Defining alternative varieties
The Department of Agriculture and Food has been researching alternative varieties in terms of field performance, wine quality, consumer response and opportunities and barriers. This page serves to complement Alternative wine grape evaluation in Western Australia, which provides background on 18 alternative varieties grown in Manjimup and details field performance and wine quality over a number of seasons.
The Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show defines an alternative variety through exclusion of major varieties. That is, alternative varieties are any variety other than Muscat Gordo, Pinot Gris/Grigio (included in 2010), Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, the Cabernet family generally, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Colombard, Grenache and Verdelho.
Excluding these varieties from the 2013 national crush data, alternative varieties accounted for 15% of the national production of that year.
In the 2013 Wine Industry Directory 130 varieties were listed by producers for straight or blended wines that fall into the alternative variety category.
Alternative varieties have a place in the Australian wine industry as they are seen as an alternative to mainstream varietals thus enabling producers to offer consumers something different in terms of aromas, flavours, texture and style. They also offer diversity to wine portfolios, access to niche markets and adaption to a changing climate.
An alternative variety forum hosted by DAFWA was conducted to explore trends, opportunities and barriers concerning alternative varieties in the Australian market place. This forum included gatekeepers crucial to the success and adoption of alternative varieties in the marketplace such as vignerons, winemakers, distributors, sales representatives, retailers, sommeliers and restaurateurs. The following information has been collated from that forum.