The Times

A look back on Australia's wine history

A look back on Australia's wine history

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When you come to Australia, there's one thing that you can expect to experience on your trip: the incredible tastes that accompany the nation's dinner table. This is in fact not limited to food, but rather our diverse and delicious wine offerings as well, with an option for every palette.

But, how did we get to where we are today, with opulent wineries and fantastic varieties? Take a trip through time with us as we explore the journey Australian wine has been on to become the juggernaut it is today.

Bold beginnings

Today, we are lucky enough to experience a wide range of vino, ranging from crisp, champagne toned whites, to bold, berry toned reds. Australians and tourists alike can try any variety they wish, or buy wine online and have it delivered to their doors, if that's what they prefer to do. So where did it all begin?

If we travel back to 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip brought the first grapevine cutting over to Sydney. Approximately fifty years later in 1833, James Busby brought to the country cuttings from Spain and France that would introduce Australia to Shiraz and Grenache. Busby himself would later become known as the father of Australian wine.

If we skip forward 150 years, we come to the 1960s, when Australia started to create the wines we see today. We now have renowned wine regions like the Barossa or the Hunter Valley that boast incredible world envied varietals, as well as smaller local wine makers, creating incredible palette pleasers that experiment with different blends and tastes.

Wine evolution

Even as late as the 1950s, table wine was not common, and it seemed relatively strange to drink it out in a casual situation. However, if we move on to the 1980s, Australia had burst onto the wine export scene.

The homegrown Aussie beverage had become incredibly popular when sampled by travellers, and so Australia had begun its journey to becoming what it is today: one of the largest exporters of wine to overseas markets.

In under forty years, table wine production grew from one million cases being produced in 1960, to eighty-five million cases in 1999, with us being the 6th largest wine producer, beaten only by France, Italy, The United States, Spain and Argentina.

Popular varietals

Today, in Australia there are over 70 grape varieties that are grown here, with varieties such as Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Cabernet Sauvignon being amongst the most popular. So, with the country's breakthrough as one of the most notable wine producers, let's take a look at some of the drops that made it so popular.


This wine has been nicknamed the winemaker's grape, due to its incredible adaptability and versatility. The popularity of Australian chardonnay has led to its white grapes becoming the most planted white varietal in the entirety of Australia. But where did the popularity of this grape begin?

This wine began to take hold of the Australian population in the 1970s. The light and buttery tipple is typically full bodied with a dry and crisp finish to it, with flavours of fruit like apple, lemon and pineapple.

When aged in oak, Australian chardonnay will have notes of vanilla to accompany it. If you're looking to try the best glasses today, we would recommend trying bottles from renowned wine regions of the Yarra or Hunter Valley, the Mornington Peninsula, or Margaret River, to name but a few.


Although riesling has a reputation for being a sweet wine, almost like that of a Moscato, the majority of the Australian varietals are generally crisp and dry. Whilst a wine like chardonnay has enjoyed a continued steady rise in popularity, the riesling has gone in and out of public favour, having been well-liked in the 19th and 20th centuries, but falling from grace over the past few decades due to misconceptions that it was too sweet.

In the present day, however, we are seeing the riesling once again enjoying time in the public favour. This glass is usually a golden colour, and can even verge on green. The crisper offerings have flavours of granny smith apples and lemon or lime, and the best versions can be found in the incredible regions of Eden or Clare Valley, and the Great Southern.


Back when the Australian father of wine, James Busby, brought cuttings to Australia, one of them was the famed Grenache. Whilst incredibly popular during the early stages in its new home, the drop fell out of favour with the public, with people opting for other varieties instead.

Later on, with a decrease in planting and harvesting of the plant, it looked like the end was near for this red varietal. However, thanks to its incredible blending potential, it looks like the Grenache is back.

This medium bodied ruby red wine is often surprisingly light in shade and body, but with flavours of fresh orange rinds, and grapefruit, the acidic flavour pairs well with heavier meats and can be found at a high standard in the Mclaren Vale and Barossa Valley.


Australia has come far from its humble beginnings in the wine game. Switching from a country with vines that were all imported, and lacked the proper taste for the drink, to the country with some of the highest quality varietals and a huge stake in the international export trade.

So, whether you happen to find yourself in the Hunter Valley, or just popping past a bottle shop, grab yourself an Australian wine today to truly experience the incredible flavours.