Europeans settlers in the Australian colonies had a reputation of being heavy drinkers. Rum dominated during the first few decades, followed by beer. It took until the 1970s before Australia’s annual per capita consumption of wine exceeded 10 litres, and even then wine represented only one-fifth of national alcohol consumption. But over the next two decades per capita wine consumption nearly trebled and beer consumption shrunk – the opposite of what happened to global alcohol consumption shares. This paper draws on newly compiled datasets (a) to reveal that Australia was not much more alcoholic than Britain or southern Europe during the nineteenth century and (b) to help explain why it took so long for a consumer interest in wine to emerge in Australia.