Australian Wine Began in NSW
I believe it is reasonably well understood that the Australian Wine industry began its roots in NSW. Our first wine grapes arrived with the First Fleet, with the first Australian wines made from vineyards planted in Sydney. As new regions were established, the grapevines and winemaking followed. The Australian wine industry, and in particular the NSW wine industry, showed the world its true potential from the outset. To begin with, the focus was on French grape varieties and wines that tried to emulate French wines; particularly wines of the Bordeaux region as they were most favoured by the English aristocracy.
Then there was a shift in the wine drinking habits of the new colony. This change was prompted by two developments. Firstly, convicts who had “done their time” and begun their new lives in Australia, did not find table wine to their liking, unlike the soldiers and free settlers who back home were accustomed to drinking “claret” (the name used by the English to describe wine from the Bordeaux region). This was followed by the gold rush era, which led to a more diversified population including Irish, American and Chinese migrants; all of whom preferred a sweet fortified wine over table wine. South Australia capitalised on this change in consumer habits, and to a lesser extent, Victoria, with its large gold fields in the Rutherglen region in the central north.
New South Wales and Emerging Wine Varieties
In the 1960’s we saw a return to the popularity of table wines in Australia, primarily driven by the influx of European settlers that arrived after World War II, as well the increased number of young Australians who had the opportunity to travel to Europe. At present day, NSW is now the second largest wine producing state in Australia, producing around 35% of total wine production. South Australia has the highest volume, with Victoria coming in third. Trailing behind quite significantly are Western Australia, Tasmania and Queensland. All the Australian wine producing states have the ability to produce great, distinctive wines; but I would contest none more so that NSW. NSW has the greatest diversity of “Terroirs” for wine production than any other state. We have some really exciting, newly emerging regions such as Canberra District, Orange, Tumbarumba, New England, and of course our little home here in the Hastings River region, to complement the older, more established regions of the lower Hunter Valley and Mudgee.
Despite this, it is not uncommon to find restaurant wine lists in Sydney and indeed throughout NSW to only have a token one or two wines from a NSW wine region, with wine representation dominated by wines from South Australia, Victoria, WA and Tasmania. Often New Zealand will feature more favourably, with a broader selection of wine than NSW producers. Interestingly, go to any other wine producing state, and quite rightly their respective wine industry will have the biggest representation on restaurant wine lists.
So, the next time you dine out and you feel NSW wine is not represented as well as it could (or should) be on a wine list, why not bring it to the attention of the establishment? On another note, there are those championing NSW wines like The International Convention Centre (ICC) in Sydney – a venue being delivered by the NSW Government in partnership with the Darling Harbour Live consortium. Pleasingly, the ICC is focused on supporting regional producers and has committed to a wine collection featuring 100% representation from New South Wales. We love it!
Our very own Port Macquarie local – Bills Fishhouse – won the NSW Wines Sommelier’s Wine List of the Year award in 2019 and they proudly represent a brilliant smorgasbord of NSW-only wines on their list. If you’re in town – give their incredible cuisine and well-curated wine list a visit! You won’t be disappointed.
More importantly – get amongst the wines from NSW. There are an incredible amount of very memorable wines from the southern border to the northern. We can’t thank our customers, club members and retail customers enough for the support who evidence precisely how strong and great quality our wines are. DRINK NSW!