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Australian Wines

 

Vine cuttings from the Cape of Good Hope were brought to the penal colony of New South Wales by Governor Phillip on the First Fleet in 1788. An attempt at wine making from these first vines failed, but with perseverance, other settlers managed to successfully cultivate vines for winemaking, and Australian made wine was available for sale domestically by the 1820s. Gregory Blaxland became the first person to export Australian wine, and was the first winemaker to win an overseas award. Vineyards were established in the Hunter Valley and in 1833 James Busby returned from France and Spain with a serious selection of grape varieties. Wine from the Adelaide Hills was sent to Queen Victoria in 1844, but there is no evidence that she placed an order as a result. The production and quality of Australian wine was much improved by the arrival of free settlers from various parts of Europe, who used their skills and knowledge to establish some of Australia's premier wine regions. For example, emigrants from Prussia in the mid 1850s were important in establishing South Australia's Barossa Valley as a winemaking region.

Early on Australian winemakers faced many difficulties. However, they persevered and slowly they began to achieve greater success. At the 1873 Vienna Exhibition the French judges, tasting blind, praised some wines from Victoria, but withdrew in protest when the provenance of the wine was revealed, on the grounds that wines of that quality must clearly be French. Australian wines continued to win high honors in French competitions. A Victorian Syrah (also called Shiraz) competing in the 1878 Paris Exhibition was likened to Château Margaux and "its taste completed its trinity of perfection. One Australian wine won a gold medal "first class" at the 1882 Bordeaux International Exhibition and another won a gold medal "against the world" at the 1889 Paris International Exhibition. Then began a period of devastation for the Australian wine industry as the phylloxera epidemic took hold. Since then, Australia has recovered and rapidly become a world leader in both the quantity and quality of wines it produces. For example, Australian wine exports to the US rose from 578,000 cases in 1990 to 20,000,000 cases in 2004 and in 2000 it exported more wine than France to the UK for the first time in history.

 

        

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