Australia’s Best White Wine Varieties
Long regarded as a wine style best enjoyed over the summer months, the simple truth is that Australian white wine is something that can be savoured all year round, either on its own or accompanying food – with something for every taste. Here are Australia’s most popular go-to white wine varieties for you to discover, or fall in love with all over again!
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Australia may be celebrated for its big, bold reds, but we’re equally famous for our white wines as well – just think of the role Chardonnay played in bringing our wine industry to international attention, or the accolades that Hunter Semillon or Clare Valley Riesling regularly receive.
In fact, our white wines are regularly considered as some of the best in the world for their varietal and regional character and quality. Refreshing and sophisticated, white wine is often a popular choice for those new to wine drinking, so we spoke to our Tasting Panel about what their favourites are for year-round enjoyment, with Tasting Panel Co-Chair Adam Walls adding his preferred food matches for each!
With its medium to full-bodied weight and wonderful flavours of peach, grapefruit, apple and melon, Chardonnay has proven itself as one of the superstars of Australian wine. From lighter, more elegant examples to big, buttery and flavoursome expressions, it offers a range of possibilities for delighting your tastebuds.
It’s one of Co-Chair Adam Walls’ go-to wines in any season, even winter. The reason, he says, is that “Its allure lies in the fact that it can mix both elegance and fruit power, with its generosity being key to its brilliance when sipping in colder weather.”
It’s also a very versatile wine with food. “It’s really hard to go past Chardonnay when you’re looking to enjoy a wine with a nice salmon fillet, Caesar salad or a roast chook.”
Looking for a dish to pair with Chardonnay? Try these recipes from Selector magazine...
Best Recipes To Pair With Chardonnay
Lyndey Milan’s Plank Salmon
Poached Chicken Breast Salad
One of Australia’s favourite white wine varieties, the success of Sauvignon Blanc can no doubt be attributed to its dramatic aromatic presence and its fresh, vibrant and easy-to-drink nature. Passionfruit, gooseberry, citrus and various herbaceous elements like nettle, grass and capsicum are all defining characters of this much-loved variety, with the wines typically being light in body and colour, and full of verve thanks to a high natural acidity.
The vast majority of Sauvignon Blanc is made without oak, however some of the country’s most complex and compelling examples are made with careful oak influence. It would also be remiss not to make mention of the synergy that Sauvignon Blanc has when blended with Semillon.
“Some of Australia’s most celebrated ‘Classic Dry Whites’, particularly from the Margaret River region, are Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blends,” says Adam.
And when it comes to matching with food, it’s also a winner. Adam’s tip? “Sauvignon Blanc makes a great pairing with green vegetable-based dishes or young soft cheese like feta or Brie.”
Best Recipes To Pair With Sauvignon Blanc
Barbequed Asparagus, Twice-peeled Broad Beans, Balsamic and Parmesan
Lyndey Milan’s Vietnamese Chicken Salad
When compared to most white wine varieties, Pinot G is a relative newcomer. You would be forgiven for thinking it’s been around forever given its meteoric rise in popularity! The fact that it’s so easy to drink – with or without food – must be one reason why it’s fast become a staple white for Australian wine drinkers.
Its two guises of Grigio and Gris can be a cause for confusion, but the key difference is that they are the same variety made in somewhat different styles. Grigio, the Italian expression of the grape, is generally the lighter style in weight and alcohol. Gris, from the French, is generally more full-bodied and ‘heavier’. Both styles however share similar characters of pear, apple and citrus, and in both instances the lower acidity helps offer a silken and smooth texture.
Pinot G is extremely versatile when it comes to matching it with food. “Lighter Grigio styles can pair with pasta, salads and rice-based dishes,” says Adam. “I find the richer Gris style is best served with poultry, pork and washed rind cheese.” Both styles, he adds, are an amazing accompany to Chinese banquets.
Best Recipes To Pair With Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
Giovanni Pilu’s Malloreddus with Chickpeas, Vongole, Chilli and Parsley
Rocket, Pear and Walnut Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing
One of the most refreshing, energetic and intriguing white wine varieties that you can find, Riesling still carries a small ‘public relations’ problem. For many, the memory of overly-sweet and poor-quality Riesling wines are etched into their psyche. The irony is that many of these wines were not actually made from Riesling itself!
A further irony is that the vast majority of Australian Riesling nowadays is dry – in fact, it’s one of the driest white wines available. The key to Riesling’s energy is in its thrilling backbone of acidity. These wines may be light-bodied, but carry more flavour than you might expect. Lime is a common character, particularly in the celebrated expressions that emerge from Great Southern, Clare Valley and Eden Valley, with apple, peach, chalk, white flowers and wet stone among Riesling’s defining characters.
Adam finds it to be one of the most sophisticated wines for pairing with food. “Riesling is a brilliant match with shellfish and white fish,” he says. It’s also very versatile. “It goes equally well with deep-fried foods as it does with delicate cuisine like Japanese, and can even help offset the richness of pork.”
Best Recipes To Pair With Riesling
Thai Pork Salad
Mark Olive’s Asian-inspired Oysters
A variety adored by its followers but perhaps still underrated but those not bitten by the bug, Semillon is a fascinating variety – and the Hunter Valley is the beating heart of Australian Semillon production. Its long lived, light bodied, low alcohol and age-worthy style make it one of the world’s truly unique wines.
Semillon is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc across the country with great success, and it would be remiss to note not the superb late harvest or Botrytis-affected styles made from Semillon – something to break out and enjoy after the main meal.
Citrus fruits of all descriptions are classic characters of Semillon. It can also show notes of hay, cut grass, lemongrass and camomile tea, depending on style. The sweeter styles of Semillon are often reminiscent of apricot, marmalade and honeysuckle.
“I like to pair the dry styles of Semillon with oysters, prawns and scallops, white mould cheese and spicy Asian dishes,” says Adam. “The sweeter styles are a great match to tart tatin and frangipane tarts.” Delicious!
Best Recipes To Pair With Semillon
Rottnest Island scallops
Crab omelettes with spicy cucumber salsa
Lyndey Milan’s tomato tart tartin
Learn more about white wine
Wine Selectors carries an enormous range of world-class Australian white wines from across our great regions, ready for those interested in trying something new, or stocking their cellars with the best. Shop Australian white wine here.
Consider yourself a bit of a white wine expert? Take our white wine quiz and test your mettle. Or, check out Selector for some more great food and wine pairings, including our Food and Wine Matching 101 article – an excellent read over a glass of your favourite!