Australian grapegrowers and consumers becoming more experimental

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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.