Australian grape varieties


Yesterday we talked about the famous wine regions in Australia and briefly mentioned the classic grape varieties in each region. Today let’s focus on the key grape varieties and their typical characters.

Image: General View, Barossa Valley, South Australia by Matt Turner, provided by AWBC

Shiraz (or Syrah in France)

It is the classic Australian grape variety being planted in almost every wine region. Benefiting from a bank of old vines and the huge variety of terroir and climate, Australian Shiraz, lead by the prestigious Penfolds Grange, has made its name globally.

There are mainly two types of Shiraz blends in Australia. In the Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon blend, Shiraz gives softness to Cabernet Sauvignon, which is similar to the role of Merlot in Bordeaux. Another highly successful blend in cooler climate regions is Shiraz and Viognier, in which the Viognier grape brings more aromatic character and texture.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon is a rapidly rising red grape variety in Australia. With darker colour and firmer tannins than Shiraz, it is now widely planted throughout Australia, and is especially successful in Coonawarra of South Australia and Margaret River of West Australia.


Chardonnay is perhaps the most widely planted white grape in Australia. The versatile grape shows different character in different regions with styles from simple to complex. It is mostly oaked, and sometimes blended with Semillon, which adds come freshness to the wine.


Lower Hunter Valley is the classic region to find light and high-acidity Semillon with good aging potential. In Margaret River the style of Semillon is largely different, with more herbaceous character and higher alcohol.


Riesling is used to make some of the finest white wines in Australia. The style is normally dry or slightly off-dry, with distinctive citrus aromas at youth, which later develop to the typical petrol and honey character of Riesling. Eden Valley and Clare Valley are the regions to find quality Australian Rieslings.

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