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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.
The Barossa Valley in Australia is one of the New World's most interesting wine regions, having been established in the late 19th century by German settlers. The region benefits enormously from the relatively temperate climate, which ranges from being hot on the lower parts of the valley, to quite cool as the altitude increases on the valley slopes. Barossa Valley produces mostly Shiraz wines, and has become one of the key Australian regions for this distinctive grape varietal which has gone on to be a major grape for the Australian wine industry. Despite suffering from a poor reputation in the mid 20th century, by the 1980s, plenty of unique and forward-thinking wineries set up in Barossa to take advantage of its excellent climate, and set about producing the excellent red and white wines which the region is famed for today.
Port wine is Portugal’s great gift to the world. Coming from the ancient harbour capital city of Porto and the surrounding Douro Valley region, Port wine has been made by Portuguese vintners for at least four hundred years, although viticulture has been continually happening in the area for well over two thousand years. Port is a fortified wine, meaning it is a wine which has been bolstered by the addition of grape brandy. Originally, this was used as a method of preservation, allowing the delicate Portuguese wines to survive the journey by sea to trading partners in the UK and France. However, the wonderful taste and unique character the fortification process lends to the wine soon became massively popular, and before long, this new wine style was a hit all across Europe.
Unlike some other fortified wines, Port is made by adding brandy before the wine itself has completed its fermentation. The result of this is that plenty of the grapes’ natural sweetness is maintained in the barrel, meaning it is exceptionally smooth and rounded on the palate. Port comes in many different styles - Tawny Port wines are prized for their richness and mellow character, Reserve and Late Bottled Ports are full of fruit flavor. Vintage Port is a complex, wonderful thing - capable of standing up to some of the finest wines in the world when it comes to depth of flavor and fascinating features.