Everyone knows of the big wine-growing regions of the world: Napa/Sonoma, France, Italy. But when it comes to reds – since a certain Paul Giamatti movie came out in 2004 touting the superiority of pinot noir – the delicate varietal’s popularity has been on the rise. And granted, pinot routinely makes for great light (for a red at least) wine, with flavors ranging from delicately smoky to bolder fruit flavors or even herbal-ly green notes, all with a subtlety and nuance that can give even the most experienced sommelier’s taste buds a workout.

While the grape is actually a Burgundian native, it has flourished in cooler parts of the United States – including parts of California and Oregon – specifically because it can be finicky and doesn’t tolerate heat very well. With all of that taken into consideration, it may seem counterintuitive, but Australia (and especially the Victoria, mainland Australia’s smallest and southeastern-most state) makes very good, well-balanced pinots.

If you’re even remotely into wine, you’ve probably heard the word terroir thrown around, and you know the impact it can have on wine. Because the grape specifically needs hot days and cool nights, and is susceptible to both freezing in the cold air and burning in the heat, making pinot noir wine can be a difficult affair that is entirely dependent upon the weather during the growing year for each specific vineyard. Like California, Australia has lots of pocket regions with their own microclimates and terroirs (quite a few of which are colder than even France), allowing for a wide range of grapes to be grown there, from the heat-loving cabernet sauvignon (arguably California’s bread and butter when it comes to wine) right on down the line to more delicate varietals like riesling.

While French and American pinots can be bold, fruity affairs, on the whole Australian pinots are a little more restrained, resulting in wines that are generally lighter in body and nicely nuanced in flavor and aroma. But because of those microclimates I mentioned earlier, there are massive differences in wines made from grapes just a few miles apart.

Take, for example, Giant Steps 2008 Pinot ($15). It’s grown in the Yarra Valley and produces a light-bodied, juicy wine with strawberry and cherry nuances and a spicy finish. While price is usually a good indicator of quality in pinots (The general rule is to beware of those under $20.), it’s a more than acceptable, drinkable wine. It’s definitely smooth and light, but it’s also relatively simple, so if you’re used to big California reds, you might prefer something with a little more oomph.

On the other end of the spectrum, just about 60 miles away from Yarra is Macedon, home to Bindi Vineyards, one of Victoria’s most important wineries. Nestled up in the Macedon Mountain Ranges, grapes here get a good dose of cold, making for a more focused wine with a lot of textured layers of flavor. Of course, at $55, you’ll pay for the wine’s finesse, but if you’re looking for a wine that can stand on its own or pair up with a special dinner, it’s worth the price tag.

There are lots of other Victorian wines with prices and bodies that fall between these two extremes, like Kooyong ($27), whose location on the Mornington Peninsula exposes the grapes to sea breezes, resulting in a slightly salty smelling, herbal pinot whose sharp tannins mellow out as the wine sits. If you prefer your pinots on the heavier side, then head on over to Tasmania and check out Frogmore Creek ($19), for pinot with an almost California cabernet body (It’s a little warmer here.), with notes of berries and spice.

Unfortunately, these great wines are still a little hard to find out here, so if you want to try them out at home, you’ll have to check out the specialty wine shops like the Wine House (2311 Cotner Ave., Los Angeles; winehouse.com). But there are a growing number of restaurants carrying Australian pinots, so if you see one on the wine list, don’t hesitate to try it out.

So whether you’re just looking for something new (and [yellow tail] hasn’t scared you off Australian wine) or trying to impress that cute Aussie girl on your first date at Spago, there’s a whole world of Australian pinot out there, just waiting to be discovered.