Australian wines have an unpretentious charm that's immediately winning, so down under makes a great place to start an exploration of the wide world of wine.
It's well-known that the Australians are a unique folk, both physically and linguistically. They are entirely capable, for example, of putting a chokehold on a crocodile while simultaneously splaying vowels wide open. They can climb Ayers Rock one morning and take in Così fan tutte at one of the world's great opera houses that evening. Their penchant for extremes has sometimes caused them to be misunderstood, but Aussies don't really worry about their image. They're too busy catching the surf from pristine white beaches and throwing succulent haunches of emu onto the barby.

One thing Australians (and everyone else) take seriously is their wines. Australian wines exemplify, even more than those of California, the voguish "international style" - a style that's as forward and friendly as the Aussies themselves. With a few exceptions, you don't generally find hidden agendas or mysterious nooks and crannies in Australian wines. Some sourpuss critics have found them, if anything, too likeable. Maybe they're just jealous.

The fact is, the easy-to-appreciate qualities of Aussie wines are probably responsible for introducing more people to the pleasures of the vine than, say, the more highfalutin wines of Bordeaux. Here are three whites to get you on your way, mate.
SIMON HACKETT 2000 SEMILLON, BRIGHTVIEW VINEYARD BAROSSA VALLEY ($15)
Semillon is a somewhat overlooked grape variety in most places outside of Bordeaux, France (where it partners with Sauvignon Blanc in Sauternes). But it arrived early in the land down under, possibly by way of South Africa, and carved a distinct niche for itself among Aussies. Although it may be difficult to believe now, at one time Semillon was more widely planted than Chardonnay in Australia. The grape makes fat, rich wines that, unlike many other whites, are capable of aging very nicely in the bottle.