Australia, the oldest and most eroded continent, offers very old and complex soils with tremendous soil variation from region to region, including variations within the regions themselves. There are also regions with younger soils made up of sand and limestone and many areas of volcanic origin.
Australia is not at cool latitudes, therefore large parts of the north are tropical and the centre is hot and dry and not suited for wine grape cultivation. However, cool climate regions do exist due to the impact and influence of altitude and the surrounding oceans, resulting in the south east and south west of the country being the most viable for wine production. These areas have cool to warm Mediterranean climates.
Heat and humidity were a problem for the initial, failed plantings of vines that first arrived in Australia in 1788. However, other settlers were able to later successfully cultivate winemaking grapes, and by 1805 significant vineyards were established near Parramatta and near Camden by 1820.
Many of Australia’s old vines can trace their history to the original Busby collection of 1831, when James Busby went to Europe to collect and bring back 650 varieties, of which 362 survived the trek. This, in part, led to commercial viticulture being established in most states by 1850.
Until the late 1970s, Australian wine production consisted largely of sweet wines, though not exclusively. Now Australia grows over 100 different grape varieties, some of the most significant being Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillon, Muscat, Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir.