Regions to be cheerful: top spots Down Under
Australia now ranks as the sixth-largest wine producer in the world. It has also led the way in wine packaging, making life simpler for consumers. Australian wine labels include the grape variety, meaning a consumer can pick a wine labelled as chardonnay. A chardonnay from Burgundy will list only the region with no mention of the variety.
Australian white wines tend to emphasise ripe fruit flavours. Reds are fruity, full-bodied with ripe tannins and often have high alcohol content.
In New South Wales, The Riverina is home to large-volume wine giants such as Yellow Tail, which produces more than 25 million cases a year. It is also famed for the Hunter Valley, two hours from Sydney. Unique wines include the Hunter Valley s?millon made from early-picked grapes with long ageing potential. For red wines, try the medium-body shiraz and contrast it with the spicier shiraz from Victoria and the full-bodied shiraz from the Barossa Valley.
Victoria's key regions include the Yarra Valley, Heathcote, Mornington Peninsula and Rutherglen.
Worth trying are sparkling wines - Green Point belongs to Mo?t et Chandon from Champagne. Boutique pinot noir producers are making high-end quality wines in Geelong and Bannockburn. Cool-climate shiraz with peppery notes, more akin to Rhone wines, can be found in Heathcote. Rutherglen produces a fortified muscat 'liquid Christmas pudding'.
South Australia is the largest regional wine producer. The best-known regions include the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Coonawarra and Kangaroo Island by the Southern Ocean. Barossa's blockbuster shiraz is ripe, full-bodied and high in alcohol. At the other end of the spectrum, Clare Valley rieslings offer dry white wines with bursts of fresh lime. For fans of cabernet sauvignon, try the Coonawarra cabernets - minty with hints of eucalyptus.
In Western Australia, important regions include Margaret River, Pemberton and Mount Barker. Margaret River has a maritime climate similar to Bordeaux. It is worth trying the reds made from cabernet sauvignon and whites made from a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon.
Tasmania, the coolest region, is famous for high-quality sparkling wines that are giving Champagne tough competition. The pinot grigio and pinot noir are well worth trying.