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Whilst most of Australia consists of arid deserts and dense bushland, the oceanic coasts to the south of the country have a terrain and climate ideal for vine cultivation and wine production. It took several decades of failed attempts at the end of the 18th century in order to produce vines of a decent enough quality for making wine, but since those first false starts, the Australian wine industry has continued to grow and grow. Today, wine production makes up for a considerable part of the Australian economy, with exports in recent years reaching unprecedented levels and even overtaking France for the first time ever. Whilst the greatest successes in regards to quality have been the result of the Syrah grape varietal (known locally as Shiraz), Australia utilizes several Old World grapes, and has had fantastic results from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay and more. As the Australian passion for locally produced wine continues to develop, wineries have begun experimenting with a wider range of grape varietals, meaning that nowadays it isn't uncommon to find high quality Australian wines made from Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Tempranillo and Viognier, amongst many others.
Commercial Australian winemaking first thrived here in 1825. "The Hunter," as it's known locally, is 100 miles from Sydney, the best known of NSW's wine districts and a popular tourist destination. The lower Hunter Valley is hot and damp and frankly better suited for cattle than grapes. Nonetheless it is known for Semillon, Shiraz and Chardonnay. The Upper Hunter Valley also produces Chardonnay, Semillon, and others; the dry whites are known for their richness and depth.