WSET Level 3 Revision | Australia

australian-wine-regions-mapCLIMATE

  • Due to latitude => main growing regions have warm or hot climates.
  • Mostly Mediterranean
  • Low rainfall => Drought can be a significant problem.
  • Dry conditions + high summer temperatures => bush fires => damage or destroy vineyards, smoke can come into contact with grapes causing pungent taint in the wines => producers seeking sites with cool or moderate climates (high altitude locations on the mainland and in Tasmania, which has a more southerly latitude).
  • Cooling affects from Altitude (e.g. Adelaide Hills and Eden Valley) & Ocean (Southern or Indian Ocean or the Murrey River system).

WINE LAWS

  • Zones:
    • States (South Australia)
    • Several states (South Eastern Australia)
    • Part of a state, but with the possible exception of Barossa these zones are rarely seen on labels.
  • Regions
    • Such as Coonawarra, Clare Valley, Margaret River
    • Consistent and distinct qualities from neighbouring regions.
  • Sub-regions
    • Many regions are split into sub-regions, if there are notable areas that have distinct and unique qualities
    • A sub-region must fall within one region, some regions are covered by several zones
    • Example: Eden Valley is a region within the Barossa zone, which is within the zone of South Australia, which, in turn, is within South Eastern Australia zone. => This gives producers a variety of options when it comes to making up their blends.

GRAPE VARIETIES

BLACK VARIETIES

  • Shiraz: Grown widely in most regions.
    • Hot regions (Hunter Valley) + Warm regions (Barossa Valley): Full bodied, intensely fruity Shiraz => Often display earthy or spicy notes, develop leather aromas as they age.
    • Cooler regions (Geelong & Heathcote): Leaner, more peppery style.
    • These qualities may be combined in a multi-regional blended wine.
    • Used to give softness and body to blends with Cab Sauv (similar to Merlot in Bordeaux).
  • Cabernet Sauvignon:
    • General darker, with firmer tannins and higher acidity than Shiraz
    • Ripe black fruit characters (blackcurrant, black cherry), underpinned by toasty oak notes.
  • Merlot: Tends to be found in blended wines typically alongside Cab Sauv, to provide body and fleshy, plummy fruit.
  • Pinot Noir:
    • Cool or moderate sites in regions such as Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania.
    • Medium-bodied, medium alcohol, medium to high acidity and typical flavours of cherry and strawberry.
  • Grenache*
  • Petit Verdot*
  • Mataro (Mourvèdre)*
  • Sangiovese**
  • Tempranillo**

*Late ripening varieties => suitable in hot regions.

**Well adappted to high summer temperatures and a limited water supply.

WHITE VARIETIES

  • Chardonnay: Most planted white wine grape in Australia.
    • Basic Chardonnay: blend from different regions, produced unoaked to give peachy flavours, or with the aid of oak chips or staves to add hints of toast and vanilla.
    • High-quality: from cool to moderate regions (Adelaide Hills, Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley) and even warm regions (Margaret River) => balanced with fresh, vibrant fruit complemented by subtle flavours from careful use of lees, MLF and/or oak maturation.
  • Sauvignon Blanc: 
    • Adelaide Hills
    • Concentrated passion fruit, refreshing high acidity.
  • Semillon:
    • Classic region: Hunter Valley
    • If harvested early: low sugar levels and a high acidity. Contact with Oxygen is kept to a minimum => light in alcohol, neutral in flavour => develop honey and toast flavours with bottle age.
    • In Western Australia: much more herbaceous style, could be mistaken for Sauv Blanc.
    • Barossa Valley: Fuller-bodied, softer style.
  • Riesling:
    • Pronounced citrus fruit aromas and flavours (lime, lemon, grapefruit) in youth => toast, honey, petrol when age.
    • Classic regions: Eden, Clare Valleys in South Australia, Tasmania, and the Frankland River sub-region of Western Australia (less citrusy, more floral).

WINE REGIONS

SOUTH EASTERN AUSTRALIA ZONE

  • Murray-Darling
  • Riverina
  • Riverland

South_Eastern_Australia

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

  • Barossa Zone
    • Barossa Valley:
      • Outstanding Shiraz (full bodied, soft tannins, ripe black fruit, sweet American oak; develops leather and spice flavours when age)
      • Cab Sau
      • Grenache
      • Notable white: Semillon: Fresh, unoaked style
    • Eden Valley:
      • Cool to moderate climate
      • Outstanding quality Rieslings: intense lime and grapefruit aromas and a steely character. The best have longevity displaying marmalade and toasty characters after 10 years.
      • Others: Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cab Sauv.

Barossa_Zone

  • Mt Lofty Ranges Zone
    • Clare Valley:
      • Warm climate with cool afternoon breezes, cold nights.
      • Many vineyards are planted at altitude (300-400 metres), some even as high as 570 metres)
      • Specialty: Riesling – dry in style, intense citrus and lime aromas and a high acidity => develop honey and toast characters with bottle age).
      • Shiraz: fragrant, powerful and structured
      • Cab Sauv
    • Adelaide Hills:
      • Moderate climate
      • Planted above 400 metres in altitude
      • Rainfall mainly in winter, soils have limited water-holding capacity => irrigation is often necessary.
      • Refreshing Sauvignon Blanc, elegant Chardonnay (high natural acidities, pronounced citrus, peach aromas)
      • Pinot Noir: still red wines or blending with Chardonnay => Sparkling wine.

Lofty

  • Fleurieu & Limestone Coast Zones
    • McLaren Vale:
      • Warm climate with ocean breezes
      • Shiraz, Cab Sauv, Merlot and Grenache
      • Dark fruit aromas, soft ripe tannins
    • Coonawarra:
      • Cold currents from the Antarctic, Maritime climate is moderate.
      • Cab Sauv: concentrated, structured wines with characteristic cassis and eucalyptus or menthol aromas.
      • Others: Shiraz, Merlot and Chardonnay.

Fleurieu_&_Limestone_Coast_Zones

VICTORIA

Some of the coolest vineyard locations on the Australia Mainland.

  • Around Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay: Ocean breezes => Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and grapes for sparkling wine.
  • Further inland, the Great Dividing Range => a range of altitudes and aspects:
    • High altitude: Macedon Ranges and Upper Goulburn): Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauv Blanc.
    • Lower slopes: Shiraz, Cab Sauv (fresher and lighter in style than those from Aus’ hotter regions).

Victoria

  • Yarra Valley:
    • Cool to moderate climate & maritime with a wide range of altitude and aspects.
    • Specialty: Pinot Noir (rich in fruit, strawberries, plums and dark cherries, soft tannins)
    • Others: Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cab Sauv
  • Mornington Peninsula
    • Cool to moderate, maritime climate
    • Small boutique estates
    • Cool, wet and windy weather
    • Grape varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
  • Geelong
    • Similar climatic conditions to the Mornington Peninsula
    • Grape varieties: Pinot Noir (earthy aromas), Shiraz (fresh and peppery) and Chardonnay.
    • Sparkling wines
  • Heathcote
    • Cooling influences from altitude => moderate climate
    • Shiraz: firmer structure and fresher fruit flavours (than those of warmer regions)
    • Others: Chardonnay, Cab Sauv, Sangiovese and Tempranillo.
  • Goulburn Valley
    • Heat is mitigated slightly by the lakes and creeks associated with the Goulburn River
    • Grape varieties: Shiraz and Marsanne (citrus fruit in youth and honeyed aromas with bottle age).

NEW SOUTH WALES

  • Longest history of wine production in Australia.
  • Main region: Hunter Valley
    • Hot, humid climate
    • High cloud cover + ocean breezes
    • Suffers from unsettled rainy wheather at harvest
    • Good canopy management => essential to minimise rot.
    • Most planted: Semillon (light bodied, low alcohol, high acidity and neutral flavors => complex spectrum of toast, nut, honey flavours with bottle age).
    • Other grape varieties: Chardonnay, Shiraz (black fruit flavours, soft tannins, medium body and an earthy undertone.
  • Other regions:
    • Mudgee
    • Orange
    • Cowra

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Western_Aus

  • Margaret River
    • Warm maritime climate
    • High rainfall (in winter)
    • Cab sauv => blend with merlot => Bordeaux style blend
    • Chardonnay: Concentrated stone-fruit aromas, high levels of natural acidity
    • Sauv Blanc (often blended with Semillon) => attractive gooseberry and tropical fruit aromas with high acidity.
  • Great Southern region includes the sub-regions of Mount Barker and Frankland River, known for deeply coloured Cab Sauv, elegant, peppery Shiraz and floral Riesling.

TASMANIA

South_Eastern_Aus

  • Cool maritime climate, cooled by prevailing westerly winds off the Southern Ocean.
  • Started as a prime source of base wine for Aus sparkling wine => can make excellent still wines.
  • Principal varieties:
    • Pinot Noir
    • Chardonnay
    • Sauv Blanc
    • Pinot Gris
    • Cab Sauv (can rip in the warmest, driest areas).

Source: WSET Level 3 Text book

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