A large, climatically diverse country with incredibly diverse terrain, producing just about every wine style imaginable, Australia has a grand winemaking history and some of the oldest vines on the planet. Most regions are concentrated in the south of the country with those inland experiencing warm, dry conditions and those in coastal areas receiving tropical, maritime or Mediterranean weather patterns. Australia has for several decades been at the forefront of winemaking technology and has widely adopted the use of screwcaps, even for some premium and ultra-premium bottles. Thanks to the country’s relatively agreeable climate throughout and the openness of its people, experimentation is common and ongoing.
Shiraz is indeed Australia’s most celebrated and widely planted variety; Barossa Valley leads the way, producing exceptionally bold and supple versions. Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia's second most planted variety, can be blended with Shiraz but also shines on its own particularly in Coonawarra and Margaret River. Grenache and Mourvèdre are also popular, both on their own and alongside Shiraz in Rhône Blends. Chardonnay is common throughout the country and made in a wide range of styles. Sauvignon Blanc has recently surged in popularity to compete with New Zealand’s distinctive version and Semillon is often blended in Margaret River or shines on its own in the Hunter Valley. Riesling thrives in the cool-climate Clare and Eden Valleys. Sticky-sweet fortified wine Rutherglen is a beloved regional specialty of Victoria.
With generous fruit and supple tannins, Merlot is made in a range of styles from everyday-drinking to world-renowned and age-worthy. Merlot is the dominant variety in the wines from Bordeaux’s Right Bank regions of St. Emilion and Pomerol, where it is often blended with Cabernet Franc to spectacular result. Merlot also frequently shines on its own, particularly in California’s Napa Valley. Somm Secret—As much as Miles derided the variety in the 2004 film, Sideways, his prized 1961 Château Cheval Blanc is actually a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc.