The Australian Wine Industry
Since the first vines were planted on Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens site in 1788, the Australian wine industry has received considerable attention. Over the centuries, numerous waves of immigrants have built up the thriving Australian wine industry that exists today. Through the years, the Australian wine industry has witnessed plenty of highs and lows before being able to establish itself as a recognized producer and wine exporter. Let’s start at the beginning and evaluate the history of wine in Australia and the individuals who shaped it.
According to the Sydney Botanic Gardens, Captain Arthur Phillip and the Initial Fleet were the first to bring vines to Australia in 1788. The vines were planted in the Royal Botanic Gardens, however, the vines did not survive for long.
Not long after, John Macarthur established the country’s first commercial vineyard. The vineyard was located on the coast of Sydney. It was the first of many vineyards that would spring up in the region. In 1822, Gregory Blaxland was the first to deliver Australian wine to London.
The Australian Wine Industry’s Growth in the 19th Century
In the last few decades of the 19th century, vineyards were planted in what are now famous Australian wine regions, such as the Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley, and Yarra Valley. Most of Australia’s wine output during this period and up until the 1950s was related to fortified wines. In the 1950s, 86% of Australian grapes were used to make fortified wine. The higher alcohol content of these wines protected them from microbial attack and made storage easier. However, the production of fortified wines was set to begin shifting to standard table wines.
European Influence on the Australian Winemaking Industry
German and Italian immigrants came to Australia in the 1960s. They assisted in the expansion and transformation of the wine industry. During this period, the industry’s focus shifted from creating fortified sweet wines to producing full-bodied red wines. By the end of the 1970s, the focus had shifted to dry whites, with Chardonnay becoming particularly prominent in Australia.
Did You Know: The top three grape varietals in Australia today are Shiraz (Syrah), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.
During this time period, the first wine in a box was also made. Tom Angove in South Australia came up with the idea of selling wine in a plastic bag that was put into a cardboard box. Storing the wine in a bag limited the amount of oxygen the wine was exposed to after opening, keeping it fresher longer compared to bottles.
Several prominent figures in the Australian wine business were active during this time, including Max Lake, who founded the first boutique winery. Dr. Bailey Carrodus, who produced the first commercial vintage in the Yarra Valley in decades, and newspaper wine columnist, Len Evans.
Expansion of Australian Wine into the European Markets
The Australian wine industry experienced a golden era during the 1980s. Late in the decade, Australian wines began to gain immense popularity in Europe. The focus at the time was on fruity white wines and strong red wines. During this period, Australia was ranked 18th among international wine exports in the early 1980s. However, by the early 1990s, the country had risen to 6th place on the list. New boutique winemakers like Louisa Rose (Yalumba), Jeffrey Grosset (Grosset in the Clare Valley), and Tim Kirk were industry pioneers during this period. (Clonakilla, Canberra District).
Future of the Australian Wine Industry
Due to many efforts to improve quality, Australia’s wine industry appears to have a promising future. Despite lower export volumes, revenues are at all-time highs. This is due in part to producing higher quality wines costing $10 per liter and more. These wines are the industry’s most profitable category. China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Singapore are the most significant markets for these high-quality products.
Want to read more? Try out this book!