Australian wines are everywhere! Considering their relatively short production history (late 1800s to now), they have come a long way in a short time, winning international awards, and in some cases outstripping exports from established wine producers like France. Their road to fame and acceptance wasn’t always easy, and no wine maker is ever completely free of worries or care, especially when it comes to wine-destroying pests like Phylloxera.
Phylloxera is a small insect that feeds on grape rootstock, stunting plants’ growth and eventually killing them. Phylloxera’s populations spread prolifically through reproduction and unintentional transportation, making them very difficult to eradicate.
They caused much devastation in the French Phylloxera epidemic of the late 1800s. At the same time, the pest was quietly but ferociously making its way to Australia.
First discoveries of Phylloxera in Australia occurred in Geelong, a wine region in Victoria, just south of New South Wales. Victoria wine producers north of Geelong demanded the destruction of practically all vineyards in Geelong, despite the fact that there were at least two potential remedies, including the proven remedy to graft on resistant American rootstock. It is rumored that destroying the Geelong vines was a political move to eliminate northern Victoria’s southerly competitors.
Nonetheless, the pest spread and even as recently as 2008 more evidence of the continued presence of Phylloxera has been found.
During the 1980s, when the pest was contained, Australia “suffered” from overproduction. The government sponsored some vine pulls to try to ease the glut of grapes.
Australia is now making headway into biodynamic and organic wine production, which is easing the effects of low grape prices.
When you think of Australian wines, what comes to mind? Mass produced wines? Organic wines? Big wines? Easy drinking wines? I’d love to hear what your first thoughts are when you you think of Australian wines.
G’Day and Cheers!