The Jacobs Creek Brand of wines have taken the world by storm. And so they should. They are excellent Australian wines which are consistently good. They have clearly won the battle for everyday wines at their particular price range.
But they are a made from classical French grape varieties, Chardonnay, Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. As such they represent the successes of Australian winemaking in the 1980s and 1990s.
What will be the wines of the new century? As the wine boom of the 1990s in Australia unfolded, a quiet revolution was taking place. The area planted to grapes expanded rapidly to underpin massive increases in production and exports of Australian wine. But a large number of vignerons and winemakers were also planting alternative grape varieties.
The profile of the Australian wine scene has changed as dramatically as the scale of production. During 2003 a new winery was opened in Australia every day. About half of these new enterprises were growing or using varieties other than the classics mentioned above.
As well as the less common French varieties, growers and winemakers have been pioneering with Italian varieties such as Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Arneis. We have also the Spanish stalwart Tempranillo being increasingly favoured. Even the Russian red grape variety Saperavi is being used. There are probably one hundred wine grape varieties now being produced for commercial wine production. These new varieties are being planted in traditional areas as well as in new wine regions.
Australia, like other new world wine producers is less inhibited to the strong ties of tradition that permeate the European wine industry. Since the start of the 1990s a strong predisposition for experimentation has permeated the wine industry. Australian wine consumers are now adopting this ethic.
It is safe to say that Chardonnay and Shiraz will continue to dominate wine production in Australia for many years to come. But consumers will have a much wider choice, and they are willing to be just a little adventurous. You can follow the rapidly evolving Australian wine scene at http://www.vinodiversity.com
Darby Higgs is a wine writer and founder of Vinodiversity, a wine information site dealing with wines made from unusual grape varieties in Australia. http://www.vinodiversity.com.