The history of wine in Australia goes back almost as far as it does in the US. Australia's wine industry had a slower start, since the country did not have the waves of European immigrants that the US did in the 19th century. None the less, Australia was settled by the British who have long been lovers and merchants of wine, but due to the climate, had never been able to produce their own. Australia then was a dream come true for many of English descent, who had always longed for a place to plant grapes and produce wine.

While Australia did not have the head start of the US, it also did not have that bump in US wine history, Prohibition. Able to produce wine throughout the 20th century, Australia's vineyards matured, as did their wine making. The last part of the 20th century saw technical breakthroughs in wine making, and grape growing. One of the most important contributors to the revolution in modern grape growing is an Australian, Dr. Richard Smart, and this helped Australia (and New Zealand) to jump ahead of the rest of the world in the critical area of vineyard management.

The center of Australia is largely dessert, with the population and arable land scattered along the coasts. This limits the growth of the wine industry, and new growing areas are rare.

The Regions

Coonawarra - One of the most notable red wine regions of Australia. Situated in the state of South Australia, it is primarily planted to Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Hunter Valley - The oldest vineyard region in Australia. About 100 miles northwest of Sydney. Traditionally Shiraz (the Syrah grape of the Rhone Valley, in France) is king here, with S'millon being the white grape of choice. Bowing to international tastes, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are now almost 50% of the total vines planted.

Margret River - An important wine region in Western Australia. Newer than many other regions in Australia, it has the advantage of not having to overcome tradition and so the wines tend to be of a more modern style. The cool climate has proved to be one of the most successful in Australia.

McLaren Vale - A quality wine growing region in the Southern Vales region of Australia.

Adelaide Hills - One of the oldest wine producing regions in Australia. Situated in the south-central part of the country, around the city of Adelaide.

Barossa Valley - One of the South Australia wine regions. North of the city of Adelaide, Barossa was one of the first areas to become popular outside of Australia. Because the region was planted earlier than most, the vines tend to have a greater average age, and this helps to maintain high quality. Canberra A wine region in Australia. Situated near the east coast, approximately halfway between Melbourne and Sydney.

Clare Valley - One of the wine producing regions of South Australia that are clustered near the city of Adelaide. A long history of winemaking here, and a long slow ripening season, have produced some very hearty red wines.

Goulburn - Once a prominent wine region in Australia, it would have faded into obscurity if not for the single winery Tahbilk (they used to have Ch'teau in front of their name, but recently dropped it). Tahbilk can trace its roots back to 1860 when it was the original wine producer in the region. History has gone full circle and Tahbilk has stood the test of time.

Perth Hills - A tiny wine growing region in Western Australia that is east of the city of Perth. This is one of the newest wine regions in the country. By planting at altitude, the grape growers here are able to escape the heat that plagues the neighboring Swan Valley.

Swan District - This is the original wine district in Western Australia. Just north of the city of Perth, this is a very warm region that seems best suited for the fortified dessert wines that are found here. As interest in producing wine in the Perth region grows, it is the cooler hillsides that are being cultivated, while the Swan District continues to fall out of favor.

Yarra Valley - Situated just north of the Australian city of Melbourne, this may be the area's best known wine region. Close enough to the city for a leisurely drive, the Yarra Valley is dotted with picturesque wineries that are well prepared for tours and entertaining.

Australian wine labels

Most wines are labeled by the grape variety, rather than the place name.

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