types and local mitigating influences such as altitude and cooling ocean breezes that allow for a wide range of wine styles.
The pristine island state of Tasmania is situated off the southern coast of Australia in the cool waters of the Southern Ocean. The first commercial vineyards were planted in Tasmania in 1865. A decade later the industry collapsed largely due to the gold rush on the mainland. A resurgence of interest started in again the late 1970’s. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir do particularly well in these cool conditions and also form the backbone of the renowned sparkling wines. Many of Australia’s best sparkling wines have been either made in Tasmania or contain substantial components that have been sourced there. Pinot Noir is the other strong suit and the style is distinctly fragrant and lighter bodied with delicate flavors of red apple and cherry. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are also grown.
In the 1880’s Victoria was in fact Australia’s largest wine producing state. Phylloxera outbreaks put a temporary halt to production in many areas which subsequently saw a resurgence of interest in the 1970’s. Victoria is the second smallest state but is home to more individual wineries than any other state in Australia. It also has the greatest diversity of regional climate which allows for the production of virtually every imaginable wine style from fine sparkling wine, high quality Pinot Noir, savoury Shiraz and the historic fortified wines of Rutherglen.
Western Australia is the largest State and spans the western third of the Australian continent, although the winemaking regions are almost entirely concentrated in the south-west and great southern land divisions of the State. Some regions are close to the Perth the State capital but most are located further south away from the metropolitan area. The regions include Blackwood Valley, Geographe, Great Southern, Peel, Pemberton, Manjimup, Margaret River and Swan District.