This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Australian Alternative Varieties Wineshow (AAVWS) in Mildura. Now that’s a feat because it is still going successfully.

In a country where there is a wine show of some kind almost every week of the year this one has maintained its presence.

However, the interest in this show has been aided by the growth in planting new varieties, being mainly the developing interest of competent nurseryman Bruce Chalmers.

Within a short period of time Bruce had built up an enormous repository of sangiovese and other Italian varieties, clone by clone that became available to the Australian grape growing public.

This came about by forming a trading link with two major commercial Italian nurseries who supplied direct access to planting material equal to that used by any local Italian grape producer.

Those early AAVWS events did not receive the support of the country’s major wine producers but now I can confidently report that the 2009 show has turned the interest around in spectacular fashion.

And that has to be when you see a terrific Jacob’s Creek Tempranillo 2008 on the market at AUD $9.

Granite Belt winemaker Peter Stark of Boireann is not a regular exhibitor in Australian wine shows yet he entered in the AAVWS with two wines this year and made the trek to Mildura to join the hilarity of dressing down at presentation time. And of course enjoy the local fare of star chef Stefano de Pieri who showcases these varietal wines.

Peter says: “As a producer growing new varieties and wishing to diversify some more, I found it positively intriguing with the level of wine style development in this country in such a short time space. So many varieties will become outstanding wine examples.”

From Peter’s standpoint its’ a matter of what becomes commercial. He currently grows entirely red varieties-barbera, nebbiolo, tannat, mourvedre and contract-makes sagrantino.

The stars of the show were nebbiolos, which is interesting given the host of Australian winemakers who have trekked to Barolo to observe this difficult and tannic grape in its home setting. SC Pannell Nebbiolo 2007 (AUD $50) took out Best Italian varietal and Best Red Wine of the Show with an Adelaide Hills origin wine. The same wine went on to gain Best Wine of Show and stamp itself as a great nebbiolo.

Another nebbiolo business of interest and with good sommelier following is Peter Gooden’s La Linea company’s brand Arrivo; and whose less priced Arrivo Nebbiolo 2007 (AUD $60) took gold and out-pointed his single vineyard Arrivo Lunga Macerazione 2007 (AUD $115) which took silver.

Peter Stark entered his Boireann La Cima Barbera 2008 (AUD $45), a deftly varietal style with the normal cutting acidity and texture. Peter said “I questioned the decision of the judges when a 15.5% alcohol Barbera scored a gold; and in sync with the trending down of alcohols, was told by the chief judge that it was ok!”

His Shiraz Tannat 2008, 55%/45% (AUD 45) fared better in the full bodied blend class with bronze.

The AAWS have started to sort out the market confusion with pinot grigio/gris by splitting the two styles as “dry, crisp and crunchy” for grigio and “rich and full bodied” for gris-taking into account that exhibitors are quite likely to have the labelling reversed for the style! This variety has become the dominant white variety of the show.

It is still a small show with 600 entries but will continue to create enormous exhibitor interest as the development ground for new wine styles in the coming decade. . However wines from Fosters and Constellation are now appearing in the entry list.

Meanwhile, former nurseryman Bruce Chalmers has now sold his propagation interests, and can be found in North Queensland, missing the tough Murray sunscope but selling alternative wine varieties internationally under the Murray Darling brand;

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