In 2008, I was lucky enough to enter (and win) a wine competition organized by Wines Australia. The winners, there were 5 of us, were treated to an educational journey to Australia to explore the major wine regions from coast to coast. Since that time, I have returned to Aussie land just about every two years to sip their wines and learn more about their terrific wine culture. OK, I will admit it. I have a few favorite relatives living in Oz (giving me extra incentive to visit), but that in itself is not the sole reason I boomeranging back; The diversity of Australia’s wine regions allow for the production of sip-worthy examples of every style of wine. For me, that is like unsupervised time in a candy store – only yummier. This month marks the official Aussie wine month and there has never been a better time to learn more about the vines down under.

The Aussie Conversation

A few decades ago, Brand Australia set out to market the country and its products (think shrimp on the barbie, UGG boots, Yellow Tail, and Foster’s. “Australian for Beer”) around the globe. In terms of wine, that meant touting big, bold Shiraz and oaked-up Chardonnay with the goal of getting the country’s wines to the global market in order to start a conversation. Brand Australia worked. I remember telling a friend in the late 90s that I enjoyed a beautiful Shiraz from Australia last night, and her reply was, “oh great, paired with what?” In other words, she was fine with my limited description and never thought to ask where in Australia or which region was I sipping. Australian Shiraz was good enough. To bring that idea home, what if I told you I enjoyed a Cabernet Sauvignon from the United States of American last night? Something tells me we would have a bigger conversation.

Fast forward to the 21st century and the Aussie conversation quickly changed; Modern wine consumers wanted to know more and the Australian marketers and wine makers where keen on giving them details. Today Australia is riddled with “local heroes” (a grape paired with a region) and non-traditional grapes such as Italian and German varieties that keep the the fabric of their wine industry rich and exciting.

Local Hero: Mornington Peninsula

An example of a local hero (and one of my personal favorites) is Pinot Noir in Mornington Peninsula. Located in the southern state of Victoria, the pristine Shire of Mornington Peninsula has a maritime climate and is flanked by Port Phillip Bay to the west and Western Port Bay to the east and the Bass Strait to the south. These large bodies of water, coupled by cooling winds, create stellar growing conditions for late ripening grapes like Pinot Noir. Basically, cooler temperatures results in the grapes being able to hang on the vine longer without dropping acidity. When that happens, they pick up flavor while maintaining fresh and lively. The exposure to water gives the region higher humidity (which can cause rot problems), yet spring frosts are blown away by the winds. These unique conditions make is possible for Pinot Noir to shine. Interested in learning more? Read on.

Far From Ordinary

On Sept 23rd, Chicago will be home to one of the biggest tasting of Australian wines this windy city has ever seen. Literally hundreds (300+) of wines from across 27 of the country’s wine regions will be shared by passionate winemakers who are crafting beautiful wine just about 9,000-11,000 miles west of the Lake Michigan. It is a great opportunity to learn about the Aussie wine making scene as well as expand your knowledge on latest releases and trends. Come experience a trade tasting that is far from ordinary with Wine Australia. Register now: #aussiewine