Australian wine country is some of the nicest and most unique in the world....

Aussie wines are awesome. I have been to the NAPA and Sonoma Valleys in California several times and there are a lot of Australian wines and vineyards that truly rival the U.S. wines. I have also been to France on 2 occasions. They make great wine but it is not all that affordable. However, part of the fun and enjoyment for wine lovers is to travel and visit the vineyards. Australia has a whole host of wine tours available and a huge selection of wonderful places to stay in key wine areas such as the Hunter and Barossa Valleys.

Over the years, the Australian wine industry has been successful to say the least. In fact, in a Financial Times news story on March 2, 2001, it was stated that Australian wines were challenging the French wines in the U.K. In 1990 there were 85,000 litres of Australian wine exported to the U.K. and in 1999, this had increased to 1.2 million litres. Other wine journals such as the Wine Spectator are giving Australian wines their true deserve. Just take a look at the July 31, 2001 edition. Australia's Chardonnays are stated as being California's biggest rival and coming on a strong. Watch out NAPA!

Of course, Australian wines were not always this successful and Australia was always considered a nation of beer drinkers. It has been a long and hard struggle to gain the international recognition and success. In fact, the wine industry in Australia originated in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip brought vine cuttings into Australia from Europe. They were first planted where the Botanic Gardens are now situated in Sydney but they did not thrive because of the unsuitable soil composition. It wasn't until John MacArthur planted vines in the fertile Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, did they begin to thrive. Today, the Hunter Valley is one of the world's best wine growing regions.

Over the years, much of the European immigration to Australia helped to shape the wine industry. The Barossa Valley in South Australia was largely influenced by the German Lutheran population that settled there as they were fleeing religious persecution. As a result, there are still Rieslings produced in this area today. Similarly, the wine industry in Victoria was influenced by Swiss settlers. Victoria quickly went on to become the premier wine growing region responsible for 75% of Australia's wine production during the 1890's.

In these early years, fortified wines became very popular. In fact, Port is still quite popular in many Australian households. During the 1930's fortified wines were popular as it was the Depression and these wines were the most affordable beverage. The dominance of the fortified wine lasted for 70 to 80 years until the 1970's when table wines began to take over. Much of the popularity of the table wine can be attributed to the European immigrant influence. After World War 2 there was an influx in European immigration and they brought much of their culture with them, one of which was the consumption of table wines.

Some of the key wine growing areas in Australia include;

Barossa Valley: The Barossa Valley is north east of Adelaide, South Australia, and has a hot climate. Penfolds is one of the more famous wineries in this region. Barossa is renowned for its Rieslings which is indicative of the Valley's German heritage, and for the reds such as Shiraz and Cabernets.

Vineyards in the Barossa Valley, South Australia

Hunter Valley: The Hunter Valley is another hot area and is located north of Sydney, New South Wales. This area is within easy reach of Sydney for a day trip or you can stay overnight at one of the many bed and breakfasts. Some of the more notable vineyards include Rosemount, and Rothbury. A variety of wines are grown in the Hunter Valley, including Shiraz and Semillon. As well as visiting the larger vineyards, you will want to check out some of the smaller boutique wines.

Clare Valley: The Clare Valley is a cooler growing area located in South Australia, north of Adelaide. This is an area of four interconnecting valleys, the Clare, Polish River, Watervale and Skillogallee. The main wines from the Clare Valley are the whites such as Riesling, Chardonnay and Semillon.

Coonawarra: Coonawarra lies to the south east of Adelaide and is more noted for it's reds such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The area has a cooler climate and is also noted for is reddish coloured terra rossa soil. Penfolds grows some its grapes here for some of its Cabernets. One of the more popular wines from this region includes the Wynns Coonawarra Estate.

Yarra Valley: The Yarra Valley is located in Victoria, north east of Melbourne. It has a temperate climate and is noted for making the cooler climate varietals. The Pinot Noir is popular here and one of the better wines that we have tried from this area is Coldsteam Hills.

This is just a sampling of the wine growing regions in Australia. Wines are also grown in Western Australia in the Swan Valley and Margaret River, the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, McLaren Vale and Padthaway in South Australia and also in Tasmania.

Today, Australia produces many of the best traditional wines such as Cabernets and Chardonnays and they also have a flair for being experimental. There are varieties such as the Pinot Chardonnay which are becoming more popular and an ever increasing number of un-wooded wines that are fermented in steel vats.

Currently, Australian wines are exported to 77 countries and sales exceeded $1 billion in 1999 for the first time. There were 612 million litres produced and 38% was exported to countries such as the U.K., United States, Germany, New Zealand and Canada. Exports rose 12% compared with the 1998-99 season. In 1999, there were more red grape varieties planted than white and record amounts of grapes were crushed. Of all the grapes grown in Australia, 85% went to wine production. The total area of vines increased in all states with South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria leading the way.

The main wines produced are Chardonnays, followed by the Shiraz. Others include the Pinot Noir, Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Riesling and the Sauvignon Blanc.

For more information about where to stay and what to do in Australia's wine regions, please see our wine pages for New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia & Tasmania

Grapes grown in the Barossa valley in South Australia

Useful Links for Tours, Vineyards & Accommodation:

Encounter Australian Wine Tours: If you are interested in wine and seeing the very best Australia has to offer, why not combine the two with an Encounter Australia Wine Tour. Encounter Australia are the destination wine tour specialist in Australia. We offer the ultimate travel experience to the premium wine regions, gourmet food with fine wines, luxurious accommodation, and the magnificent natural scenery of Australia. Choose from a one day tour to your favourite wine region through to a 12 day Wine Extravagance. We invite you to have a look at our pages and discover the wonders of Australia and our world class wine. We are also able to custom design tours to suit your personal needs.

Barossa Daimler Tours: Winners of tourism awards and critical acclaim, Barossa Daimler Tours have the knowledge to show you their little piece of paradise and fill it with history, fine regional food, winemakers, cellars, and golden sunsets.

Barossa Experience Tours: Personal escorted wine & heritage tours of the Barossa Valley for 2-6 guests.

Barossa Region: You will find the area is unique in Australia and this site has been designed to help you discover, experience and enjoy the best of the Barossa. The combination of a rich European heritage and the fresh vitality of Australia is embodied in the lifestyle of the Barossa. Premium wines, fine restaurants, magnificent old churches, wineries and cottages, traditional music, butchers and bakers, all in a peaceful rural setting where each season accentuates the beauty of the vineyards and the undulating hills. Whether here for business or pleasure, we invite you to share our Barossa with us.

Hunter Vineyard Tours: Leave your driving worries behind. Sit back and relax in air-conditioned comfort as the coach travels through the lush rural countryside of the Hunter Valley vineyards. You will visit a range of wineries, from small family owned to large, world famous wineries, with generous tastings of all types of wine. Included is a guided tour of a selected winery.

Margaret River Region: Comprehensive listing of attractions, wineries and events in the Margaret River Wine Region, Western Australia.

National Wine Centre: As an icon for the Australian wine industry, the National Wine Centre of Australia will provide world class interpretive, educational and entertainment facilities, representing every wine region in the country. The Centre will lead visitors on an exciting and dynamic interactive journey through the Australian wine industry, making it a must-see attraction for anyone captivated by the mystique of wine and its production. Situated adjacent to Adelaide’s stunning Botanic Garden, the $24.7 million National Wine Centre of Australia will offer the complete wine experience.

Penfolds: Penfolds has been named Red Winemaker of the Year (2000) at the world's most important wine competition, Britain's International Wine Challenge, which this year attracted 9300 entries from 35 countries. Penfolds Chief Winemaker, Mr John Duval, who received the award in London last night (September 6), said the Challenge was considered the most comprehensive and rigorously judged international wine competition, with gold medals awarded to less than two per cent of all entries."

Scenic vineyards in Southern Tasmania, Australia

Victoria Winery Tours: We have designed a number of special tours to enable you to experience the best things in life - good food, fine wine and the Victorian countryside. Whatever your passion is, combine it with a glass of wine and it makes a perfect day. All our tours are small group tours, with a minimum of two passengers and a maximum of eight passengers per vehicle, with a flexible itinerary. We feel the best way to enjoy the countryside, food and wine is with a small group and in a luxury, air-conditioned mini-bus. Of course, if you have a larger group, please let us give you a quote for a separate tour.