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The Diversity of Shiraz: What Makes Australian Wine Unique?

Shiraz wine

Vines were planted immediately upon the white settlement of Australia in 1788 but it wasn’t until the gold rush in the 1850s that raised the domestic demand for alcoholic beverages including wine. The rise of the first winemaking families in Australia began. Australian wine was set to have a huge impact on the world market and started to be recognized as a powerful rival to the old-established vineyards of Europe. The French were not so keen on this admission though. In fact, at the international wine competition of the Vienna Exhibition of 1873, the French judges who judged blind, resigned when they learnt that the prize-winning red shiraz was not French but from Bendigo, Victoria.

Since settling in the most fruitful regions of Australia, the families have learnt, grown, inspected, investigated, got up close and personal to the fruit of their loins and the earth beneath. Subsequently, the Australian First Families of Wine collective was launched. They bring together 1200 years of experience and 48 generations to showcase and preserve the diversity and uniqueness that Australian wine has to offer.

bottles of shiraz wine
Source: winemag.com

What Wine Is Australia Most Famous For?

The Syrah grape was introduced into Australia in 1832 by James Busby, an immigrant who brought vine clippings from Europe. Today it is Australia’s most popular red grape. Yet, in the 70s white wine was so popular that growers were ripping out unprofitable Shiraz and Grenache vineyards, even those with very old ones.

In France, the rest of Europe, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Uruguay and most of the USA it’s called Syrah while the name Shiraz became popular in Australia, South Africa and Canada. Whatever you call it, Shiraz or Syrah, this grape that probably originated in Iran and was brought to the Rhône now exists in a unique diversity of red wine styles, including some of Australia’s ‘icon’ wines. It’s been said that when God invented shiraz, he did it with Australia in mind. Its strong suit is its diversity. Australia’s flag-bearer when it comes to dark-skinned grapes, producing a variety of different red shiraz styles, all thanks to their regional climate and soil characteristics.

glass red wine
Source: goodhousekeeping.com

Shiraz is Australia’s most important and most grown red grape variety. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a spicy, ‘pepper’ aroma is important to some high-quality Australian red shiraz wines. Despite the significance of Shiraz to the Australian wine sector, little is known about the aroma compounds that are the key contributors to the perceived aroma and flavour of premium quality Shiraz wine.

Bright, bold and full of personality, Shiraz is Australia’s most popular variety that grows in almost every wine region of Australia. The beauty is that there’s no single style of Aussie Shiraz. Winemakers produce styles ranging from delicious, everyday drinking sweet shiraz wine to collectible fine wines.

If you want some sugar, choose powerful, full-flavoured styles with bold fruity flavours from the warmer-climate regions such as the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley and McLaren Vale. If you want some pepper and spice, get red shiraz from cooler-climate regions like the Adelaide Hills, the Grampians and Mount Barker in the Great Southern.

Shiraz accounts for one-quarter of total wine production and is Australia’s most exported wine. Along with cabernet sauvignon, the two most common red varieties and the most common white chardonnay together accounted for 58 per cent of the volume of national winegrape production in 2001 and 61 per cent in 2006.

During the past decade, the land area in Australia devoted to grapevines has almost doubled and the real value of wine production has grown at more than 10 per cent per year. Export markets are now responsible for nearly one-third of annual wine sales, compared with just 2 or 3 per cent in the mid-1980s when Australia was a net importer of wine.

Who Makes the Best Shiraz Wine?

It seemed like the global French vs. Italian debate on who’s wine is better would last eternally up until Australian Shiraz made an entrance and started beating french shiraz at wine tastings. France’s Rhône Valley has a long history of producing some of the world’s best shiraz. Even though France is still the largest producer and Australia comes second, accounting for about 40% of the country’s total wine output, the most famous and expensive red shiraz wines like Penfold’s Grange Bin 95 and Henschke Hill of Grace are produced way down under.

pouring wine in glass
Source: blog.haskells.com

Shiraz is Australia’s most popular grape and is widely regarded as the country’s most famous wine, thanks to benchmarks from the Barossa, Clare and Hunter Valleys, McLaren Vale, Great Southern and the Adelaide Hills. Moreover, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale are home to some of the oldest Shiraz vines in the world.

What Is Australia’s Best Shiraz?

Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale are considered to be the top 2 regions of Shiraz. Barossa Valley in South Australia, located 60 km northeast of Adelaide branded Barossa at both a national and international level as one of Australia’s most renowned wine destinations. Two highly significant wineries that have made their mark on the region, the nation and the world are Jacob’s Creek and Penfolds. These high-profile brands have made a considerable contribution to both Australian and global wine culture.

The potential of the area was first realised by a German mineralogist, Johannes Menge in 1837. Three years later, Colonel William Light the Surveyor General of Adelaide led the first official expedition to the region. The origins of the name ‘Barossa’ come from a Spanish battlefield in the Napoleonic Wars where Colonel Light witnessed the Battle of Barrosa in 1811.

birth view on wine
Source: traveldine.com

The Barossa Valley was settled in the 1840s by pioneers like Henschke and the Hill-Smith family. Their names would become prominent in the Australian wine industry and are still going strong today. Generally, the larger landowners were British and the small landowners were German, and the two groups did not usually mix. However, their architectural and culinary influences remain in the Barossa of today. Shiraz from the Barossa Valley is tannic, with ripe black-fruit and chocolate flavours.

Even though the first grapevines were planted in 1838, it wasn’t until the 1970s that table wine grew in popularity and over 25 new wineries were established in our region within the same decade. Its signature notes are strong fruitful flavours, like sweet plum, mocha, cinnamon notes and dark chocolate. The oaked vibrant blue and black fruits give your taste buds an undeniable tannin infuse. Importantly, McLaren Vale also excels in the production of ultra-premium Grenache and Cabernet even though it’s best known for Shiraz.

By Jessie Sanner

Always weighing things, the life of a Libra isn’t easy and that’s something Jessie is well acquainted with as a Libra herself. The confusion with having to choose between things is what helps her write for the blog, in the hope of making it easier for readers who are indecisive themselves. Interested in contrasts, like period dramas and sci-fi, casual and classy outfits, fries and detox shakes, the life of this young lady is anything but boring. Or is it?