Australia's terroir: what every sip of wine tells you about our country

Australia first planted grapevines when the First Fleet arrived - with little success. We are now the 7th largest wine producer in the world.

Terroir is a French term that describes taste and flavour imparted to a wine by the environment it’s produced in. Here’s a quick Citro guide to everything you need to know about our diverse locally produced wine regions.

Australia became rich from sheep, but sophisticated with wine

Australia is well known for producing sheep and wool - the first colonial settlers of Australia made their wealth “riding on the sheep’s back” as migrants cleared land to farm sheep and export wool to the Northern Hemisphere.

Wool-growing in Australia is today worth around one-tenth of the wine industry.

Captain Arthur Phillip introduced grapevines to Australia in 1788 on the First Fleet. Unfortunately these vines all died from disease before a single drop of wine was made.

South Australia - which is still Australia's largest wine-producing state, according to Wine Tourism - first planted vines in the Barossa Valley from the 1840s.

South Australia quickly became Australia's most productive wine area in the 1800s and early 1900s, thanks to the Europeans who settled in the Barossa. The first German migrants to the Barossa Valley were skilled at adapting winemaking traditions to our harsh climate.

In the 1980s, Australia began exporting our wines to the rest of the world, becoming known for our vibrant wines that deliver great flavour and value.

Australian Treasury says winemaking is now worth $45.5 billion to the Australian economy, compared to wool which contributes barely $4 billion.

Winemaking gives us a taste for the finer things in life

Even today, most of Australia's wine-growing areas offer great tourism AND great wine. (It’s much more fun touring cellar doors than it is to visit dusty sheep fields, right?)

Tasmania's Tamar Valley has a range of smaller wineries making crisp and cool climate wines. The rolling green hills and chocolate soils of the valley impart a distinct terroir into the wines, too.

Australia is the 7th largest wine producing country in the world, with 5 main wine regions in Australia: Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia.

There are more than 60 different wine-growing locations, and the climate of each is unique, right down to a vineyard’s position and the conditions for that year.

The French terms ‘goût de terroir’ or ‘goût de terroirs’ refers to the unique combination of soil, climate, and geography that shapes the flavours of the wine.

Wine critic Hugh Johnson - who wrote The World Atlas of Wine - told Decanter that: “With wine, unlike most products, where it comes from is the whole point.”

Australia's 65+ wine-growing regions are spread all over the country, each with their own terroir. Image:

Why Australia's terroir is so good

The particular ‘terroir’ of a season is the reason why one vintage of wine tastes so different from the next vintage.

Australia's vast size and geographical diversity give it a wide range of microclimates. From the warm and sunny Barossa Valley to the cool and maritime-influenced regions like Margaret River, Australia offers a greater variety of microclimates than many other wine-producing nations. This diversity allows for the successful cultivation of a wide range of grape varieties.

Australia has some of the oldest soils in the world, particularly in regions like the Coonawarra and the Clare Valley.

These ancient soils, rich in terra rossa (which literally means red soil), contribute distinctive mineral qualities to the wines, making them unique on the global wine stage. These soils are also similar to those found in the Mediterranean.

Australia’s abundant sunshine, which ripens grapes and shapes the character of its wines, also makes our wines taste different to those grown in South America, Europe or the United States.

Our intense sunlight is especially pronounced in regions like South Australia, where Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes thrive to make wines with bold fruit flavours and high alcohol content.

Margaret River in WA is close to the surf and fertile soils, creating a unique flavour profile.

Our unique flora, fauna and geography

Australia's geographical isolation in the Southern Hemisphere protects our vines from diseases that plague other wine regions.

The plants and pollinators in each of our wine regions differ, potentially contributing to the unique tastes and flavours imparted in wines.

Australia’s geographic isolation has also allowed winemakers to preserve unique grapevine genetics and cultivate vines that might be susceptible to diseases elsewhere, contributing to our distinct terroir.

While Australia may be famous for red grapes, it also cultivates lesser-known grape varieties such as Syrah, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese, often with a distinctive Australian twist. This diversification adds to the country's unique terroir.

Warm climate and cool climate wines

Warm climate refers to vineyards exposed to a lot of sun and steady, warm temperatures.

These climates typically produce grapes that ripen quickly, giving them more fruit sugars, higher alcohol content and less acidity.

Cool climate refers to vineyards in areas where the temperatures plummet at night and towards harvest time. This means the grapes take longer to ripen, locking in more fruit acid.

The cool influence could be from being close to the coast, like in Margaret River or McLaren Vale, or at high altitude like in Orange or southerly latitudes like Tasmania.

Cooler climate wines have more acidity, subtle fruit flavours and spicy, floral, and herby characters; and usually less alcohol content. Riesling and Pinot Noir are typical cool climate wines.

Sometimes, a cool-climate wine may also display elements of ripe fruits. In such cases, the vintage plays a major role.

Climate can vary from year to year, especially in case of cool regions that are characterised by highly variable conditions.

Other factors like humidity, the amount of rainfall, and warming or cooling forces such as clouds, can also affect the wine.

Of course the biggest factor in a wine’s taste is the winemaking - the skilled blending of grapes and the style of making and ageing a wine all make a different taste. But winemaking is a whole other story.

Exclusive Citro member offer:

Get a $100 gift voucher when you buy a mixed dozen from Naked Wines.

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