Wine & Dine: Australia

This month's Wine & Dine event was focused on Australian wine and cuisine. Fellow What's Cookin Chicago members came together with Australian inspired dishes for our potluck dinner and we enjoyed the meal with various kinds of Australian wine. Here are some interesting native Australian ingredients I've learned about in researching native Australian cuisine:

Lemon myrtle: fresh leaf, or ground dried leaf of the Lemon Myrtle tree
Mountain Pepper: ground leaf or berries of the mountain pepper tree
Native spinach: warrugul greens, a native spinach growing in coastal areas
Bush tomatoes: small tomato-like fruits, also called desert raising
Macadamia nuts: a nut, native of Australia, now grown in other places
Wattle seed: A small, oval, black variety of the Acacia seed. Wattle seed is used in
myriad foods including rice, soups, meat rubs and baked goods.

Our Australian inspired dinner was wonderful. For such a hot summer day, these dishes worked perfectly together to create a light, refreshing and flavorful meal. Here's the menu we enjoyed along with some links to recipes...

Cheese & Cracker Platter
with Hot Spinach Dip

Cheese & Sausage Platter

Balmain Bugs Salad with Mango Dressing

Australian Shaved Fennel Salad

Savory Ham & Swiss Tart

Australian Shrimp on the Barbie

Apricot Chicken

Herbed Fettuccini

Rice Pilaf
with Peas & Toasted Pecans

Watermelon with Fresh Mint & Lime

Tropical Pavlova

Raspberry Lemonade

Australian Wines
Australian wine is a new world wine, meaning it's fairly new to the wine industry compared to other countries such as France, Spain, and Italy. Being that it's a new world wine, you'll often find them to be quite affordable compared to it's old world wine counterparts. Australian wine tends to have more fruity and floral notes, in part of the terroir or climate the grapes are grown in. As for varietals, the leading white is Chardonnay, followed by Riesling... and the leading red is Shiraz (sister to the Rhone's Syrah in France.)
Here are some interesting facts I've found in researching about Australian's wine industry and how many countries have found wines from down under to be extremely popular. For our Australian dinner we paired the following Australian wines...

Penfolds Rawson's Retreat Chardonnay: The wine is an affordable, everyday, easy-drinking wine and is a classic Australian marriage of fruit power and structure. The Chardonnay is a true Australian 'sunshine-in-a-glass' style with clear tropical fruit aromas, creamy flavours and a touch of oak.

Alice White Lexia: Lexia is our very own little sweetie, a uniquely Australian wine made from ripe Muscat grapes. A delicious white wine with fragrant apricot, orange blossom and lilac aromas and round, pleasingly sweet, mango and melon flavors balanced by a crisp, refreshing finish.

Lindeman's Bin 50 Shiraz: The 2006 LINDEMANS Bin 50 Shiraz is a multi-region blend, with premium fruit sourced from a range of wine growing regions. LINDEMANS utilises the diverse topography and climate of Australia's wine regions to produce complex wines that are of consistently outstanding quality regardless of varying vintage conditions.A medium to full bodied Shiraz, packed with intense plum flavours, touches of dark chocolate and spice. Creamy vanilla flavours frame the long, elegant finish.

Black Opal Cabernet Sauvignon: The Black Opal Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 is a wine of great finesse and character, highlighting the very best of full-flavored Australian red wine. The rich aromas of blackcurrant, mint and spice on the nose carry through as flavors in a balanced palate offering fruit flavor, subtle oak and soft, well-integrated tannins. This is a classic Australian red wine made from the world's most noble red variety.

Here are some interesting tidbits I found when researching about Australian's wine industry...
  • Australia has approximately 2,000 wine companies and the sector employs an estimated 31,000 people.
  • Wine sales within Australia have grown steadily over the past decade by up to 4% a year.
  • Average wine consumption in Australia has increased over the past decade to 22.5 litres per person a year, while beer consumption per person is declining.
  • Wine is third on the list of Australian agricultural exports after meat and wheat. As an export earner, wine is more valuable than wool, milk and cream, and barley.
  • Australia is the world’s sixth largest wine producer, as 0f 2006 (behind France, Italy, Spain, US and Argentina) and the fourth largest exporter. Australian wine is enjoyed in more than 100 countries.
  • Exports reached a record A$3.02 billion in July 2007.
  • In 2006, Australia was the number one supplier of imported wine in the UK, Ireland, Singapore and New Zealand and second in the USA and Canada. The UK and USA markets are worth nearly a billion dollars each to Australia.
  • Australia is the leading supplier of the UK off-premise market, holding a 20% share in 2005/06 by volume, with multiple grocers continuing to dominate.
  • Australia remains the largest supplier of the Irish market with 26% market share by volume in 2005/06.
  • Australian wine sales in the US topped 24.5 million cases in 2006. The US accounted for 27.6% of Australia’s wine shipments by volume and just over 32% by value in 2006-07.
  • Australia was the third largest supplier of the Canadian market in 2005/06 with about 13.8% of the market, behind France (17.1%) and Italy (14.9%).
  • Continental Europe is Australia’s third biggest market after the UK and the US. Australian exports to Continental Europe rose 15% by volume in 2006-07, to 134 million litres, and 15% by value to $343 million.
  • Australian exports to Japan have reached new heights in the past three years, with sales just exceeding one million cases in 2006 and volume growth of 23% in the first half of 2007.
  • In the last 12 months, Australian bottled wine shipments to China have increased 5% in value per litre to $5.51/L, and bottled wine now represents 38% of total exports to China.


  1. The images of food in this post is making my mouth water. Nice selection of Australian wines there too!

  2. Interesting cuisine choice. It looks like everything was delicious! I also found the fact that the wine consumption in Australia going up to be interesting...