Though once dominated by British culinary tastes, Australian cuisine is now influenced by a variety of Mediterranean and Asian foods introduced by immigrant cultures. Many people living outside of Australia think of native Bush Tucker when they contemplate Australian food, but Southeast Asian, Greek, Lebanese and Italian influences are now more common.
Australia's wine industry in its present form has really only existed for about 30 years. It was not until the 1960's that Australians started to show real interest in wine. Till then, it had been a nation of beer drinkers. What little wine was consumed was mostly fortified: cheap young sherry, port and muscat. The migrant influx, plus new-found affluence saw wine sales increase and interest in sparkling and table wines was boosted by creations such as sparkling Barossa Pearl, made with then ultra-modern imported technology. When the winecask (also known as the bag-in-box or soft-pack) was invented by Australians in the early 1970's suddenly wine was available to everyone in a convenient package and at an affordable price. It was cheaper than beer, and at one point, even soft drink. Every refrigerator soon had a cask of cheap white in the door. White wine sales boomed from 35 million litres in 1974-75 to 175 million litres in 1983-84.
The rate of change of wine drinking habits has been extraordinary. In 1960 fortified wine accounted for 70 per cent of all wine sales, and in 1950 probably 90 per cent. In 1970/71 sherry sales were more than double those of dry white; dry red almost twice dry white. Sherry has been on a slow decline ever since, while dry red fell slightly in the late Seventies then picked up.
Cabernet sauvignon fast became the vogue red grape and from the mid-Seventies Chardonnay caught on. By the late Seventies cabernet had taken over from Shiraz as the fashionable red variety and Chardonnay took the spotlight from Rhine Riesling in the mid-Eighties. It must amaze foreigners that as recently as 1970 there was hardly any Chardonnay on sale; what little we had was blended with other varieties. In 1980 there was still no sauvignon blanc on sale. Industry awareness of pinot noir was just awakening.
In 2001, the total number of wine producers in Australia was 1,318. That number jumped to 2,008 in 2006.
According to winebiz.com.au, per capita consumption of wine in Australia has increased after remaining largely unchanged in recent years. It is estimated that the per capita consumption by persons 15 years and over is 27.5 litres in 2003-04. During the mid-1990s, consumption grew considerably from 17.8 litres in 1990-91.
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This page modified January 2007
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