VineFinders’ databases provide…
We update, amend, extend and delete information on a daily basis, but did this summary of listings in regions (alphabetically by state) on 7 September 2009:
WESTERN AUSTRALIA WINE REGIONS
Blackwood Valley 30 locations
* the Great Southern Wine Region includes the following sub-regions: Frankland River, Denmark, Mount Barker, Porongorup & Albany
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN WINE REGIONS
Adelaide Hills 210 locations
VICTORIAN WINE REGIONS
Alpine Valleys 53 locations
TASMANIAN WINE REGIONS
Coal River Valley 86 locations
Bathurst 14 locations
Central & North Qld 34 locations
NORTHERN TERRITORY REGION
and awaits the opening of a boutique brewery that has planning approval in Darwin.
GI ZONES, REGIONS & SUB-REGIONS
Australia has an officially-sanctioned confusion of geographically-indicated (“GI”) Zones, Regions and Sub-regions. It’s detailed by the administrators, the Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation (AWBC) and attempts to give integrity to regional names in wine labelling, and to enhance consumer understanding. To summarise very briefly:
OFFICIAL GI ZONES
31 Zones cover the whole country, generally with contiguous boundaries (that is, they but up against one another). Exception has been made for some “commercial” and multi-regional wines for example, the zone “South Eastern Australia” incorporates the whole of the states of NSW, Vic. and Tas. and only part of Qld and SA. Few pay serious attention to these zones except where as for Tasmania and Gippsland a complete Zone is more popularly referred to as a Region.
OFFICIAL GI REGIONS
64 Regions include most but not all popularly recognised wine regions, including some obscure regions. No regions overlap, and many vineyards are not represented by any region. Queensland and Tasmanian vineyards have no official region (their Zones are sometimes called regions, and sometimes are broken unofficially into smaller “Regions”) the same applies to Gippsland. Emerging “wine regions” such as Ballarat and Bathurst have yet to gain the critical mass to go to the incredible expense of becoming an official GI Region. So while “Wine Regions” are the popular geographic breakdown, the whole classification is complicated.
OFFICIAL GI SUB-REGIONS
12 Sub-regions (a discrete part of a single region) have been gazetted, while the hundred or more others have not attempted expensive and time-consuming gazettal, usually to provide a marketing advantage for its perceived superior reputation.
MAPPING OFFICIAL GI REGIONS
The official GI Regions are in the coloured areas shown below. As explained above, prime vineyard areas including Tasmania, Gippsland, Ballarat & Bathurst are not part of any of the 64 regions, and hence are not coloured.
HOW HAS VINEFINDERS DISPLAYED ALL THIS?
To say it was easy is a lie. Where do you start in attempting to provide a fair geographical classification of Australian vineyards? We set these objectives:
a. to be inclusive, so that every vineyard we know of in Oz, would be displayed on a regional view through our search engine
You will see we carefully skirted the key question of terroir, as we can’t afford the legal fees defending ourselves from irate vignerons! Of course we have opinions… Similarly, we avoided accepted notions of tourism regions, touring routes etc. we tried to be practical and, in an attempt to be understood we substituted some official names (such as Upper Goulburn region) for a more descriptive, less-confusing alternative (Victorian High Plains).
We ended up with 85 regions! You may view each one, with vineyard locations precisely on the searchable regionalised map engine usually accessed from our Home page.
OK, that’s far too many, and there are many compromises. As a rough guide we adopted most of the official GI Regions, added a couple of Zones which weren’t represented in regions, and divided Queensland into 5 regions, and Tasmania into 7 (Yes, it could be argued that the 333 Tas locations could have been one region, but we had some special knowledge of the state, and it would have been our biggest region!)
The Northern Territory has just 2 records mapped, while the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and the Barossa (separate from the Eden Valley) have around 200 locations, while the Hunter has over 300 and hence it takes a little longer to download and appear on your screen!
Wine Regions Table - this spreadsheet illustrates how we have dealt with the varying demands of regionality, terroir, compactness and mapability.
WHAT IS "cool climate"; WHAT IS NOT COOL?
In July, wine industry analyst Tony Keys began a debate around the claims by regions to cool climate and quality. Under a heading "Friendly opinion" (The Key Report - 5 August 2010) excerpts were printed. Her is the whole article…
"Cool climate" has become one of the holiest of the holier-than-thou mantras, and at least as many claimants that should be defrocked as there are Catholic priests!
The AWBC says "the cooler climate areas are all regions except the three warm inland areas (Riverland, Riverina and Murray Darling-Swan Hill)".
CSIRO reported earlier this month that SA and Vic grapes are ripening 23 days earlier on average than seven decades ago, leading to much higher alcohol levels. The ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) phenomenon has been put down to big alcoholic over-oaked examples but, given the diversity of Chardonnays in Australia, perhaps ABC better means "A Big Country". Few can doubt that the wine industry is moving south faster than the "great man" James Halliday can say Coldstream Hills. Witness the growth of WA's Great Southern vs the Swan Valley, the Canberra District vs the Hunter, and the growth of unrecognised wine regions such as Ballarat and Bathurst, which do not even have geographically-indicated (GI) region status. But then neither do Gippsland or Tasmania, which are merely Zones and not Regions is the mish-mash confusion of overlapping Zones and Regions - which have numerous climatic anomalies within and beside each other. But back to defining "cool climate".
The International Cool Climate Wine Show (ICCWS) - sponsored by the Mornington Peninsula shire - has a more sophisticated definition based on any one of three parameters:
The International Cool Climate Wine Symposium (will it also be ICCWS?) - to be held in Tasmania in 2012 - is now the subject of "sour grapes" coming from your anonymous correspondent. What right do they have to host it (other than having just "won" it by their presentation in Seattle)?
Squabbles between regions, whether over representation of NSW wine amongst regional representatives, or of where symposiums should rightly be held, are counter-productive. Defining "cool climate' would best be done by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and based on science, geography, terroir and on knowledge of the locations of Australian vineyards. Vinefinders has travelled with GPS equipment and recorded latitudes for over 5,000 Australian vineyards ranging from -43.419 to -15.42 decimal degrees, and altitudes of Australian vineyards up to 1155 metres. Each one has geo-coded and matched to the nearest BOM weather station ensuring that, after the science has been done, any vineyard's claims to "cool climate' status are not awry!
The sustainability of vineyards in particular regions, exacerbated by water shortages, climate change and chronic over-supply, will remain great debates. Should cool-climate vineyards be included in the 20% of vineyard area needed to be pulled? Sustainability is a question of size, production costs and other factors such as ownership structures - but above all it is about quality and avenues to market.
In the meantime, perhaps this can be looked at in another way. While awaiting the scientific answers we can adopt the empirical approach. Does the price gained for fruit match with climatic definitions of the AWBC, ICCWS, or the cri-de-coueur of your anonymous correspondent?
The AWBC has just published an easily-read analysis of the prices obtained by growers for the major grape varieties from all regions in Australia. While, as above, the sustainability of vineyards is dependent on so many factors, it showed (as an example) that the undoubtedly cool-climate Tasmanian growers received prices averaging greater than $2000/tonne for:
REGIONALITY & the DEVELOPMENT OF WINE REGIONS
May 2010 MT GAMBIER APPLIES FOR GI REGION STATUS
The Mt Gambier area is SA’s far south-east is the latest wine region to apply to become a distinct Geographically-Indicated (GI) Wine Region, within the greater Limestone Coast Zone. The AWBC has yet to make a ruling.
October 2009 - WHICH GI ZONE REPRESENTS THE FULL GAMUT OF AUSTRALIAN WINE STYLES?
In October’s 44-page Australia supplement to Harpers Wine & Spirits (UK) magazine, which focused on Victoria, Max Allen rightly claimed: “without leaving the state, I can cater to every possible drinking occasion: from crisp, late-disgorged sparkling to ageworthy, fragrant Riesling; breezy Pinot Grigio; and complex wheatmealy Chardonnay. Then to supple and foresty Pinot Noir; spicy, peppery Syrah; solid, chunky Shiraz; tangy, savoury Sangiovese and Nebbiolo; pitch-black Durif; stunning late-harvested Riesling; unctuous rare Muscat and Tokay… the world in a glass”.
Max has eloquently put forward the argument for his home state, but two months ago we explored on this website which GI Wine Zone best represented Australian wine styles. We’d been set thinking when Eliza Brown (of All Saints & St Leonards) wrote to us (21 August 09):
Perhaps VineFinders should split the two regions, but they do produce similar wine styles. Yet, in contra-indication to that, the Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation’s geographically-indicated (GI) Zone of NE Victoria would encompasses the following diverse GI Regions and terroirs:
Rutherglen most famous for its fortifieds
Of the 31 GI Zones across Australia perhaps no other zone can claim such a range of terroirs to produce quality wines in the variety of styles represented?
November 2009 - REGIONS & VIGNERONS FACE THE REALITY OF CLIMATE CHANGE
The two-year-long Hunter Valley Wine Industry Climate Change Case Study reported in October that the Hunter Valley should explore planting alternative grape varieties to combat rising temperatures, spring frosts and a higher risk of disease, due to climate change. As well, grape growers may have to explore new locations for vineyards and change their layouts to counter the risk of more extreme weather events, said the report.
In Decanter magazine’s 21 October report, the first two responses on their website provoked VineFinders to contribute this piece published at www.decanter.com/news/290780.html:
Meanwhile, on 28 November it was reported that France’s Champagne district average temps over the growing season were:
But then climate change believers are all just "Bollinger bolsheviks" and "champagne socialists". And the true believers in our Liberal Party and their love of the mother country will be rewarded when Britain overtakes the frogs in sparkling production and Britannia Bubbles rule the world.
5-6 September - BATTLING THE BLANDS
“Battling the blands” was the apt header for a Max Allen piece in the Weekend Australian (5-6 Sept), analyzing the current collapse of the image of Oz wine in overseas markets. Australian Vintage Limited (parent company of McGuigan Wines) had asserted that “Wine Australia’s focus should be on style rather than regionality… the regionality strategy is flawed". Max rebuffed their suggestion that we should focus on styles and that the AWBC's regionality focus was wrong.
VineFinders is unequivocally about regionality who else has travelled the wine regions and mapped 5,000+ vineyards into 85 distinct wine regions, but we also support “personality” not just through regional expression, but also the need for personalities around which wines and wine regions are built. Hence we applaud the August formation of Australia’s First Families of Wine 12 family-owned “icon brands” spread across four states.
Wolf Blass, on his 75th birthday on 2 September, entered the fray by suggesting Australia is “creating a fruit salad of grape varieties and confusing the public” and suggested we should concentrate on producing Riesling and “the red varieties for which it is best known Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon”. Having built markets for wine in Australia with white spritzers in the ‘60s, he believes our export industry should target Asia with similar styles. That just leaves 150+ other Grape Varietiesthat Vinefinders has found planted commercially in Australian vineyards.
21 & 22 July 2009 - WCA LECTURE BY FELICITY CARTER OFFERS SOLUTIONS FOR THE IMAGE OF OZ WINE
Amazing! Australian wine has an identity crisis overseas with, for example, retailers claiming Oz wine is overpriced and offering their customers bottles of Australian "three buck chuck" - yes, for $3! An industry in crisis, and when someone uniquely placed to offer solutions puts her head above the parapet, vested interests take pot-shots! Australian Felicity Carter edits Meininger's Wine Business International magazine, and gave eloquent addresses in Sydney & Melbourne to the Wine Communicators of Australia (WCA). Rich in content, comprehensive in analysis, Felicity pulled no punches. Attendees were all in admiration, including VineFinders! To read about how we are seen in overseas markets, how we can better promote ourselves, four ways to promote regional distinctiveness, the Australian brand, and the need for personalities and ambassadors, read the lecture at www.winecommunicators.com.au
VineFinders was so incensed by the carping xenophobia of an editor of a leading wine newsletter that, after cooling down over the weekend, Dick Friend fired off this response.
VineFinders quest to promote terroir and regional diversity through its mapping of 85 wine regions, showing the locations of vineyards in each, must also be reviewed - while the seven sub-regions of Tasmania shown have different ripening characteristics and varietal suitability, does anyone really care?
9 July 2009 TRADEMARKING REGION & SUB-REGION NAMES
Back in 2005, Andrew Harris Wines (Hunter Valley) attempted to trademark a wine brand called “Regions”. Fortunately Fosters opposed the application, arguing the word is “primarily descriptive and therefore not adapted to distinguish and single traders wine”. On 9 July 2009, Fosters defeated this cheeky move for “regionality is the grammar of wine”.
As if it isn’t confusing enough already? Officially Australia has 31 Wine Zones, 64 Wine Regions and 12 Sub-regions all geographically-indicated (described as GIs) and gazetted under an agreement with the European Union to protect wine names. But according to an ABC News item (3 July 2009), in a separate legal process altogether, the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association is moving to protect sub-region names by trademarking “Belford” and “Mount View”, in reaction to Foster’s having trademarked “Rothbury” as a brand, despite selling its vineyard there in 2006! The only gazetted GI Sub-region in the Hunter at present is Broke-Fordwich.
Dec 07/Jan 08 - DOES REGION MATTER TO WINE BUYERS?
Only two Australian wine regions (the Barossa & Hunter regions) can be recalled by name by more than 60% of wine consumers. Small icon vineyards have better profiles in the better known regions. Even McLaren Vale, despite concerted efforts, has just 14% awareness amongst wine consumers. Are you interested and committed to the issue of wine region marketing, as we are? Reproduced from Wine Business Monthly (Dec 07/Jan 08) - www.awbm.com.au - Professor Larry Lockshin (Ehrenburg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, University of South Australia) makes common and eminent sense, backed by market research, when he provides insights such as What can smaller regions do about it?
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