Here’s cheers to our fifth biggest agricultural industry, which continues to delight and diversify.

Story Ken Eastwood  Photo John Kruger

From Margaret River, WA to the Hunter, NSW, and the Queensland Granite Belt to Tasmania, Australia has some 2500 wineries across 65 recognised wine regions, generating about $2.8 billion in export revenue (making us the world’s fifth biggest wine exporter), and about the same in the domestic market. A total of 1460sq km of vineyards produce an average of 1.75 million tonnes of wine grapes each year. Half of our grapes are produced in SA, and more than 70% of an entire vintage is produced by three districts: the Riverland, SA, the Riverina, NSW, and the Murray–Darling Swan Hill area. With low humidity, a fair bit of irrigation and lots of sunshine, these regions are perfect for growing grapes. In comparison, our oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley, NSW, produced just 0.3% of the crush last year; the iconic Barossa, SA, only 2.6%; and all of WA combined, just 2%. 

Shiraz (24%), chardonnay (20%) and cabernet sauvignon (15%) are by far our most popular wine grapes grown, but Australia is also one of the most diverse winemaking nations, with many of the other 130 wine grape varieties grown here increasing in yield and popularity. Winemakers talk about the desire for more “zippy, fresh, vibrant” wines, and lighter-style varieties such as grenache, tempranillo or montepulciano.

There’s no doubt though, that from the lightest blush of a low-alcohol prosecco to the thick, sump oil of a rare Rutherglen muscat; and from slowly sipping a special, smooth Semillon at sunset, to washing down some lamb chops with a $10 bottle of plonk, we Aussies definitely love our wine. Each adult consumes an average of 30L a year (making us the 10th biggest wine drinkers per capita in the world). Whether it’s sharing a bottle of bubbly at the races or enjoying a hearty Coonawarra cab sav around a campfire on a winter’s night, we’re more than happy to raise a glass or three to our fifth biggest agricultural industry.

This story excerpt is from Issue #131

Outback Magazine: June/July 2020