- a country that is the sixth-largest wine producer in the world and certainly one of the most influential. Australia has had vineyards since the 18th century, winemaking started in earnest in the 1860s and by the 1980s its wine was being exported around the world. Wine is now one of Australia’s major industries, exports having risen from A$13 million in the early 1980s to more than A$2 billion in 2001–2002, which, in itself, was double the figure for 1999. It is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of wine, behind France, Italy and Spain. Although only 15 per cent of the wine consumed in the UK is Australian, it is claimed that in the vital £4–£6 price range Australian wine is responsible for some 50 per cent of UK sales. The success of Australian wines in recent times can be attributed to the remarkable value for money they offer as well as for their consistency and strongly defined varietal flavours. A number of factors enable Australian winemakers to produce just about every style of wine that there is, from hearty, full-bodied red wines, through fruit-driven, buttery Chardonnays to delicate sparkling wines and complex fortified wines. Geographically, the wine-growing areas lie within ideal latitudes for viticulture, and the temperature is moderated by the surrounding oceans. A variety of climates, soil conditions and topography provides ample opportunity for a proliferation of wine styles in the 56 wine-growing regions. These, in the main, cling to the coast across the cooler southern part of the country, mainly concentrated in the southeast and southwest of the continent. The main regions are in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, West Australia and Tasmania. The most commonly grown grape varieties are Syrah (Shiraz), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot for red wine production. Chardonnay, Sémillon and Riesling are the main grape varieties grown for white wine production. Australian wine labels can show a single grape variety only if the wine contains at least 85 per cent of this grape. Blends are common and grape varieties are listed in descending order, e.g.Cabernet-Shiraz, a wine predominantly made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with a smaller quantity of Syrah (Shiraz). Australian influence on winemaking around the world has been immense in the last decade. young Australians, known as flying winemakers, have taken the Australian winemaking philosophy both to other New World countries and to the Old World, producing stunning wines in all kinds of conditions. Their influence can be seen in recent developments in a number of Old World winemaking countries, as they hunger for the kind of success that Australian wine has achieved and try to match the expectations that Australian wines have created in British wine consumers.