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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.
Petite Sirah was first brought from France to America in the 1880s. It later went on to become one of the only grapes to make it through the devastating Phylloxera virus in the 1890s, both World Wars, and the Great Depression. During Prohibition, it was a main ingredient used to make sacramental wines. In fact, through the 1960s it was a major blending grape in a number of the finest wines produced in California.
By itself, a bottle of Petite Sirah usually has no problem making a quick impression on consumers. With a large amount of natural color and tannins, wines made with the grape commonly feature intensive sweet fruit characteristics like fresh raspberry or blackberry jam, black pepper spice, and plenty of backbone or structure.
There are a number of different styles available. Some concentrate on highlighting fresh, fruity flavors; others are bigger, more voluptuous; and it keeps going up the ladder until you reach the powerful, more machismo-style category.
The Australian region of Victoria is the country's most historically significant wine region, with vine cultivation and wine production going on there since the mid 19th century. In those times, Victoria produced over half of all Australia's wines. However, today, despite having a huge number of wineries, Victoria has begun to focus on quality over quantity – many of the six hundred wineries based in this region produce wines made from lesser known grape varietals, often producing fascinating wines full of character, but made from vines with far lower yields and a considerably smaller audience. Today, most of the viticulture in Victoria takes place near the cool, coastal region around Melbourne. However, recent years have seen irrigation projects help wine makers grow vines in the more arid parts of the region, with a wide range of grapes now being grown.
This is yet another dynamic region, with new vineyards appearing every year. At only an hour's drive from Melbourne it is the second coolest region in the state, and quite rainy. The area is known for its rolling hills and vineyards featuring a variety of grapes including Australian Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir.