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Americans adore Australian wines, purchasing them more often than almost any other import. The reasons are easy to see. For one, because Australian quality is so consistently reliable, consumers snatch bottles off the shelf with a confidence bordering on reckless abandon. What's more, the typical style of Australian wine couldn't be better suited to American palates. Big and generous, and featuring powerful fruit flavors, many Australian wines have a fresh appeal that's almost irresistible.

Technological embrace: Unmatched innovation in winemaking technology has also been a factor in placing Australia at the forefront of the world wine scene. Australians haven't been bashful about flying all over the globe in search of the best techniques and equipment. Thumbing their noses at many traditional European concepts while embracing a few of the old guard's best ideas has proven to be an unbeatable strategy for producing the bold style of wine so many now prefer.

Winning varietals. Australia staked its earliest fame by crafting world-class Shiraz, a full-flavored red variety known elsewhere as Syrah. Dependably delectable Australian Shiraz can be found at all price points-from inexpensive, mass-market brands on up to budget-busting bottles.

Great Australian wine doesn't begin and end with Shiraz. Award-winners are currently being made from just about every major variety, in every corner of the country. The only problem is how to sift through this ocean of delicious abundance. Broadly speaking, bigger tends to be better when it comes to Australian-grown varietals, and full-bodied palate poppers such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay-in addition to Shiraz-are cornerstones to always keep in mind.

Now, if you're looking for something different, think about uncorking a mysterious, dry white Semillon from Australia's Hunter Valley. Many claim it has the unmistakable, toasty flavor of oak aging, even in versions that haven't seen a thing but cold, hard stainless steel.

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