Alternative Varieties for the Australian Wine Industry
In 2018 there was an estimated 1.79 million tonnes of Australian wine grapes crushed worth $1.11 billion dollars (Wine Australia, 2018). Currently the Australian wine industry relies heavily on “traditional” varieties that have been cultivated since the industry began. Most of these varieties originate from France and have been widely planted throughout most of Australia’s 65 wine producing regions. Whilst these varieties are extremely important to the Australian wine industry and will continue to be, there is room to build on the work that has been done to identify and cultivate alternative wine grape varieties that are better suited to the continuous challenges of the Australian environment, a changing climate and a changing consumer palate.
The majority of wine grapes grown in Australia are grown in warm inland regions which require substantial irrigation and nutrition inputs to achieve commercial production levels. In a period of increasing climate variability and potential water insecurity, wine grape varieties that have a tolerance of heat and drought should be considered as an alternative to the varietals that are currently grown.
Challenges to the uptake and adoption of alternative varieties include a lack of viticultural and wine making knowledge, consumer awareness, understanding and pronunciation.
The author travelled to numerous wine regions across six countries to identify and evaluate wine grape varieties that may help Australian grape and wine producers meet these challenges.
Fifty two alternative varieties were identified in Armenia, Georgia, Greece, Portugal and Spain as showing great potential to be cultivated across Australia’s varied climates and wine producing regions.
The varieties identified have; to varying degrees, tolerance of warm to hot temperatures during their growing season, the ability for production in dry climates, the ability to tolerate some vine diseases and the potential to make quality table wine across a range of price points.
This report summarises the viticultural and vinicultural characteristics of the regions visited, and the varieties deemed most suitable for cultivation in Australia.
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