Picture yourself standing with some of the most experienced and knowledgeable people in the business of bringing alternative varieties to Australia.
Look down at the dusty red earth and then up, along rows of vines with stakes meticulously recording variety, clone, count and source data. Listen in on discussions about requests from Italy for long lost clones, potential crossings to create new grape varieties and at least a variety or two you have never heard of, as you follow along peppering the conversation with your own questions. You are at the Chalmers Vineyard in Merbein, just outside of Mildura and this is a taste of what awaits you as the AAVWS Fellow.
My trip to Mildura with the AAVWS began with a warm welcome from Business and Show Manager Helen Healy as I was whisked away to a barbeque with judges and stewards. To kick start my visit, I spent a day with members from the Mildura Regional Development team as they introduced me to the wide range of activities in the region. We started with a very Aussie breakfast of avocado on toast and good coffee at the excellent Nash Lane before setting off to meet some of the locals. Uniting everyone we met during the day was a genuine pride in the region and a warm welcome, which epitomises the easy-going vibe of Mildura. We covered experiences as diverse as exploring all things citrus with Mario at Orange World, cruising the Murray River with Wentworth River Cruises, lunch at the stunning Trentham Estate and delving into regional history at Chateau Mildura before a suitably timed G&T at Fossey’s Distillery.
With the regional context of the AAVWS now firmly established, the rest of the Fellowship focussed on the wine show. Following the visit with Bruce Chalmers and Bart van Olphen at the Chalmers Vineyard with my host for the day Mark Walpole of Fighting Gully Road, it was time to head back in to town for the Talk & Tasteseminars. The seminars were a great way to engage with key members of the industry, taste wines that were representative of the topics at hand and to extend my network and understanding of this segment of the market.
The Fellowship also allows for an opportunity to observe the judging process and to taste alongside exhibitors at the completion of judging – an ideal way to calibrate the palate and to get a real sense of the diversity and quality of wines produced under the alterative variety umbrella. Later in the day the famous Long Lunch expertly paired local cuisine with winning wines from the previous years, as the current year’s awards were announced. All this after days including visits to the renown Stefano’s Restaurant, Mildura Brewery, sip. cocktail bar & eatery, Stefano’s Café and Fossey’s Gin.
For curious and adventurous members of the industry who are ready to learn new things about this vital part of the Australian wine market, the AAVWS Fellowship should most definitely be on the radar. If interest is piqued prior to your visit, the AAVWS Fellowship will have you positively buzzing with enthusiasm for the ambassadorial role of the Fellowship upon your return.