Australian red wines first made an impact on the global scene largely because of some good marketing and a wide open niche for relatively cheap, decent wines, particularly the reds. These wines were good enough to have an impact on the Australian beer market, and many Aussies are now confirmed wine drinkers. They did well in the US on the basis of price and competitive quality, but if you roam around Sydney bars, you’ll find they’re still a bit undersold and understated, even in the domestic market in Australia.
Wine appreciation- What it really means
Real wine aficionados don’t flutter around “being articulate” to the point of nausea as seems to be unavoidable on wine shows. They actually do appreciate good wine, and the terminology is really shorthand, not pretension. The Australian red Wines have been appreciated by experts, quite rightly, for what they are- Good reds, not good excuses for talking people’s ears off.
The typical Australian red Wines are basic types:
- The “Beaujeune” brands, a rather strange misnomer for Beaujolais caused mainly by Euro bureaucracy.
- The occasional burgundy, not common but good value
The Australian Red wines are also strongly influenced by the fact that these wines are grown by experts in a unique soil class, but still quite Mediterranean environments. Australian industry has been doggedly working on quality standards at the vine level as well as the packaging level. The famous Barossa Valley brands are strictly quality controlled, and the industry is highly competitive, which has been part of the reason for the explosion of Australian wines around the world.
The red wines are high value commercial products, and the industry has gone to work on competing with international brands on their own home soils. That factor was the driver in Australian wines changing their internationals status from novelty to major force in the global wine trade.
The difference with Australian wines is organic, not packaging, however, and that fact needs to be understood when checking out the Australian reds. The genetic ancestry of Australian wines tends to be the classical European form, with distinct similarities to southern European characteristics. Australian reds are more closely related to the traditional Italian wines than the modern French, for example.
The environment in which Australian wines are grown is another issue. Horticulturally, the Aussie reds are grown in a truly unusual environment. Australian soils are naturally phosphate poor. That means the acidity is a bit different, and that, naturally, influences the Australian grapes. The crops also grow under the ferocious Australian sun, which is a major asset for growers, improving a lot of the plant biology required for good wines.
The net result is a range of good, reliable, wines. An environment which superficially seems to be rather hostile to winegrowing has been an asset rather than a liability. Australia’s low natural humidity also puts the brakes on the sort of fungal infections and other pests that plague more moist climates.
The irony is that not all of Australia’s reds make it on to the international market. They’re prizewinners, medal winners, and cheap to boot. Next time you’re in a Melbourne bar or a Perth restaurant, experiment with some of the local wines which are distributed in Australia. You will be surprised.
|Writer – Morten Pedersen – E-mail
Visit: Winesworld the Wine Database