Top Wine Varieties You Didn’t Expect To Try In Australia (And Where To Find Them)

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Ever found yourself standing in front of the wine aisle like a rabbit in the headlights wondering which bottle you might actually enjoy? Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. But listen up, because it’s time to start exploring the world of wine beyond the usual suspects. Australia – home of the iconic Shiraz and blockbuster Chardonnay – has been fermenting a revolution in its vineyards.

In this article, we’re taking a look at 6 wines you didn’t expect to try in Australia. From exotic grape varieties to new blends, these wines are breaking the rules and giving Australian winemaking a fresh new face. So, whether you’re an old hand at wine tasting or simply looking to expand your palate, get ready to uncover the unexpected wine varieties Australia has to offer, and exactly where to find them.

1. Tempranillo

Attention wine enthusiasts with a love for the Spanish touch! Get ready to raise your glasses in a toast because an exciting development on Australia’s wine scene awaits. In the sun-blazed vineyards of Australia, tempranillo, the ripe red wine grape of Spain, has made a new home in areas such as the Barossa Valley or Heathcote.

Tempranillo, with its bold cherry and leather notes, takes lovers of red down a sensory path. Its vigorous character and unique flavour will appeal to those relaxing at home, or getting together with friends. A few bottles of tempranillo wine are certain to leave a lasting impression. It’s like taking an instant trip to sunny Spain, without having to wait in airport lines or spending thousands on accommodation.

2. Sangiovese

Now let’s delve into Sangiovese, a grape variety whose place of origin lies among Italy’s sun-kissed vineyards, but has found a happy refuge in all nine of Australia’s wine-producing regions. With its juicy acidity and interesting complexity of flavours, this red just breathes Mediterranean style. Australian winemakers from the warm McLaren Vale to cool Heathcote, have taken up this grape wholeheartedly. They are now producing fine examples that both reflect its origin as Italian sangiovese whilst being distinctly Australian in character.

Moreover, its lively acidity and gentle tannins make it suitable for pairing with many types of food, particularly dishes of Italian or South European origin. As a result, enjoyed with a traditional Italian feast or as an after-work tipple, an Australian sangiovese offers a heady blend of the ’old world’ charm with a ‘new world’ twist. 

3. Vermentino

Vermentino, an Italian grape variety, has now landed on Australian shores and is developing a cult following amongst those who love its acidity and crisp citrus notes. In Australia’s sunny climate, this white grape variety thrives in Margaret River and McLaren Vale. 

Here the warm days and cool nights provide vermentino grapes with just the right balance to reach optimal ripeness, as well as retain their natural acidity. Australian vermentino wines often feature hints of lemon zest, green apple, and even ripe stone fruits — all of which makes for happy drinking if you’re looking to take home a refreshing lively white wine.

In recent times, Australian winemakers have also been experimenting with various methods to best bring out the special characteristics of vermentino. From stainless steel fermentation to extended skin contact, each approach brings different facets of the variety to the forefront, giving wine lovers a wide range of vermentino styles to explore. Whether you like a light, fragrant vermentino or something more textured and complex, there’s a bottle of wine that will please every palate.

Top Wine Varieties You Didn't Expect To Try In Australia

4. Albariño

Hailing from Spain’s Galicia region, albariño is the crisp, aromatic white wine that no one can get enough of. Thriving in the cooler climate regions including the Adelaide Hills and Great Southern, this Spanish grape variety offers a refreshing new way to enjoy white wine. With its distinctive acidity that persists even in the heat, albariño is the white you want to be sipping on those extra hot summer days, with a multi-dimensional aromatic profile ensuring every sip is as tantalising as the next.

Showcasing captivating notes of citrus, stone fruit and minerality, this vibrant white is as fresh on the palate as it is on the nose. With its bright fruit characters and acidity to match, it’s a marriage made in heaven for everything from succulent, fresh seafood to lighter summer salads.

5. Nero d’Avola

While it may be Sicily’s flagship red, nero d’avola has found a welcoming new home in the sun-drenched vineyards of South Australia. In warm-climate regions – like McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley – the grapes are able to ripen fully in the intense sunlight and dry conditions. This results in wines that are deeply coloured and full of ripe fruit flavours. It’s often laden with notes of dark cherry and plum, with vague spice playing in the background. 

Winemakers have experimented with varying ways to craft their Nero d’Avola. Some age the wine in oak to give it extra structure; others bottle it to capture the fruit at the height of its powers. This has resulted in incredibly diverse styles that make for excellent tasting — from big, bold reds to those that are more elegant. Whether enjoyed on its own, or matched with meals like roasted lamb, or a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, Australian nero d’avola is a taste of Sicily with an Aussie twist.

6. Montepulciano

Last but not least, hailing from Italy’s Abruzzo region, montepulciano red is gaining traction in Australia for its juicy dark berry flavours and soft tannins. This red grape variety is finding its feet in diverse regions, with vineyards in the Granite Belt, King Valley and further afield producing wines that are vibrant, expressive and unique to their sense of place. The combination of temperate climate and well-drained soils enables the vines to produce long, slow-ripening fruit with vibrant, savoury tannins and a deep underlying earthiness.

A key feature of Australia’s winemaking landscape is the freedom to produce a range of styles, and this is being embraced with montepulciano. You’ll find a variety of different expressions through blending or fermenting methods — oak versus no oak, extended skin contact versus no skin contact, or minimal intervention versus a fuller-bodied style.

There you have it! A tantalising glimpse into the vibrant world of Australian wine. Here, it’s not about who has the best grapes but what each grape variety can achieve. From sun-drenched vineyards of South Australia to the cool-climate regions in Victoria, regional winemakers are pushing their varieties into completely unexpected expressions of their geography.

So, whether the bold nero d’avola catches you by surprise or the crisp albariño stops and makes you think, don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown. Here’s to discovery and all those exciting possibilities waiting at every unexpected sip.

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