Friday, January 8, 2016

Top 4 Australian Wine Varieties: The Reds

Australian Red Wine
123RF Images
Hosting the fourth largest wine industry in the world, Australia produces some truly amazing drops and some of our wineries are world renowned. There are wineries in every Australian state and some of our most highly regarded wine regions include Coonawarra, Barossa Valley and NSW’s own Hunter Valley.

In this article series we will take a look at the different wine varieties on offer, their characteristics and what makes Australian wine so special. First, let’s talk about 'The Reds'.


Made from dark coloured grapes, Merlot is known for being one of the softer reds and often has a more fruity flavour than its rivals. Its name comes from a French word for blackbird, which references the colour of the grapes it is made from.
Australian Merlot Grapes
Image by Porao via Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0
In many regions, harvest of the Merlot grape takes place relatively earlier and it takes less time to mature after being bottled as well. This means that Merlot often has a lower alcohol content and what might be described as a somewhat herbal flavour.

Merlot is popular during meal times as it goes particularly-well with red meat, and it is a good wine for beginners and people new to the pleasures of red wine-drinking. Merlot is grown all over Australia and notable wine regions including Margaret River and Barossa Valley.


Shiraz arrived in Australia (from France and Spain) in 1831 and was planted in the Hunter Region of NSW. Today it is one of the widely enjoyed reds in Australia and is our most popular red grape. Shiraz is grown on over 40,000 hectares in Australia alone.
Australian Shiraz Grapes
Image by Mangnus Manske via Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0
In terms of taste, this is a wine that can be very different depending on the region in which the grape is grown and the wine produced. Australian varieties are quite big, bold and aromatic, different from the lighter Merlot. It has become common for winemakers to add white grape know as Viognier to Shiraz, giving it an apricot-like flavour.

Shiraz is Australia’s most widely grown grape and can be found in just about every major wine region. The Cowra wine region in NSW is small by Australian standard but Shiraz’s and Cab Sau’s from this region have repeatedly won national awards in both organic and non-organic varieties.

Cabernet Sauvignon

The red with perhaps the greatest aging potential is the Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that is categorised by its smooth texture and varied flavours. Aged in oak, it is full-bodied and quite acidic, and you may taste anything from cherry or plum to vanilla, chocolate or coffee in different varieties. In Australia, some even have a eucalyptus tang. The flavours differ from glass to glass and Cab Sav is often blended with other wine varieties.
Australian Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes
Image by Dodo via Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 3.0
One of the main qualities of this grape that is worth mentioning is how easy it is to grow, as it has a thick skin and is more resilient to unfavourable weather conditions, rot, insects and the like. In fact, it has a reputation of taking over an area and pushing other grape varieties out when introduced.

Pinot Noir

In direct contrast, Pinot Noir is known for being one of the most difficult grape varieties to cultivate and tends to require cooler climates. This makes it a grape found in mostly in southern parts of Australia, most notably the Yarra Valley and parts of Tasmania. The grape does prosper in other areas however, including the Orange region in NSW, as this area is some 1000m above sea level. The grape has a thin skin and grows in clusters, making it quite susceptible to various problems.
Australian Pinot Noir Grapes
Image by Pixabay
The wine it produces however, is not to be missed. Delicate and soft, wine made from young Pinot Noir grapes are often compared to a cherry/berry-like flavour while older varieties can cultivate a mixture of more complex earthy and flavours. This is a wine that is traditionally matched with lighter meals such as vegetables, chicken and fish dishes.

Stay tuned for our blog article next month, which will focus on most popular white wines in AustraliaWish you a successful year in 2016 from everyone at Taste Canowindra!