Chug Through Australia’s Famed Wine Regions

Next stop on Chug: Sydney, Australia. Zane discovers the beer drinking culture in one of the world’s skimpiest clad beach towns, Bondi; and then chugs up the Chain Gang Trail to the town of Wollombi where the locals meet and bond over Jungle Juice, a drink made to make you quiver. Little does Zane realize, he is encountering a cultural shift that is redefining Aussies and what they drink.

Beer: Australia’s National Drink of Choice

Think of alcohol in Australia life and you most notably think of beer, “hard-earned thirst needs a big, cold beer.  Yet, the Australian national drink of choice is quickly becoming wine. Just 50 years ago, Aussies consumed twenty times more beer than wine, while today consumption has narrowed to only three times more beer than wine by volume. Wine might not have been the beverage of choice to the working class population, but wine was on the forefront during the early colonization days of Australia, and is making headlines again.

Coming of Age: Australia, A New World Wine Power

Photograph by Inzane Entertainment/ Melissa Schilling
Photograph by Inzane Entertainment/ Melissa Schilling

Between the 17th and 19th centuries, European powers colonized new regions, particularly the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa. To European immigrants, these countries represented “lands of opportunity” where they could be free to buck traditions practiced in their homelands. These areas became known as the “New World,” making the mother ship of Europe, the “Old World.”

Ironically, Australia boasts the oldest exposed soils in the world, found out in the Great Western Plateau. It’s in this vast no-man’s land where Australian Aborigines set out on their own “walkabouts”—a term they use for wandering the bush when embarking upon a spiritual journey. If Zane were to take his own “walkabout” and chug his way from Sydney to the world’s most isolated outpost, Perth, it would take him four days and three nights, but he would see some amazing wine country along the way.

Australia’s Notable Wine Regions

First stop: Hunter Valley. On the outskirts of Sydney in the New South Wales territory, this viticultural area is home to Australia’s oldest vineyards founded in 1831. Best quality grape grown here is Semillon, a white grape that produces low-alcohol, long-lived dry whites. Critics dub this white, “Australia’s unique gift to the world.” Nothing beats its mouth-watering, racy acidity with lemon-lime aromas that develop into more toasty, honeyed characteristics with age. For sweet lovers, Semillon crafts some of the world’s most cherished dessert wines in Sauternes, France; but, it’s well worth trying the dry version of this chameleon grape.

Chugging right along to central Australia, the Indian-Pacific rail stops in Adelaide, situated in the middle of the South Australia territory. Just north of the metropolis sits Barossa Valley, the famed homeland of Australia’s king of grapes, Shiraz. Australia’s most famous wine is crafted here at Penfold’s, and is known the world over as Penfold’s Grange. As expected from Shiraz, this wine is unctuous, bold, rich, and age-worthy showing off notes of black pepper spice, eucalyptus undercurrents, and black jam bliss. Red wines from Barossa almost always can be pinpointed by their characteristic scent reminiscent of Vick’s Vapor rub. Eucalyptus trees neighboring the vineyards release a menthol-scented oil that settles on the grape skins and gets incorporated into the crushing vats. Sure makes for an unforgettable smell in wine that’s quite yummy.

Last stop is a surfer’s paradise and is the farthest outpost in the Western Territory. With world-wide notoriety for its surfing breaks, Perth is home to the Margaret River wine growing area, and is unique with its Mediterranean climate and constant cool sea breezes. No land mass sits between here and Antarctica. Because of this factor, some of the most sublime Chardonnays are produced here. They can in turn be sipped with fresh caught treasures from the sea, a food and wine match made in heaven. Wine juice fit for the Gods can be discovered at Leeuwin Estate. Their Art Series Chardonnay gives off flavors of ripe, golden pear skin, peach, savory toasted almonds, and white nectarine.

Here in the Land of Oz, something’s brewing, and it’s not the obvious. Wine is steadily overtaking the national rate of beer imbibing, and has been taking the world by storm. Let’s toast to that!

ProTip: Venture outside of the vast world of cheap Australian wine, usually sporting a cute animal on the label, and visit a privately owned wine shop. Soak up recommendations on the up and coming producers in Australia that put Yellow Tail to shame.

 Don’t miss a new episode of Chug: Sydney tonight at 10:30/9:30c.