By Nan McCreary
Wines from Australia will be featured during the 2023 Rodeo Uncorked!® International Wine Competition. The competition, one of the largest in the country, will be held Nov. 11-13, 2022.
Australia is the fifth largest wine-producing country in the world and offers a diverse range of wines with great complexity. With over 2,100 wineries in 65 wine-growing regions, Australian wines range from the mass-produced and extremely popular “critter wines” to its most prestigious wine, the iconic Penfolds Grange — and a plethora of wines in between. The Australia wine industry is one of the largest exporters of wine. In 2020 and 2021, approximately 625 million liters out of almost 1.5 billion liters of wine produced in Australia was exported to overseas markets.
Australia’s winemaking history dates back to 1788, when Captain Arthur Phillip, commander of a fleet of ships transporting English convicts to Australia to establish a penal colony, brought wines and vine cuttings from South Africa to Sydney. In 1833, James Busby, considered the father of the Australian wine industry, reportedly brought cuttings from Spain and France to Australia, and introduced Shiraz and Grenache to the region. Throughout the 1830s and 1840s, settlers from Europe established some of the premiere wine regions in Australia. Two of the country’s most famous wineries, Lindemans and Penfolds, were founded in the 1840s.
Today, Australia is known as a leader in technology, innovation and marketing. Australia and New Zealand were early adopters of the screwcap closure technology. Today, 98-99% of their wines are topped with screwcaps. Yellow Tail set off a stampede of “critter wines” with its label featuring a stylized drawing of a wallaby in 2001. Today, it is one of the most profitable wine brands in the world. Another type of wine that Australia is known for is its Shiraz, a warm-weather version of Syrah that is full of personality with big, bold flavors.
Australia produces wines from hundreds of grapes, but six varieties stand out as the most popular. Most of these wines are grown in the southern regions of the continent in areas like South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. Each region produces different wine varieties that take advantage of the region’s climatic differences, topography and soil types. Each of these grapes produce their own unique flavors, including:
Shiraz, Australia’s most popular variety. The Barossa Valley in South Australia is synonymous with Shiraz and has been named by some experts as the best Shiraz in the world. Styles vary, but Barossa Shiraz is generally a full-bodied wine with beautiful ripe, dark fruit flavors.
Chardonnay is the country’s most planted white variety. Margaret River in Western Australia is the most well-known Chardonnay region. The wines are full-flavored, rich and powerful. Chardonnays in cooler climates, such as those in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, are typically lighter and brighter.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the third most crushed variety, behind Shiraz and Chardonnay. Australian Cabernets are typically known for being big, bold and intensely flavored. Australia’s best Cabernets are made in the Coonawarra region of South Australia, famous for its rich red soil called “Terra Rossa.” Outstanding Cabernets also come from Margaret River and the state of Victoria.
Pinot Noir has become a favorite in Australian restaurants and bars, and exports are on the rise. Australia produces some outstanding Pinot Noirs in cool-climate regions like the Adelaide Hills, and Victoria.
Riesling is a star performer, especially in cool-climate regions such as Clare Valley, Eden Valley in South Australia and cooler climate regions of Victoria and New South Wales. Clare Valley, the spiritual home of Australian Rieslings, is one of Australia’s oldest wine regions. Most Rieslings are usually dry wines, but some winemakers produce some off-dry and dessert-style wines.
Semillon, with flavors of citrus, honey and apple, is one of Australia’s most unique wines. It is the signature grape in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, and popular in the Riverina, where it is known for dessert wines produced from it. In many regions, Semillon is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc. With wines from Australia as the featured region for the 2023 International Wine Competition, Rodeo fans will have several opportunities to enjoy a unique selection of delicious wines created by innovative winemakers at several Rodeo Uncorked! events. Wines from Australia, along with award-winning wines from the competition, will be served at the 2023 Roundup & Best Bites Competition Feb. 19, the Champion Wine Auction & Dinner Feb. 26, and in the Champion Wine Garden throughout the Rodeo. To learn more about Rodeo Uncorked! events, visit rodeohouston.com/wine. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is scheduled for Feb. 28 – March 19, 2023.