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Australian Grapes and Wines
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Australian Grapes and Wines

To help you sort your pinot gris from your pinot noir the Winelarder team has compiled an overview of the grape varieties most commonly used in Australian wines.


Common Australian white wine varieties

Chardonnay

Chardonnay is one of the most popular wines in the world, and is the main white grape variety grown for commercial white wine production in Australia. Australian Chardonnays tend to have ripe melon flavours if they are grown in warmer climates and cooler regions are famous for peach and citrus characteristics. Chardonnay is generally matured in oak barrels and consumed within three years of vintage. Many large wineries will often blend Chardonnay grapes from different regions to create an distinct style of wine and when blended with Pinot Noir grapes Chardonnay makes a great sparkling white. Chardonnay is grown throughout Australia and excels in places such as Margaret River, Padthaway and Langhorne Creek.

Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio)

Pinot Gris is a white variety traditionally grown in Alsace in northeast France and in Italy, where it is called Pinot Grigio. In the same way Chardonnay is famous in Australia as a reliable full-flavoured white wine, in Europe Pinot Grigio from Italy and Pinot Gris from France are known for their reliability - wines made from this grape aren't as rich as Chardonnay but they are flavoursome nonetheless. Pinot Gris is not a relative of Pinot Noir (the 'Pinot' in the name refers only to the pine cone shape of the grape). Pinot Gris generally has a medium-bodied flavour with a tendency to be crisp, steely and refreshing, often with a spicy citrus aroma.

Riesling

Traditionally from Germany, Riesling is a fruity white wine and is often mixed with other sweet varieties to produce a classic accompaniment to Thai cuisine and other spicy dishes popular across Australia. Traditional German grape-growing area in South Australia excel in producing Riesling, although it is grown across the country.

Semillon

Semillon is a classic French wine, now grown right across Australia. Semillon  ripens early in the season and produces wines which are full-flavored, rich and aromatic. Semillon is often blended with other varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to take advantage of the strengths of each variety.

Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc suits colder climates such as Victoria and Tasmania and is generally consumed soon after vintage. Semillon is regularly mixed with Sauvignon Blanc, producing an easy-drinking accompaniment to seafood.

Traminer

Traminer (full name 'Gewurtztraminer') is an early drinking, aromatic wine with pungent floral fragrances. Traminer wines are light gold in colour and the intense floral overtones can often be overpowering to the uninitiated. Traminer is often mixed with Riesling and is a popular accompaniment to spicy Asian dishes.

Verdelho

Originally from Portugal, Verdelho is often made into fortified wine (Douro Port) in its European homeland but here in Australia it is mainly turned into dry, white table wine. The grape isn't grown widely in this country and there are only small plantings in Western Australia, New South Wales and South Australia. The varietal character of Verdhelo changes from herbaceous, grassy and spice through to more tropical flavours of pineapple, melon, tropical fruits, guava, honeysuckle and fruit salad.


Common Australian red wine varieties

Shiraz

Shiraz is one of the most famous Australian wine varieties, although the grape originates in the Middle East and has been used by wine makers around the world for centuries. Shiraz is a full-bodied wine with a dark crimson colour and with rich, pepper and plum flavours. Most Shiraz wines are matured in oak and many can be cellared for decades. South Australia's Barossa Valley and the Hunter valley in NSW are home to Australias best Shiraz.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon (or 'Cab Sav' as it is often referred to) is another classic french wine which has taken off in Australia. Cabernet Sauvignon varieties are medium to full-bodied and are usually well structured and elegant. Many Australian wine makers blend Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon with excellent results.

Merlot

Merlot is softer on the palate than Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and has the advantage of being rich, but only moderately tannic so you can drink it soon after vintage without offending your tongue. Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to produce an easy drinking red wine.

Grenache

Grenache grows well in warmer climates and produces soft wines with round, perfumed flavours. Winemakers often blend Grenache with Shiraz to create a more balanced wine. Chilled Grenache blends are a great accompaniment for spicy foods.

Petit Verdot

Petit Verdot produces deep, full-bodied wines with spicy pepper flavours and characteristics, high tannins and high alcohol content. The variety has traditionally been used to add character to weaker reds and is often used the same way spices are in cooking  a little bit goes a long way. Petit Verdot is often blended as only 1-3% of the total wine to take advantage of its dominant characteristics.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir grapes have thick skins and produce wines which are light in colour, body and tannins. For this reason Pinot Noir make fantastic sparkling wines and elegant dry reds. Pinot Noir produces some of Australias greatest sparkling wines when mixed with Chardonnay.

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