France and Spain with a serious selection of grape varieties including most classic French grapes and a good selection of grapes for fortified wine production. Wine from the Adelaide Hills was sent to Queen Victoria in 1844, but there is no evidence that she placed an order as a result. The production and quality of Australian wine was much improved by the arrival of free settlers from various parts of Europe, who used their skills and knowledge to establish some of Australia's premier wine regions. For example, emigrants from Prussia in the mid-1850s were important in establishing South Australia's Barossa Valley as a winemaking region. Early Australian winemakers faced many difficulties, particularly due to the unfamiliar Australian climate. However they eventually achieved considerable success. "At the 1873 Vienna Exhibition the French judges, tasting blind, praised some wines from Victoria, but withdrew in protest when the provenance of the wine was revealed, on the grounds that wines of that quality must clearly be French." Australian wines continued to win high honors in French competitions. A Victorian Syrah (also called Shiraz) competing in the 1878 Paris Exhibition was likened to Château Margaux and "its taste completed its trinity of perfection." One Australian wine won a gold medal "first class" at the 1882 Bordeaux International Exhibition and another won a gold medal "against the world" at the 1889 Paris International Exhibition. That was all before the destructive effects on the industry of the phylloxera epidemic.
In the decades following the devastation caused by phylloxera until the late 1970s, Australian wine production consisted largely, but not exclusively, of sweet and fortified wines. Since then, Australia has rapidly become a world leader in both the quantity and quality of wines it produces. For example, Australian wine exports to the US rose from 578,000 cases in 1990 to 20,000,000 cases in 2004 and in 2000 it exported more wine than France to the UK for the first time in history. The industry has also suffered hard times in the last 20 years. In the late 1980s, governments sponsored growers to pull out their vines to overcome a glut of wine grapes. Low grape prices in 2005 and 2006 have led to calls for another sponsored vine pull. Cleanskin wines were introduced into Australia during the 1960s as a means to combat oversupply and poor sales. In recent years organic and biodynamic wines have been increasing in popularity, following a worldwide trend. In 2004 Australia hosted the First International Biodynamic Wine Forum in Beechworth, Victoria which brought together biodynamic wine producers from around the globe. Despite the overproduction of grapes many organic and biodynamic growers have enjoyed continuing demand thanks to the premium prices winemakers can charge for their organic and biodynamic products, particularly in the European market.
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