The AAVWS – A post guided by David Bowie

27 Nov

Myself (associate judge) & Mike Hayes (judge) at the Australia Alternative Varieties Wine Show 2012 – Photography by Luke Birch

Last 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 as an Associate Judge. Seeing as David Bowie is undisputedly the most alternative human being on the planet, I will use him as a means of detailing the highlights of the show again this year.

Space Oddity [1969]

 “Ground Control to Major Tom”

The AAVWS found itself a new leader this year in the form of wine writer, Jane Faulkner, who acted as the Chairman of judges and provided strong leadership and direction. She took the reigns from the bearded wine writer, Max Allen.

‘Up The Hill Backwards’, Scary Monsters [1980]

“Up The Hill Backwards”

The AAVWS is a progressive program and one that focuses on a niche set of the market. Alternative varieties do not get the attention they deserve in any other wine show. Thus the AAVWS acts as a dedicated forum for these alternative or emerging wine varieties and encourages cutting edge judging procedures to bring out the best of the bunch.

The team of AAVWS 2012 judges (from left): Clare Dry, Gabrielle Poy, Stuart Kilmister (Ass.), Sue Bell, Krystina Menegazzo (Ass.), Jane Faulkner, Tony Harper, Mike Hayes and Matt Gant

This is a photo of us judges at the AAVWS, metaphorically heading up the hill backwards with our backs turned away from the vagaries of wine fashion and embracing all things alternative, interesting and delicious.

“Let’s Dance” [1983]

“Let’s Dance”

Nebbiolo has come a long way in this country. It was one of the most exciting brackets of wine I have tried, even though I’m not one to ever get bored with this grape variety. In the end, our team gave five golds out of a total of twenty-two Australian Nebbiolos. That is terribly exciting. So much so, that upon achieving these results, Chairwoman Jane did her Nebbiolo dance. While I don’t have video material to prove it, it basically involves the hip bump, the finger point and a hearty whistling ‘toot toot’.

This was not the only incident of dancing. As we found ourself tasting the Malbec class, Matt  Gant and myself became so enthused about the whole bracket that we broke out into a song inspired by the girls of Salt n’ Pepa. It went a little somethin’ like this:

Let’s talk about Malbec, baby

Let’s talk about you – and – me

Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be

Let’s talk about Malbec…let’s talk about Malbec…let’s talk about Malbec, let’s talk about *insert rap moves and noises of whicky whicky woo*

Finally, the Judges dinner at Stefano de Pieri’s restaurant was a highlight where  at some ungodly hour I was seen singing Abba’s ‘Dancing Queen‘ and doing the finger point movements with Dr Peter Dry on the opposite side of the table. Apparently he did a performance on a cruise ship with his wife not too long ago and this was one of those opportunities where he could show off his moves. It wasn’t captured on camera, but the night’s events are firmly ingrained into my memory.

“Future Legend” from Diamond Dogs [1974]

“Future Legend”

There are a great number of varieties that continue to improve and impress as the years go on. Wine judges like Matt Gant and Tony Harper, who have judged at this show in the past, were able to rave about the varieties that have come leaps and bounds since the first wines appeared on the scene. Examples of this included Nero d’Avola, Graciano, Vermentino, Tempranillo and even the great number of white and red blends.

“Changes” from Hunky Dory [1971]


As we came to the conclusion of our judging, it became clear that the show system would have to evolve in order to accommodate the development of certain varieties. In the end, the Best Nebbiolo Trophy was inaugurated in order to highlight how far the variety has come and to separate it from the other reds which also deserve an award but are not yet competing at the same level as Nebbiolo. While some of these varieties are still in their infancy stages, who knows, one day there may be a need to introduce a Tempranillo trophy in the future.

“Quicksand” from Hunky Dory [1971]


Once the judging process was completed, it was time for the Talk & Taste venture. The loveliest aspect of this event was that you found yourself immersed in an energetic and curious community all gathered in that nugget of Mildura.

“Starman” from The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars [1972]


The big winner of the show was Stephen Pannell from S.C.Pannell in the Adelaide Hills for his 2008 Nebbiolo. I was quite proud to see this as our wine of the show. I had been in the initial judging team to look at these wines and of course we all put this through in the collection of definite golds. However the final trophy judging process was exhilarating because we did not silently vote on these wines. Instead there was great discussion when it came to the Nebbiolos as we began to eliminate which ones we thought deserved the most praise. Every opinion is considered and respected and supported by ample discussion. This meant that while there may have initially been a clear dividing line over favourite wines, through passionate debate and lengthy conversation, the right wines came through. The results speak for themselves.

Jane Faulkner, Stephen Pannell and Louisa Rose. Photography by Luke Birch.

Congratulations, Pannell. You deserve that trophy for such a cracking wine.

“Loving The Alien” from Tonight [1984]

“Loving The Alien”

The AAVWS is an inclusive, community-minded show. I found myself loving the weird and the wonderful,whether that be in the form of the Lagrein, the Graciano, the Lambrusco or even the Aglianico Rose’. In the end they are all incredibly delicious wines that are proving beneficial to some regions and climates where traditionally planted varieties are no longer viable.

The AAVWS…it’s more than just a wine show.

La Donna del Vino Twitter during the AAVWS:

6th Nov: “Appropriately wearing alternative shoes before I fly to Mildura for the #AAVWS 

6th Nov: “One of the more stomach-churning regional flights I’ve had but hey, I’M ALIVE! See you soon @winematters #AAVWS

7th Nov: “And we’re off #AAVWS with 2011/12 Tempranillo. Sitting on the boxer-inspired Panel B called Ali.

7th Nov: “Multicultural party in my mouth @ the #AAVWS w Aglianico, Saperavi, Tempranillo, Durif, Touriga blends & Graciano in tow. Hmm, when’s lunch?”

7th Nov: “Ending 1st day of #AAVWS judging alternative variety Rosé <7g/L residual. Reward will be a beer and a nap in the sun.”

8th Nov: “Not only is the sun a shinin’ on Mildura, but the first #AAVWS session is shining the light on some rocking Aussie San-Jo-Vay-Zee”

8th Nov: “Twenty-two Aussie Nebbiolo. Get in ma belly #AAVWS

8th Nov: “GOLD GOLD GOLD GOLD GOLD to a handful of bangin’ Australian Nebbiolos. Very nice! #AAVWS


9th Nov: “Drama during #AAVWS trophy judging. “Macho macho man…”

9th Nov: “#AAVWS judging done and dusted. Positive results all around. Judges looking happy. Enjoying the tannin antidote -beer!

9th Nov: “This is what food I’m putting in my mouth tonight @StefanodePierirestaurant #yeahbaby

9th Nov: “Barry White in my mouth “Can’t get enough of your love baby”#judgesdinner #AAVWS #Stefanos 

One Response to “The AAVWS – A post guided by David Bowie”

  1. avid reader November 27, 2012 at 9:48 AM #

    Love the mix of wine & music interest. awesome mix up :0)
    Must go to Mildura one of these days too.

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