Where to start for mastering Australian wine?

Studying that I wasn’t about to “wine” about

Review: Mastering Australian Wine, an online course with Sydney Wine Academy

Where to start for mastering Australian wine?

Mastering Australian wine? Where to start? Photo by Elle Hughes on Unsplash

As a food copywriter, it’s not just enough to work on my writing skills. Subject matter expertise is important to build too. I recently recognised that while I enjoy wine, I didn’t know that much about it, and this seemed like a good area to build my knowledge. If I wanted to expand into wine copywriting, it was time to swot up!


So, with this goal in mind, I signed up for the 9-week Mastering Australian Wine course run by the Sydney Wine Academy. As an online course, this was a great introductory program that I could fit around my other work and family commitments. Plus, I’d have to drink wine. Hardship, right?

The course provides background on the Australian wine industry and how it has evolved over time, as well as information on each of Australia’s key wine regions and the standout wines from each.

I found this was a great way to expand my knowledge beyond Hunter Valley = great Semillon and Shiraz. In my defence, I’ve spent many a happy weekend in the Hunter Valley – and even got married at Margan Estate, that’s how much we love the Hunter – but with so many great wine regions across Australia, it was clear that there was the opportunity to go deeper.

Wedding at Hunter Valley winery Margan Estate

From my wedding at Hunter Valley winery, Margan Estate

Training my senses

Once I started tasting some of the recommended wine varieties from each region, it quickly became apparent that I needed to concentrate and tap into my broader senses. Evaluating wine isn’t just about whether it tastes good. You need to use your sight to assess colour (for example, a lighter colour is often an indication of higher acidity) and clarity. Smell is a critical element for identifying possible flavours, but also faults like cork taint or other spoilage. The texture of the wine in your mouth helps you to evaluate the body of the wine, as well as how your mouth feels after drinking it – for example, would high levels of tannins strip away fattiness from a meal you enjoy with the wine?


Taking the time to assess the elements of a wine beyond “does it taste nice” has helped me to appreciate wine more deeply.

Buying with confidence

I’ll confess to buying wine in the past based on superficial factors like “ooooo, that’s a funky looking label” and “hahaha, that’s a cheeky name.” And frankly, walking into the bottle shop – or choosing off a wine list – can be intimidating. I mean, how is the average person supposed to choose?

This course though has given me a depth of knowledge about the key varieties that do well in Australia’s wine regions. Suddenly, buying a Black Market deal off Vinomofo (one of my favourite online shopping experiences) doesn’t feel so much like a leap of faith. I can buy a case of Great Southernm Riesling or McLaren Vale GSM or King Valley Prosecco confident in the knowledge that these are standout wines from these regions and a high likelihood of being a bloody good drop.

Where to from here?

It’s safe to say that my layman’s interest in wine has only deepened from doing the Mastering Australian Wine course. By tasting some of the recommendations, I’ve enjoyed wines that I typically would have avoided, such as Rieslings from Clare Valley in South Australia, and learnt about wine regions that I previously knew nothing about, such as the Hilltops area of New South Wales and the Granite Belt area of Queensland. (Yep, Queensland has thriving wine regions, who knew?)

The next obvious step is to continue my wine education with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 in Wine and Spirits. I’m currently looking at dates with a view to undertaking this course later in 2018 and look forward to learning more about wine in a global context. My tutor from Sydney Wine Academy also indicated that they are considering developing a similar course for New Zealand wines, so I’ll certainly be keeping my ear to the ground for developments about that – Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc, anyone?

Cheers, chin-chin, salute

Whatever your preferred phrase is, drinking great wine with friends and loved ones is one of life’s great pleasures. And of course, even the shoddiest wine is made better by fantastic company.


Here’s to drinking great wine, with amazing food and incredible friends. Bottoms up!

Tell me your favourite tipple

Do you have a go-to wine? Or are you more of a beer or spirits person? Or – and no judgement here – are you happier with a mocktail or a cup of tea? Let me know your favourite beverage, be it booze or otherwise, in the comments.