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Australian wines have beaten the world's best

Updated on September 12, 2013

Wine makers in Australia crushed 1.83 million tonnes of grapes this year, which is above the average of the last five years. Australian wine is the world's fourth largest exporter and accounts for a large market share in South Asian countries, the United States of America and India. Australia exports more than half its overseas shipments in giant plastic bladders to the United Kingdom.

The country's wine export market was worth 2.8 billion Australian dollars in 2007 and has grown nine percent per year. It is announced that the private-equity owners of Australia's biggest wine maker, Accolade Wines, will pour $15 million into refreshing the Hardys brand to boost the 160-year-old label's dominance in Britain and plan a new strategy on the Asian and North American markets.

Bill Hardy is the fifth-generation vintner at Hardys, one of Australia's most renowned wineries. The winery that was founded by Thomas Hardy, celebrates its 160th anniversary this year. The person engaged in wine making is referred to as a wine maker or vintner and the science of wine making is known as oenology. The process for making red and white Australian wine is basically the same. The steps of Australian wine making include:

• Harvesting: Grapes must be harvested at the precise time. Harvesting can be done by pickers (people picking the grapes) or mechanically. Mechanical harvesting is common in Australia as a result of labor shortages, but many wine makers prefer the grapes picked by hand. The grape bunches are sorted at the winery. Rotten bunches are removed before the wine-making process begins.

• Crushing and pressing: The grapes are crushed. Red wine is made from pulp (must), and the fermentation occurs together with the grape skins. The skins give the wine its color. White wine is made by pressing crushed grapes to extract the juice.

• Fermentation: Fermentation usually begins within six to twelve hours after the grapes were crushed or pressed. Yeast may be added to start the fermentation process. Fermentation is the process where sugars are converted into ethanol (alcohol). The alcohol level can vary from ten percent in cooler climates to fifteen percent in warmer climates. Sweeter wines are produced by stopping the fermentation process before all the sugar is converted into alcohol. The entire wine making process is controlled by the winemaker.

• Clarification: Once the fermentation process is completed, the winemaker has to remove the sediment or solids from the wine. Clarification is done by siphoning or tapping the wine from one tank to another, leaving the sediment at the bottom of the fermenting tanks. Gelatine is commonly used to reduce the tannin content. The wine gelatine reacts with the wine components and forms sediment, which is removed prior to bottling. Gelatine is recognized as a traditional method for clarifying wines. Filtering agents such as volcanic clay, egg whites, bone char, potassium casein (milk protein) or skim milk powder are sometimes used. Filtration is also used to accomplish microbial stabilization. Organisms, such as yeast and bacteria, can affect the stability of the wine are removed.

Aging of wines can be done in stainless steel tanks, large or small wooden barrels or ceramic tanks. Wines can also age in bottles. Sulphite is added to help preserve the wine and prevent further fermentation.

Australian wines have beaten the world's best, taking the most international awards for any country at this year's prestigious Decanter World Wine Awards. Decanter World Wine Awards Chairman Steven Spurrier said: "It's testament to the diverse talents of the country's wine makers that Australia has won trophies in categories across the world, including red, white and sweet fortified."

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