In January 1788, an English ship carrying 300 convicts and guards landed on the south-eastern coast of Australia in the harbour of Sydney, a city founded later that year. The commander was Captain Arthur Phillip (1738-1814), who also became the first governor of what would later become the state of New South Wales. He recorded in writing that viticulture could be carried to any desired degree of perfection in such a favourable climate. Work was at once commenced on planting the vines he had brought with him (where Farm Cove now stands). But it was still to take 200 years for Australian viticulture to become established. The first decades, rum was drunk so excessively that the camp was called "Rum Corps".
The Scotsman James Busby (1802-1871), who had acquired wine knowledge in France and emigrated to Australia, is considered to be the pioneer and even the "father of Australian viticulture". In 1825, he founded a farm north of Sydney in the Hunter Valley - in one of today's best Australian wine regions. From a trip to Europe in 1833, he brought back hundreds of grape variety seedlings, including Syrah, which later became famous as Shiraz in Australia. Busby published writings and books on grapevine science, viticulture and winemaking. Silesian immigrants used his instructions when planting vineyards from 1841 onwards.
In 1845, Dr. Christopher Penfold, an English physician, established his vineyard in the Barossa Valley, which still exists today under Penfolds. A second pioneer in this field was the German Joseph Ernest Seppelt (1813-1868) in 1851 with his Seppeltfield vineyard. John Riddoch (1827-1901) first planted vineyards in the famous Coonawarra area in the early 1890s, sparking a boom there. Thomas Hardy, who founded a vineyard in McLaren Vale in 1853, was just as important. Swiss people like Hubert de Castella (1825-1907), who founded viticulture in the Yarra Valley, also played an important role. In 1919, a viticulture research institute was founded in Merbein (Sunraysia, state of Victoria), which was then affiliated to the CSIRO research institute in 1927.
Two other important viticultural institutions are the AWRI and the Charles Sturt University. For over 100 years, Australia produced predominantly heavy, high alcohol sweet wines, which were marketed fortified as "Australian Port". From the beginning of the 1960ies, there was a change towards fresh white wines. The well-known wine author and winemaker Len Evans (1930-2006) played a decisive role in this development. A milestone was the "Grange Hermitage" created by the legendary cellar master Max Schubert (1915-1994) in 1959, a red wine produced in Bordeaux style by the Penfolds estate. From the mid-1960ies on, this was the initial point for the production of excellent red wines above all out of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Shiraz, which are marketed as single-varietal wines or as cuvees. Another pioneer was Wolfgang Blass (*1934), who immigrated from Germany in 1961.
Australia became a real wine drinking nation within only one generation. Journalists like Len Evans, James Halliday, Campbell Mattinson and Jeremy Oliver also contributed to this by books, publications and wine guides. In 2012, the area under vine covered 162,000 hectares, from which 12.259 million hectolitres of wine were produced. There has been a huge growth of 60%, as in 2000 there were 106,000 hectares. Multinationals account for about 80%. Australian oenologists are sought after worldwide as flying winemakers.
Varietals (varietal wines) are produced for the most part. About 70% of the production is simple bulk wine bottled in bag-in-boxes. Large quantities of table grapes and raisins are also produced. For the most part, international varieties are grown. At the end of the table seven new Australian varieties are listed, which were created for the special Australian climate/soil conditions. About 40% are white wine varieties and 60% red wine varieties. The grape variety table 2010 (Statistics Kym Anderson):
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