There's no question that Australian winemakers are bold and adventurous – whether that's with blending or planting varieties that have crossed oceans to get to Australia.
Below are 12 wines that have each been awarded medals at the recent Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show.
You'll find whites including fiano blended with viognier, and vermentino, a pair of grüners, a pinot blanc (sibling to pinot noir), and a pecorino. For those who are red inclined, try a durif from Riverina, the unique aglianico, saperavi (a grape native to Georgia), and a small batch tempranillo.
We spoke to the makers about what makes their style so versatile and just how you should be drinking it.
Winemaker Matthew Santos says: Also known as petite sirah, the variety is typified by its smallish berry size and tight bunch. Durif delivers a big, rich and powerful wine full of flavours akin to blueberries and blackberries with aromas of violets and black pepper.
Best enjoyed: Pair the 2021 with barbecued T-bone steak with chimichurri salsa.
RRP $14 | Drink to 2026 | bertonvineyards.com.au
Winemaker Matt Aulich says: Fiano has a lovely palate weight but can be a little austere, while on the other hand vermentino's unfettered aromas and flavours can be loose or overblown. I like to think this blend reins in the extremes of the two varieties – bringing into focus the best qualities of both – bright, with freshness and fruit, but also weight and structure.
Best enjoyed: The 2022 is best served chilled (an hour so in the fridge). Pair with seafood. Thai is also an option as the wine handles a bit of spice. I love Moonrise with the ginger and sesame oil flavours of Hainanese chicken rice.
RRP $25 | Drink to 2025 | bloodmoonwines.com
Winemaker Andrew Ling says: An ancient, native varietal from the Campania region in Italy. DOCG classification and is characterised by the region’s volcanic terroir. This unique variety is distinguished by complex blend of red and black fruit with intense spice, high natural acidity and powerful structure. Our aglianico is always our last variety to ripen in Orange NSW – often under a full Easter moon.
Best enjoyed: Pair with an antipasto platter complete with cured meats and goat's cheese, or try it with barbecue ribs or roast lamb.
RRP $35 | Drink to 2032+ | carillionwines.com.au
Winemaker Philip Lehmann says: Grüner strikes a delicious balance of florals and fragrance akin to a fresh riesling, with additional palate creaminess and texture similar to rousanne. Our focus in the winemaking is to capture the delicate fragrance of the variety and build the lovely creaminess inherent with grüners.
Best enjoyed: Serve the Eden Hall 2022 Grüner chilled as an aperitif. Voluminous glassware will highlight the heady aroma bouquet.
RRP $35 | Drink to 2037 | edenhall.com.au
Winemaker Toni Pla Bou says: Saperavi has been grown in the country of Georgia for 8000 years. It is a teinturier variety and as such produces wines that are profoundly coloured. The wine’s aromas and flavours have an exotic and untamed quality about them. It has a wholly individual palate unlike any other. You are instilled with a sense of intrigue and wonder at its individuality and quality.
Best enjoyed: The 2021 drinks well with a roast rib of beef, roasted parsnips and cooked sauerkraut. It can match richly flavoured dishes and all meats either barbecued, roasted or braised.
RRP $35 | Drink to 2037 | gapstedwines.com.au
Winemaker Ray Costanzo says: Vermentino is such a versatile variety which grows extraordinarily well in the cool climate and decomposed granite soils of the Granite Belt. Its ability to hold onto its natural fine mineral acidity while displaying perfumed fruit and rich textures make it appealing for a wide variety of consumers.
Best enjoyed: Our vermentino is all about rich Mediterranean dishes such as grilled sardines, grilled octopus or pasta marinara. Serve in large glassware to get the best out of the aromatics.
RRP $35 | Drink to 2026 | goldengroveestate.com.au
Winemaker Nathan Brown says: Grüner veltliner is almost exclusively grown in Austria. However, back in 2009 it began emerging in the Australian market for the first time. Since then we've seen exceptional fruit being grown in the cool climate region around Canberra. Grüner translates to green in German, which is very descriptive of the wine. It has a compelling fragrance and presents like a riesling or sauvignon blanc when younger and closer to a chardonnay with some age.
Best enjoyed: Grüner veltliner pairs beautifully with white meats, seafood and spicy Asian cuisine. It's also the perfect wine to have as an aperitif. Expect length on the palate driven by minerality, and a racy acidity that gently partners rather than overpowers. Best served chilled between 4-10 degrees.
RRP $28 | Drink to 2030 | linearwines.com.au
Winemaker Suzanne Little says: We were the first to plant pecorino in the Hunter Valley and we chose it for its ability to hold flavour and acid during the warmer ripening months. It's also a variety that has a lower demand for water which makes it a more sustainable option than many white varieties. We love pecorino’s acid profile; it delivers an appealing crunch factor and lends itself to playing around with solids and a touch of oak.
Best enjoyed: With zippy acidity, it's a perfect match with sardines or any oily fish. Take care not to overchill – this will allow the subtle flavours of the wine to shine.
RRP $32 | Drink to 2024 | thelittlewinecompany.com.au
Winemaker Craig Stansborough says: This variety is very well suited to the Barossa climate. The varietal handles heat, uses less water and retains natural acidity. Aromatically it is wonderful with plenty of red fruits, but the palate is the hero as it brings the senses alive. Difficult to compare varieties but the wine has elements of nebbiolo, grenache and fuller pinot noir – discover and make up your own mind.
Best enjoyed: This is a perfect food pairing adventure. It does need full flavours and some fat, the fruit intensity will cope with most foods and the tannin and acid will complement and cleanse the palate. Serving temperature 16–18 degrees and an hour or two breathing will enhance.
RRP $35 | Drink to 2032 | purplehandswines.com.au
Winemaker Greg Jarratt says: Pinot blanc is a genetic sibling to pinot noir without the red colour and hence the name. Most plantings are in Alsace in France, Germany, Austria and Northern Italy. It's not particularly common in Australia. I’d loosely describe the wines as a cross between a chardonnay and semillon. They don’t have the power or depth, but have texture like chardonnay, and are acidy like semillon – but with more aromatics.
Best enjoyed: I love this wine chilled with Asian dishes, and it's not far off a perfect match for salmon sashimi. The subtle aromatics let the food do the talking, while the wine's acid line offsets the fat in the fish.
RRP $40 | Drink to 2029 | sthuberts.com.au
General manager Adam Cash says: This white blend is a beautiful combination of the wild fruits and tropical notes from the fiano, paired with stone fruit and texture from viognier – wound together with racy acidity for a crisp finish.
Best enjoyed: We love serving the Field Blend crispy cold with spicy food. Dumplings are a favourite!
RRP $35 | Drink to 2024 | suttongrange.com.au
Exuberant nose with dark cherry, blackcurrant, plums with red licorice and dried herbs. The fruit flows seamlessly through the palate with fine gravelly tannins, balanced acidity and a gentle spice note with a savoury finish.
Winemakers Greg Clack and Kate Horstmann say: A unique variety that bridges the gap between pinot noir and shiraz while delivering savoury enjoyment. Tempranillo commonly exhibits cherry, blackberry and plum fruit notes, and typically displays a gravelly structure and savoury edge without being too rich or full-bodied.
Best enjoyed: Due to the savoury nature of tempranillo, it suits a number of gastronomic delights. Tomato-based pizza or simple tapas, jamón and roasted veg work brilliantly, along with chargrilled meats with a smokey edge. Drink out of a large bowl glass with a tapered edge (similar to shiraz) at around 18 degrees.
RRP $32 | Drink to 2030 | xowineco.com.au
Image credit: Ewen Bell and Wine Australia.