New Zealand wineries originally set out to serve the small domestic market, operating within a highly regulated economy. But in 1985 the government moved to speed up the removal of barriers against overseas wines, allowing Australian wineries to contest the New Zealand market on an equal footing by 1990.
Spurred into action by their heavy loss of domestic market share, the winemakers launched a sustained export drive. The value of New Zealand’s wine exports has skyrocketed from $NZ18 million in 1990 to over $NZ1.5 billion in 2015.
New wine companies are mushrooming, from Northland to Central Otago. Thirty years ago, there were fewer than 100 New Zealand wineries; today the ranks have swollen to over 670. The wine industry is forever abuzz with the excitement of new companies, new faces, and new labels.
The Australian wine industry is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine with approximately 750 million litres a year to the international export market with only about 40% of production consumed domestically. The wine industry is a significant contributor to the Australian economy.
There is a A$2.8 billion domestic market for Australian wines, with Australians consuming over 530 million litres annually with a per capita consumption of about 30 litres – 50% white table wine, 35% red table wine. The Norfolk Islanders are the second biggest per capita wine consumers in the world with 54 litres. Only 16.6% of wine sold domestically is imported.
Wine is produced in every state, with more than 60 designated wine regions totaling approximately 160,000 hectares; however, Australia’s wine regions are mainly in the southern, cooler parts of the country, with vineyards located in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia’s Tasmania and Queensland. The wine regions in each of these states produce different wine varieties and styles that take advantage of the particular territory such as: climatic differences, topography and soil types. The major varieties are predominantly Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Sauvignon blanc. Wines are often labeled with the name of their grape variety, which must constitute at least 85 percent of the wine (California is only 75%).
Some of my favorite wines are from these regions and they are great values and generally the quality is exceptional. Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s Malbourl region is great and one of the best is Oyster Bay. It is so fruity like biting into a fresh grape fruit!! At $12.99 it is a buy! Oyster Bay makes a great Pino Noir as well! Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are what built the Australian wine industry. However, its Chardonnay and reislings are super! Some of my favorites include Rosemount Estate Diamond Label Shiraz. At 8 bucks it is a killer. Gumdale Cabernet Sauvignon is great and is a bargain at $13.00. Lindemin’s Bin 65 Limited Edition Chard is great and it is under $15.00. So get Mom some wine from Down Under this Mother’s Day and you will be glad you did!
Ray Spaziani is the Chapter Director of the New Haven Chapter of the American Wine Society. He teaches wine appreciation classes at Gateway Community College, The Milford Board of Education and Maltose Wine and Beer Seller and is a member of the International Tasting Panel of Amenti Del Vino and Wine Maker Magazine. He is an award winning home wine maker. Email Ray with your wine questions and wine events at firstname.lastname@example.org.