Quick Guide to Australian Red Wines

by admin on June 22, 2011

Australian red wines are produced from a variety of grapes grown in many states across Australia. Climate conditions, red grape variety, soils, agricultural methods and other important factors are responsible for the distinctive flavour, aroma and texture of each type of red wine.

Generally, vineyards in warmer regions produce rich, full flavoured styles while wine varieties produced in cooler areas of Australia are typically lighter and more delicate in flavour. Certain varieties of Australian red wines are versatile and can be blended with other types to produce different wine styles.

Many red grape varieties are grown in Australia. These include: Barbera, Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre, Pink or Rose wines, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Zinfandel and Tempranillo.

Barbera: This Italian red wine variety is characterized by its deep colour, low tannins and high acidity. Barbera vine cuttings first came to Australia in the 1960’s and are now grown in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia were the climate is warm.

Sangiovese: Sangiovese obtained its name from the Latin phrase ‘sanguis Jovis’ meaning ‘the blood of Jove.’ It is characterized by high acidity, moderate to high tannin content and a light colour.

Cabernet Sauvignon: The hybrid offspring of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are small and spherical with black, thick and tough skin which makes it resistant to disease. Cabernet Sauvignon is characterized by its distinctive black currant aroma with a degree of bell pepper and high tannic content.

Grenache: A red wine grape variety that thrives in hot, dry conditions to produce its characteristic spicy and sweet berry flavours. It has a light colour with high alcohol, low acid and tannin content.

Merlot: Used both as a varietal and blending grape wine, Merlot is characterized by its velvety softness and berry, currant and plum flavours. This grape variety thrives in cold soil such as those found in Yarra Valley and Margaret River which produce unblended Merlot. Warmer wine regions of Australia such as Riverina, Riverland and Murray Darling, produce Merlot blended wines.

Shiraz: A uniquely Australian red grape variety developed from vine cuttings which first reached Australia in 1832, Shiraz has a mulberry, spicy, slightly ‘wild’ flavour. Shiraz displays different wine characteristics depending on the region on which it is grown. For example, Coonawarra and Margaret River produces intensely flavoured and spicy wine while McLaren Vale has a sweet and chocolaty style. This versatile grape variety blends well with Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and in recent years, with Viognier. The Shiraz Viognier has a perfumed aroma and softer tannins.

Other Australian red wines include Zinfandel which thrives in warm regions such as Margaret River, and Pinot Noir which grows best in the cool regions of Adelaide Hills, Tasmania, and Yarra Valley.

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