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Understanding Varietals
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Australia & New Zealand
Wine Regions
Wine is one of Australia's most important natural products. Nearly 30 million cases are exported all around the world every year (five million of which find their way to US shores).

Vines have flourished in five of Australia's seven states for over 200 years. Australia has some of the oldest vines in the world. It is not uncommon to find Shiraz vines, called Syrah in some parts of the world, over 100 years old. Many are on original rootstock because Australian vines were not crippled by the phylloxera bug like those in California or Europe.

There are over 1000 wineries in 45 wine producing regions in Australia. Some of the best known regions are:

The Hunter Valley in New South Wales (capital, Sydney) which has an unbroken history of winemaking since 1825 and had the first quality Chardonnay vineyards in Australia. The Riverina (NSW) has a warm climate and specializes in Botrytis Semillon and late harvest varietals.

Within Victoria (capital, Melbourne) regions include the Pyrenees, Goulburn Valley and the Yarra Valley. Vines were first planted in the Pyrenees in 1848. This area has picturesque rolling hills, rather than steep mountains, with low yields and high demand for wines. The Goulburn Valley is well known for red and white "Rhône" varietals with some of Australia's oldest vines thriving on the valley floor. The Yarra Valley is Australia's foremost producer of Pinot Noir and many sparkling wines.

South Australia (capital, Adelaide) is Australia's best known wine producing state with a number of renowned regions. The Barossa is possibly Australia's best known region. Coonawarra is renowned for its deep red soil and world-class Cabernet. McLaren Vale has ocean views and hidden river valleys.

Within Western Australia (capital, Perth), Margaret River is a relatively new region, but one of the most prized in all Australia; a cool climate along the Indian Ocean known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Pemberton is a richly timbered region focussing on the varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Tasmania (capital, Hobart) has several distinct regions, all predominantly cool-climate, but sun is generous. This is Australia's premier sparkling wine region.

With its diverse climate, topography and soil characteristics, it is not surprising that Australia produces every known wine style from delicate sparkling wines to full bodied reds through to complex sweet fortified wines. The most popular Australian varietals include:

Chardonnay, lean and elegant or rich and full, depending on the region or the winemaker. Pears, citrus and honey are terms often used to describe Australian Chardonnay.

American's have yet to discover Semillon, Australia's favorite white wine. It's used for blending, but on its own it can be a stand-out. Aged, it's prized for nutty flavors and complexity. Young, it is tropical, aristocratic and less oaky than Chardonnay. Semillon also produces excellent dessert wines.

Shiraz is Australia's most popular red wine. It's a full bodied, deep red wine that has a peppery aroma and spicy flavor.

Australian Cabernet Sauvignon isn't usually as tannic as the California counterpart or as earthy as the French. Generally, it has more of a berry-fruit component, a smoother finish.

Of course, Australia also makes luscious Merlot and distinctive Pinot Noir, herbal Sauvignon Blanc and dry, spicy Riesling.

Because of their growing popularity, a good selection of Australian wine - over 150 brands - can be found across the US.

The Australian Wine Bureau (AWB) in New York has additional information about Australian wine or touring Australian wineries.

For more information see the AWB website: www.wineaustralia.com, phone (212) 351 6585 or email: awb.usa@austrade.gov.au.

New Zealand is a country of contrasts with dense, native forest, snowcapped mountains and spectacular coastlines. This Southern Hemisphere country harvests its grapes from late February to late April, as contrasted with Northern Hemisphere regions where the harvest is late September to late November. Wine growing regions cover the length of 1,000 miles. The Northern Hemisphere equivalent would run from Bordeaux to southern Spain. New Zealand's temperate, maritime climate warms the vines with strong, clear sunlight during the day and cool sea breezes at night.

Over 25 different grape varieties are planted including the classic varieties of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Riesling. Varieties that respond to warmer growing conditions, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are more popular in the northern part of the country in Northland, Auckland, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay. Varieties that perform better in cooler regions include Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir, are more widely planted in the southern regions from Martinborough south. Marlborough, on the south island, is New Zealand's biggest and most famous wine region due to its benchmark Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

New Zealand's small population, distant location and agricultural economy have earned the country a "clean, green" image. Visitors often describe it as "an unspoiled paradise".

Excerpted from New Zealand Wine.

For further information contact:

New Zealand Wine Institute
438 Avila
San Francisco, Ca. 94123