Australian grapegrowers and consumers becoming more experimental

The Australian grape and wine community is well known for its experimental and innovative attitudes towards growing and producing wine, Wine Australia explains.

The Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show (AAVWS) is one event that both encourages interest in different varieties and showcases new gems.

With the next AAVWS to be held in Mildura from November 7-10, Wine Australia wanted to gauge what’s happening in this sector.

While there’s ample conversation to be had over a glass of vino or two about whether these varieties should be called ‘alternative’ or ‘new-to-Australia’ or even ‘emerging’ it’s clear that there is an enormous amount of interest in trying something different.

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While viticulturalists and winemakers are the ones leading the way, consumers are willing to try and enjoy new sensations such as Prosecco.

While the vast majority of the wine produced in Australia still comes from a handful of varieties – two-thirds of the 2018 winegrape crush came from four varieties – there are more than 130 wine grape varieties grown across Australia, with 120 making up just 11 per cent of the crush.

Shiraz grape varieties make up the largest portion at 24 per cent, with chardonnay following close by with 23 per cent.

Pinot Noir, Colombard, Muscat Gordo Blanco and Semillon make up the smallest portion – each holding 3 per cent.

A growing number of Australian vignerons and winemakers are expanding beyond the traditional varieties and including a wide range of alternative varieties in their portfolios.

This includes numerous Italian varieties that are now emerging in Australia, such as Prosecco, Sangiovese, Fiano and Vermentino.

While some emerging varieties are planted to respond to changing consumer preferences, others are experimental to counter some of the predicted future impacts of climate change, and for some winemakers it is an ancestral connection to other winegrowing regions around the world.

Prosecco is the fastest growing of the emerging Italian varieties, with the crush growing from 2500 tonnes in 2015 to more than 7000 tonnes in 2018.

This reflects the growth in popularity of Australian Prosecco among Australian wine drinkers.

According to IRI Worldwide, the value of Australian Prosecco sales in the domestic off-trade market almost trebled over the past three years. In comparison, sales of Australian Sangiovese over the same period increased by 2 per cent per annum.

Emerging varieties are grown across Australia’s wine regions, and researchers and grapegrowers are working together to grow the pool of knowledge about where in the world to look for varieties that might suit the varying regional conditions across the Australian continent from Western Australia’s Margaret River to Queensland’s Granite Belt.

Five new directors appointed to Wine Australia board

The five new directors to the Wine Australia board bring a variety of skills including experience in fisheries, livestock and viticulture.

The board will lead the industry with investments in research and development including a $50 million export and regional wine support package.

The new directors were appointed by the Australian minister for agriculture and water resources David Littleproud in late-September.

“The new directors have invaluable experience which will make sure our world class wine industry is a world leader,” said Littleproud.

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The new directors and re-appointments are:

  • Dr Michele Allan, chair of Meat and Livestock Australia and Apple and Pear Australia, non-executive director of Grain Growers and Innovation and Science Australia and chancellor at Charles Sturt University
  • Catherine Cooper, deputy chair of Australian Fisheries Management Authority, deputy chair of the Australian Egg Corporation and director of the Environmental Protection Agency
  • Dr Brian Croser, a winemaker and director of Tapanappa Wines has been reappointed
  • Professor Peter Hoj, vice-chancellor and president of the University of Queensland
  • Cath Oates, owne and operator of Oates Ends and Cath Oates Wine Consulting
  • Mary Retallack, the managing director of Retallack Viticulture has been reappointed
  • Mitchell Taylor, managing director and winemaker at Taylors Wines

Littleproud said the directors will be working hard to increase returns to Australian wine producers by growing local and overseas markets and upholding the industry’s reputation.

The Australian wine industry has set itself an ambitious target to boost wine exports to $3.5 billion and attract 40,000 extra international tourists to our wine regions over three years, he said.

“I’m confident this new board has what it takes to achieve the industry’s goals and will use the research funds available to do the job,” said Littleproud.

The $50m export and regional wine support package comprises four programs which are focused on international marketing campaigns, wine export grants, capability development workshops, state-based and competitive grants, and development of a brand strategy for the cider industry.