Where Australian Wines Got Their Grapes

Australia is a wonderfully multi-cultural country, and just as our Australian culture is made up of multiple cultural influences from around the world; Australian wine is made from vines and grapes that can be traced to countries and soils from all over the world.

Get ready to take a trip down memory lane, as we look at the old-world countries that gave us some of our modern and delicious Australian wines.

Riesling - Germany

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Germany is so famous for another of Australia’s favourite beverages - beer - that not many people would associate the same country with one of our favourite wines

However, written references to Riesling can be traced back to Rüsselsheim, a small town on the Rhine River) as far back as the 14th century.

In the German alphabet, the short ‘S’ in Riesling is written as a symbol known as an Eszett ß. So, if we want to be true to Riesling’s German heritage, perhaps we should write it as “Rießling”, although that might be tricky to explain at an Australian wine bar.

Tempranillo - Spain

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These black grapes are often referred to as “The Noble Grape of Spain.” In fact, the name “tempranillo” comes from the Spanish word for “early” (temprano). Why were these grapes named “early?” Because Tempranillo grapes ripen many weeks earlier than most other grapes.

These vines traditionally grew in the chalky soils around the southern regions of the Spanish province of Burgos, but over the last hundred years they have grown to love the sandy soils of Australia, and we now produce some rich, world-class Tempranillo.

Sangiovese - Italy

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The Greeks began planting vines in Italy long before the Romans arrived, so wine plays a prominent part in the country’s history, with vineyards thriving all the way from Tuscany to Sicily.

Sangiovese is the most widely planted grape variety in Italy, and it’s the key ingredient of one of their most archetypal blends, Chianti (which is usually 70% Sangiovese).

Sadly, many Australian wine lovers shy away from ordering this spicy red as they are worried about pronouncing it incorrectly. So let’s get that soreted: it’s pronounced “Sanjo-vay-see.”

Chardonnay - France

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Before it became the name of the most popularly grown grapes in the world, and one of the most popular wines of the 1980s, Chardonnay was just a name for a small commune in Bourgogne, located in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France, where the Chardonnay grape was first harvested.  

These days, Australian Chardonnay is making a steady come-back; with many Australian producers creating complex, balanced wines, that would surely impress the original winemakers in Chardonnay.

Shiraz - Iran  (or so we thought…)

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There are few varieties as synonymous with Australian wine as Shiraz. However, long before Shiraz (also known internationally as “Syrah”) even arrived in Australia, it is mentioned in texts dating back to ancient Persia. In fact, Shiraz is the name of a large city in Iran, where the ancient kingdom of Persia once was, so it was long thought that Shiraz grapes were Persian/Iranian in origin.

However, American scientists have now used DNA tracking to prove that Shiraz is actually the offspring of two French grape varieties, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche, which means that Shiraz was most likely born in the Rhone-Alps region of South East France.

In the end, no matter where it was born in the old world, we’re just happy to live in a country that produces some of the best Shiraz in the new world.

Roberta Marchesini