Sauvignon Blanc is without a doubt the core of the New Zealand wine industry and arguably produces along with France, the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world. Australian Sauvignon Blanc suits slightly colder climates such as Victoria and Tasmania and is generally consumed soon after vintage. Semillon is regularly mixed with Sauvignon Blanc, producing an easy-drinking accompaniment to seafood.
Chardonnay is one of the most popular wines in the world and is the main white grape variety grown for commercial white wine production in Australia. Many of Australia's Chardonnay tend to have ripe melon flavours if they are grown in warmer climates, while cooler regions are famous for peach and citrus characteristics. Chardonnay is generally matured in oak barrels and consumed within three years of vintage. Many large wineries will often blend Chardonnay grapes from different regions to create an distinct style of wine and when blended with Pinot Noir grapes Chardonnay makes a great sparkling white. Chardonnay is grown throughout Australia and excels in places such as Margaret River, Padthaway and Langhorne Creek.
Sparkling wines are for many people commonly associated with festivities and celebrations. Sparkling Wines are more complicated to make than still wines and have higher acidity, more delicate flavor, their unique palate tingle and lower alcohol but they include some of the most versatile wines to accompany food. The traditional way of making sparkling wine begins with the harvest of the grape early in the season, followed by immediate pressing, then followed by a primary and secondary fermentation process to boost the sugar and alcohol components. The acids in the grapes help to preserve the wine over the course of it's development. Sparkling Wines are synonymous but the word Champagne which can now only be used with wines produced from that particular region of France.
Pinot Gris is a white variety traditionally grown in Alsace in northeast France and in Italy, where it is called Pinot Grigio. In the same way Chardonnay is famous in Australia as a reliable full-flavoured white wine, in Europe Pinot Grigio from Italy and Pinot Gris from France are known for their reliability - wines made from this grape aren't as rich as Chardonnay but they are flavoursome nonetheless. Pinot Gris is not a relative of Pinot Noir (the 'Pinot' in the name refers only to the pine cone shape of the grape). Pinot Gris generally has a medium-bodied flavour with a tendency to be crisp, steely and refreshing, often with a spicy citrus aroma.
Semillon is a classic French wine, now grown right across Australia. Semillon ripens early in the season and produces wines which are full-flavored, rich and aromatic. Semillon is often blended with other varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay to take advantage of the strengths of each variety.
Rosé is a different sort of wine, with all the refreshing qualities of a white wine mixed with some characteristics of a red. It can be made from many different grape varieties and in many different regions. Technically, a rosé is an unfinished red wine. Rosé is a wine that goes through the red winemaking process, but is stopped before extracting too many red wine characteristics. Almost always made from red varietals, the grapes are pressed and the juice sits with the skins for fermentation for enough time to get a bit of colour and skin characteristics. Rosés are typically ready to drink early. Rosé can be of different styles - sweet or dry, dark or light. Pink wines have delicious character and the dryer styles are sweeter.
Traditionally from Germany, Riesling is a fruity white wine and is often mixed with other sweet varieties to produce a classic accompaniment to Thai cuisine and other spicy dishes popular across Australia. Traditional German grape-growing area in South Australia excel in producing Riesling, although it is grown across the country.
Originally from Portugal, Verdelho is often made into fortified wine (Douro Port) in its European homeland but here in Australia it is mainly turned into dry, white table wine. The grape isn't grown widely in this country and there are only small plantings in Western Australia, New South Wales and South Australia. The varietal character of Verdhelo changes from herbaceous, grassy and spice through to more tropical flavours of pineapple, melon, tropical fruits, guava, honeysuckle and fruit salad.
Shiraz is one of the most famous Australian wine varieties around the world. Although the grape originates in the Middle East and has been used by wine makers around the world for centuries, especially in the Rhone region of France, Australia has remained at the forefront of Shiraz wine making for generations. Shiraz is a full-bodied wine with a dark crimson colour and with rich, pepper and plum flavours. Most Shiraz wines are matured in oak and many can be cellared for decades. South Australia's Barossa Valley and the Hunter valley in New South Wales are home to some of Australia's best Shiraz.
Cabernet Sauvignon (or 'Cab Sav' as it is often referred to) is another classic french wine which has taken off in Australia. Cabernet Sauvignon varieties are medium to full-bodied and are usually well structured and elegant. Many Australian wine makers blend Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon with excellent results.
Grenache grows well in warmer climates and produces soft wines with round, perfumed flavours. Winemakers often blend Grenache with Shiraz to create a more balanced wine. Chilled Grenache blends are a great accompaniment for spicy foods.
Cabernet Blends are usually dark, rich full bodied Reds. The main grape varietals blended are Cabernet Merlot & Shiraz, Cabernet Shiraz Malbec & Merlot, Cabernet & Petit Verdot or they can also include Cabernet with Rosé for a lighter colour and taste.
Merlot, originally from the Bordeuax region of France, is softer on the palate than Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz and has the advantage of being rich, but only moderately tannic so you can drink it soon after vintage without offending your tongue. Merlot is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to produce an easy drinking red wine.
Pinot Noir grapes, from the Burgundy region of France, have thick skins and produce wines which are light in colour, body and tannins. For this reason Pinot Noir make fantastic sparkling wines and elegant dry reds. Pinot Noir produces some of Australia's greatest sparkling wines when mixed with Chardonnay and are considered to be very elegant and subtly complex.
Petit Verdot produces deep, full-bodied wines with spicy pepper flavours and characteristics, high tannins and high alcohol content. The variety has traditionally been used to add character to weaker reds and is often used the same way spices are in cooking (a little bit goes a long way!). Petit Verdot is often blended as only 1-3% of the total wine to take advantage of its dominant characteristics.