Emerging wine grape varieties: opportunities, barriers and potential

Page last updated: Friday, 15 October 2021 - 10:01am

Barriers

Support through the supply chain is key. Production needs to ensure a consistent quality product, distributors and sales representatives are equally important to the success of a new variety through education and promotion.

It is a challenge to introduce consumers to an unfamiliar variety. Initially there will be some market resistance.

A variety's name can be a factor in success. Being difficult to pronounce is a consideration. The harder the name to spell and pronounce, the more resources required to educate consumers but it can be overcome.

Availability of varieties and clonal material can be an issue. The process of importing grapevine material into Western Australia can take up to two years to pass through necessary quarantine measures. Accessibility and the length of time involved in establishing new varieties should be considered.

Potential

Investment in new varieties for wine businesses is substantial. With information from field trials and sensory evaluations, each one of the 21 varieties from the DPIRD led evaluations has been categorised in terms of potential for adoption based on their preformance at Manjimup and Harvey.

High, medium and low potential is indicated (listed alphabetically within each category). The tables below provide brief comment on the attributes that have contributed to the varieties categorisation.

Performance of alternative wine varieties grown at Manjimup in Western Australia

Variety

Colour

Summary

High potential

Arneis

White

Performs well in Manjimup. Low disease susceptibility and moderate yields. Wines are fine and delicate.

Barbera

Red

Consistently performed well viticulturally. Juice tends to be high in acid which may prove an issue in cooler years, however wines have scored highly from both judges and consumers. A variety with pedigree.

Lagrein

Red

Vines have consistently yielded well. Moderate sensitivity to powdery mildew. Wines show great concentration rewarded by good wine show scores and positive responses from consumers.

Pinot Gris

White

Judges and consumers have validated popularity through high scores. No longer classified as an alternative variety as of 2010.

Saperavi

Red

Wines have outstanding colour, scored well with both judges and consumers. Viticulturally typified by small canopies and loose bunches with a degree of berry shrivel  in most years.

Tannat

Red

Requires additional management due to secondary crops and moderate disease susceptibility. Wines are soft and flavoursome, appreciated by both judges and consumers.

Medium potential

Brachetto

Rosè

Has not performed consistently, with some years producing next to no crop. Wines best made in a rosè style with distinct floral, muscat characters reminiscent of pink moscato style.

Durif

Red

Compact bunches lead to botrytis issues. Vines perform well but conditions in Manjimup are challenging for ideal ripeness. Wines are sound but lack varietal traits produced in warmer climates.

Fer

Red

Very late ripening. Struggles to reach optimal ripeness but has good disease resistance. Wines scored well by consumers favouring the medium to light-bodied, fruit forward style.

Hárslevelü

White

Distinct upright growth with very large bunches. Variety succumbs to powdery mildew in most years. Wines were typified as floral and perfumed indicating potential to produce distinct wines in a warmer region.

Savagnin Blanc

White

Productive vines with low disease susceptibility. Juice is prone to oxidation and suspected to contain high levels of protein. Judges commented on the attractive palate texture. Possibly will perform better in slightly warmer region.

Scheurebe

White

Vines performed well in Manjimup with good crop levels and moderate disease susceptibility. Fruit is low in acid at harvest and suitable for dry and sweet styles. Ideally suited to cool regions, wines reminiscent of Riesling but with lower acidity.

Tempranillo

Red

High vigour requires additional canopy management. Produced high scoring wines picked at elevated sugar levels. Expected and proven to perform better in a warmer site or region.

Vermentino

White

Showed low disease susceptibility but late ripening. Wines were fine but not distinctly varietal. Requires warmer climate to reach potential.

Viognier

White

Performed well in Manjimup making distinct varietal wines. Some susceptibility to botrytis due to later harvest.

Low potential

Furmint

White

Consistently poor fruit set, high susceptibility to powdery mildew.

Gamay

Red/rosè

Tight bunches lead to susceptibility to botrytis. Wines have been lowly scored at shows and not well received in consumer surveys.

Kadarka

Red

Failed in every year to reach sugar and colour ripeness. No wines have been made for assessment.

 

Performance of alternative wine varieties grown at Harvey (Wokalup) in Western Australia
Variety Colour Summary

High potential

Arneis

White

Low yields, small berries and small tight bunches. Good acid retention, wines show citrus, orchard fruits and floral notes. Gold to bronze medals received. Over watering was found to be detrimental to its ability to achieve optimal ripeness.

Harslevelu

White

Distinctive upright growth, moderate to high yielding, medium sized berries with thin skins and medium to large sized loose bunches. Sensitive to powdery mildew and sun damage. Produces aromatic wines with citrus and floral notes. Requires minor acid adjustment and likely not be suited to warmer or drier climates than Geographe.  Gold and silver medals received.

Lagrein

Red

Inconsistent yields, sprawling canopy, medium sized berries and medium sized loose bunches. Produces high quality wine characterised by deep colour, great concentration, dark fruits, spice and fine powdery tannins. Awarded gold and silver medals.

Saperavi

Red

Moderate yields, small berries and medium sized bunches of medium to low compaction. Low vigour, berries remove easily from the rachis and can shrivel later in the season. Highly coloured variety, good acidity producing perfumed concentrated wines featuring dark berries and fine tannins. Gold, silver and bronze medals awarded.

Scheurebe

White

Moderate yields, medium sized berries and small tight bunches. Prone to sun damage and bunch rot if conditions conducive. Highly aromatic wines suited to all levels of sweetness. Wines received golds, silver and bronze medals. “Like Riesling without the high acid”.

Sciacarello

Rosè / Red

Medium sized yields, large berries and large compact bunches. Low coloured variety makes a distinct light body red and rose. Wines are spicy, savoury with complimenting red berries. Unique.

Vermentino

White

High yields, large berries and large compact bunches. Good acid retention. Wines can lack depth and interest without some skin and lees contact. Silver and bronze medals awarded.

Medium potential

Brachetto

Rosè

Very early ripening and a favourite of birds, only one season of observations made. Similar findings to those from Manjimup; irregular yielding, medium sized berries and bunches. Light red / pink in  colour, Muscat flavour variety best suited to rose style wines and possibly sparkling.

Carménerè

Red

Medium yields, small berries and medium sized bunches of moderate compaction. Low acidity. Wines feature berry, herbal and savoury notes. Silver and bronze medals awarded. Suited for Bordeaux blends and single varietal wines.

Dolcetto

Red

Sprawling growth habit, medium sized berries, medium to large bunches and high yields. Retains acid well and suited to medium to light bodied wines styles. Wines typified by red berries and savoury notes.

Durif

Red

High yields, medium sized berries with medium sized medium to high compact bunches. Susceptible to bunch rot but holds acid well. Wines have good colour and feature concentrated dark fruits.

Fer

Red

Inconsistent yields, shows good disease resistance. Small berries with medium sized compact bunches. Compared spur to cane pruning with no apparent difference in yield. Wines show similarities to Cabernet Sauvignon in the herbal/savoury spectrum. Good colour, suited to blending and straight varietal wine. A Saperavi / Fer blend received gold medal score.

Fiano

White

Very low yields restricted a full evaluation. Small thick skinned berries and small loose bunches. Good acid retention, wines range from citrus to stone fruit spectrum and benefit from subtle oak integration.

Graciano

Red

Moderate yields, small berries and large bunches of medium compaction. On spur pruned vines, shoots have thick diameters, very few rogue shoots eliminating the need for shoot thinning producing an open canopy. Retains acid well, wines show savoury, spice and berry characters. Silver and bronze medals awarded.

Pignoletto

White

Moderate yields, medium sized berries and bunches. Good vigour and disease resistance. Traditionally used for sparkling wines but not explored in this trial. Table wines were textural showing melon and floral attributes. Silver to bronze medals received.

Montepulciano

Red

Medium sized berries and small medium compact bunches. Displayed good disease resistance but slow to establish which may be cause of the small bunches and yield. Retains acid well, wines are deeply coloured with lifted violets, blue fruits and chalky tannins.

Savagnin Blanc

White

High yields, small berries and medium sized tight bunches. High acid variety, malleable in the winery in terms of wine styles. 

Tannat

Red

Vigorous growth with heavy yields. Medium sized berries with large compact bunches. Bronze medal wines typified with good colour, chalky tannins and red fruits.

Low potential

 

Alicante Bouschet

Red

Pigmented juice, extreme dark inky colour. Huge bunches, compact and succumb to bunch rot in most years. Possible use as blending variety for increasing colour but aroma and palate attributes not shown to be sufficient quality for a single varietal wine.

Kadarka

Red

Performed poorly. Thin skins, never achieved optimum ripeness before disease impacted fruit quality.


 

Further reading

ABS, Vineyard Estimates, Australia 2012 (cat. no. 1329.0.55.002), Australian Bureau of Statistics, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

Bruwer, J, Li, E and Reid, M 2002, Segmentation of the Australian Wine Market Using a Wine-Related Lifestyle Approach, Journal of Wine Research, 13:3, 217-242.

Dry, P Alternative Varieties – sourcing key viticultural, wine and market information, 2010, GWRDC, South Australia.

Kennison, K and Fennessy, R 2011, Evaluation of alternative wine grape varieties in Manjimup Western Australia, Department of Agriculture and Food, Bulletin 4824.

Levine, M and Pownall, S 2004, Wine Industry Outlook: Consumption Demographics, Market Segmentation, Trends and Opportunities, 2004 Wine Industry Outlook Conference, Darling Harbour, Sydney.

The Australian and New Zealand Wine Industry Directory, 2013, Winetitles, South Australia.

 

Contact information

Richard Fennessy
+61 (0)8 9780 6219

Author

Richard Fennessy