There are some interesting patterns in the 2009 James Halliday Australian Wine Companion. It rates 5778 wines, and an arrangement of the best wines by variety (page 14) shows clear, even stark, regional specialization.
Riesling – Clare & Eden Valleys, Great Southern (in WA), and Tasmania. Cool nights seem essential for Riesling.
Chardonnay – Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, and Adelaide Hills.
Semillon – pretty much completely dominated by the Hunter Valley.
Sauvignon Blanc – Adelaide Hills.
Sauvignon/Semillon blends – Margaret River.
Sparkling – Tasmania.
Pinot Noir – Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania, Yarra Valley.
Shiraz – Barossa, McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley, Grampians, and Heathcote.
Shiraz Viognier blends – Canberra, Yarra Valley.
Cabernet Sauvignon – Margaret River, McLaren Vale, Coonawarra. The importance of maritime influence shows here. Particularly in the surprisingly good showing by the rather hot (but still next to the sea) McLaren Vale.
Shiraz and shiraz blends are Australia’s super strength. The world market seems to share this opinion, and Halliday’s ratings concur. But outside of the shiraz powerhouses of Barossa and McLaren there are many other regions producing high quality wines from other varieties, also the Shiraz from other regions is quite different in style.
It’s true that many Australian wines are blends though in reality these blends often come from the same selection of vineyards each year. And very few serious wines are regional blends. The trend continues to be for regions to specialize on the grape varieties they are best at. We are also seeing distinct regional winemaking styles emerge.
So the New World is beginning to look more and more like the Old World – and vice versa as they continue to learn from one another.