A Couple Of Kooks – The AAVWS 2011

8 Nov

Last week I found myself in the country town of Mildura for the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show, or the AAVWS as it is perhaps more commonly known by the acronymphiles.

I was keen to participate so signed up as a Steward and attempted to prepare myself physically and mentally for the unexpected.

After all, this was the event they titled, “More than just a wine show“.

So I threw on one of my favourite David Bowie albums, Hunky Dory, and pushed play on Track 5 for a little inspiration.

David Bowie, Hunky Dory, album, Pharoah, costume, kooky

Will you stay in a lover’s story

If you stay you won’t be sorry

‘Cause we believe in you

Soon you’ll grow so take a chance

With a couple of Kooks

Hung up on romancing”

Track 5 The Kooks

David Bowie [1971], Hunky Dory

On arrival into Mildura late on Tuesday evening, I was welcomed out of my taxi at the local brewery with a pot of beer by none other than the conglomerate of judges and associates. This dynamic bunch included:

Max Allen (Chairman), Jane Faulkner, Michael Trembath, Tony Harper, Sue Bell, Corrina Wright, David Clarke, Tessa Brown, Melissa Tucker and Kim Chalmers.

The show demanded that each morning we consume a hearty breakfast, after which we would trot down to the local racing showgrounds for their day ahead of judging.

The excitement was palatable as a wide and varied array of wines from Australia were poured to fulfil a range of classes such as Sangiovese, Vermentino, Petit Verdot, Nebbiolo and Fiano, to name the bare minimum. I found the most titillating classes were the ‘Other Whites or Reds’ where you stumbled across more unusual, not-yet-burgeoning varieties on the Australian landscape such as Malvasia in the rich, oxidative style, Garganega, Kerner, Greco, Gruner Veltliner, Tannat, Carmenere, Colorino, Corvina, Teroldego, Lagrein, Negro Amaro, Nero d’Avola, Alicante, and from blends of Chardonnay with Petit Manseng to blends of Vermentino and Fiano with Moscato Giallo.

Très fantastique!

After the arduous slog of putting so many wines through our mouths (the Stewards had the opportunity to try all the wines out the back) we would traipse back to our hotels and get ready for the evening. Nights were spent in either one of three ways:

(a) Wednesday: Eating parmigiana’s and drinking beer with the judges, having a debate and playing darts against Kim ‘Killer‘ Chalmers

(b) Thursday: Consuming a mighty six courses alla griglia with the gang as part of the entertaining Chalmers dinner event hosted under the vines to the sound of authentic accordion music and meeting the delightful Stefano de Pieri

(c) Friday: Dining with a mighty five (six, seven?) courses along with far too much good wine at Stefano’s underground restaurant and having bird-call competitions

Not bad for mid-week festivities and proof that this was not just a wine show.

The fun did not stop there, as the final day also saw the Taste & Talk seminar shed light into the work that viticulturists are doing on Australian soils to improve the quality of these alternative varieties and how they are marketed to consumers.

Mike Hayes of Symphony Hill up on the Granite Belt had an honest talk about the direction the wineries in Queensland are taking with their vineyards and their use of alternative varieties.Through trial and error, he believes that they are working with material that is better for them over other more classically planted varieties such as Chambourcin or Merlot. Mike also has a particularly intriguing project he is developing that if pulled off correctly, could be fascinating. That is a whole other story.

I should mention that the reason the varieties are termed ‘alternative’ is because they are the ones which are yet to become mainstream. Considering that Vermentino has graduated into its own class this year, it will be interesting to see how much time will pass before a variety such as this, which is doing so well in our climate, becomes even more popular on the marketplace.

Vermentino coincidentally came up in lots of discussion as Ashley Ratcliff used trial wines in mini masterclasses to highlight the effect that viticultural techniques such as shoot and bunch thinning can have on the vine either on their own or in combination. Various picking times were also looked at. Another side looked at Vermentino wines from the same vineyard but which were all so markedly different, demonstrating the obvious effect that can be had once the grapes are out of the vigneron’s hands.

An important player with a vital role in this alternative varieties scheme comes from a research and education base and in this years AAVWS it was encouraging to see that some of the wines entered by the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee (RVIC) were the ones that trumped others for awards, such as in the Lagrein and Vermentino classes, where they both won Gold medals. Winemaker Tessa Brown of Kooyong Estate explained it perfectly that the purpose of this show was to ‘lift the average‘ each year so that everybody is working to improve these more unfamiliar varieties and reach that level of quality that we know can be achieved, as proven by the RVIC’s products.

Other key points were discussed by wine writer Max Allen who stated that the future of these varieties will be based in the strength of the regions and lifting the average and quality of these varieties as a region, not comparing them as a collective nation where they will obviously express themselves differently. This is where McLaren Vale is excelling with their most recent wine show and international judge Lisa Perrotti-Brown commenting, “It was an incredibly packed week judging at the McLaren Vale wine show. Got a great overview of the recent vintages and the new trends for this region. A lot of exciting new grape varieties are emerging with less emphasis on vines that clearly can’t excel in this region (eg Sauvignon) and increased plantings of warmer climate / more expressive grapes such as Fiano, Vermentino, Grenache and Mataro.”

Finally, viticulturist Mark Walpole suggested that even though certain varieties are now planted and established on Australian soil, we should also be looking at alternative clonal options that are arriving to trial and cross-compare with.

In the end, the judges found themselves confronted with 36 wines fighting for trophies from the 578 entries that made it into the show.

The Best Wine of Show went to none other than the Adelaide Hills Protero Nebbiolo 2006.


Trophy Winery Wine Vintage Class
The Dr. Rod BONFIGLIOLI BEST WINE OF THE SHOW Protero Wines Nebbiolo 2006 16
BEST RED WINE Protero Wines Nebbiolo 2006 16
BEST WHITE WINE Scott Winemaking Pty Ltd Scott Fiano 2011 7
BEST WHITE ITALIAN VARIETAL Scott Winemaking Pty Ltd Scott Fiano 2011 7
BEST RED ITALIAN VARIETAL Protero Wines Nebbiolo 2006 16
CHAIRMAN’S WINES TO WATCH Clan del Sud Pty. Ltd. Green Man Malvasia 2010 10
BEST BLEND Mount Majura Vineyard Mount Majura Vineyard TSG 2010 18C
BEST COMMERCIAL VOLUME The Yalumba Wine Company Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2011 1A
BEST SPANISH VARIETAL Juniper Estate Juniper Crossing Tempranillo 2010 18A
BEST MURRAY DARLING REGION WINE Robinvale Organic & Bio-Dynamic Wines Kerner 2008 10
STEWARDS CHOICE AWARD Greenstone Vineyard Pty Ltd Colorino 2010 28C
BEST CERTIFIED ORGANIC WINE Robinvale Organic & Bio-Dynamic Wines Kerner 2008 10

After all this alternative talk I think it is time that I leave you, but at least leave you with a notion of accepting that which is perhaps foreign to you.

Ten years ago, people may have scoffed at the idea of Vermentino in Australia.

Look where we are today.

The world needs more kooks.

“‘Cause we believe in you

Soon you’ll grow so take a chance

With a couple of Kooks”

Click here for a personal list of standout wines that I have noted for possible future consumption.

2 Responses to “A Couple Of Kooks – The AAVWS 2011”


  1. A Couple Of Kooks – The AAVWS 2011 « La Donna del Vino | Donne Moda Bellezza - November 11, 2011

    […] more here: A Couple Of Kooks – The AAVWS 2011 « La Donna del Vino Segnala presso: This entry was posted in album, alternative, Bo, de, In, la, lady, of, over, […]

  2. The AAVWS – A post guided by David Bowie « La Donna del Vino - November 27, 2012

    […] year I wrote about my experience as a Steward at the Australian Alternative Varietal Wine Show (AAVWS) with reference specifically to Bowie’s fourth album, Hunky Dory. This year I returned […]

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