Will Plyto, Limniona, Bobal and Areni grape varieties one day take their place alongside Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in the typical Australian vineyard?
2018 Nuffield Scholar Martin Gransden says it makes good business sense that they do.
Martin’s research – supported by Wine Australia – was identifying alternative grape varieties that may better suit Australia’s climate, a changing climate and a changing consumer.
2018 Nuffield Scholar Martin Gransden
His research took him to the hot, dry hills and plains of Greece, Spain and Portugal; to vineyards perched 1600 metres above sea level in Armenia.
Alternative grape varieties can add to the diversity of the Australian wine sector - and potentially better suit some of our growing regions and climates than some of the traditional French cultivars. Currently, 61 per cent of Australia’s total wine grape crush comes from three varieties – Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Martin says while these varieties are extremely important to the Australian wine sector – and will continue to be – he believes there is room to build on the work that has been done to identify and cultivate alternative varieties.
As part of his Nuffield scholarship Martin travelled to Singapore, Philippines, Japan, Israel, The Netherlands and the United States of America (USA) gaining a global perspective on agriculture, food supply, food security, agri-politics and trade before following his individual study on alternative winegrape varieties in Greece, Armenia, Georgia, Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
Martin presented the findings of his research at the Nuffield Australia Conference 2019.
Martin said there were a number of grape varieties that made an impression.
‘Varieties from Greece such as Plyto and Limniona; Bobal and Monstruosa from Spain and Loureiro from Portugal really impressed me with their tolerance of warm to hot growing conditions and their ability to retain good natural acidity levels towards the end of the season’, said Martin, a viticulturist for Cumulus Vineyards Pty Ltd near Orange in the Central West of New South Wales.
‘The red variety Areni from Armenia was impressive in its ability to produce a range of quality and styles from sparkling base at elevations as high as 1600m, to soft consumer-friendly reds at lower elevations around the capital Yerevan.’
Martin said the majority of the grape varieties identified in his final report – to be released soon – are capable of producing quality wines using lower irrigation volumes. They also have varying degrees of tolerance to fungal diseases and heat during the growing season.
‘A few of the 53 varieties identified in the report are currently held in the national grapevine collection and a few are already being grown commercially in Australia.’
Martin said he believed Australian growers risked ‘missing out’ on new markets if they didn’t open their minds to new varieties.
‘My research suggests that wine imports and on-premise sales of alternative varieties are increasing, and many in the trade and younger consumers (Millennials and Generation X) are looking for something different.
- Nuffield Scholar Martin Gransden
He said the introduction of new varieties could make a good fit for small- to medium-size wine businesses, as they had the potential to achieve higher price points in the on-trade and direct-to-consumer markets.
‘Small- and medium-sized wine businesses are also better equipped to overcome some of the challenges of introducing new varieties, such as helping consumers with pronunciation and the adoption of specific growing and vinification techniques.