More Than Just a Talk Fest

We love to bandy about the claim that the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show is ‘More than just a wine show’ but what does that really mean?

Well, of course we are in the (not-for-profit) business of critical assessment of wines against their peers in an unbiased environment.  This is undertaken each year by a team of 9 judges and 3 associates under the watchful eye of our amazing Chief of Judges, wine writer Jane Faulkner.  The line-up of judges is assembled from a broad cross-section of the wine industry including those from agricultural, scientific, artisan, hospitality, marketing and journalism backgrounds and as per AAVWS credo includes an international guest each year.  After all we are a wine show.  Medals and trophies are awarded.  But perhaps the most exciting part is not who wins the prize, but what we all learn from each other along the way.

The culture of innovation and knowledge-sharing that drove Bonfiglioli, de Pieri and the Chalmers’ (pictured below) to initiate the AAVWS has remained at the core of the organisation and its ever growing network of passionate participants.  The AAVWS is more than just a wine show because of the way it has helped shape the alternative variety movement over the last 15 years by bringing together thought leaders, protagonists, adventurous growers and producers to inspire each other to think outside the square.

Long Lunch 1999 Founders

How does the AAVWS do that?  Because apart from locking a dozen experts in a room to judge hundreds of wines, we also put on a host of social and educational events that help to inform, excite and expose people to new wines and ideas – new possibilities.  One such event is the Talk & Taste.  From the first AAVWS in 2001 we ran a seminar and structured tasting as part of our November program in Mildura, Victoria. Under the guidance of the committee and founding Chief of Judges journalist Tim White, these events broached progressive topics and brought esteemed speakers from around the world.

How forward-thinking were these discussions?  Well here is the 2002 seminar program – remember this was FOURTEEN years ago.  Many of these topics are just as poignant today.  Some of these presentations would have shaped the Australian vineyards and wine-lists of today.

2002 AAVWS Seminar ‘Cool Wines from Hot Vines’

Bruce Chalmers, Chalmers Nurseries:
A grower’s and nurseryman’s perspective on alternatives varieties
Phil Reedman, Tesco (UK) Australian wine buyer:
The potential for alternative varieties out of Australia into the UK
Max Allen, highly regarded wine writer & journalist:
An overview of Tempranillo in Australia
Federico Curtaz, International Consulting Viticulturist:
Modern and traditional viticulture objectives in Italy and their application to Australian conditions
Louisa Rose, Yalumba winemaker and winner of last years award for Best Wine of the Show:
Viognier in Australia.


In 2007 what had been a formal seminar followed by a structured tasting morphed into one afternoon-long forum called Talk & Taste, a concept devised by then Chief of Judges Max Allen to bring liquid examples into the discussions of the day rather than dry rhetoric and science followed by pure sensory.  The current format sees two or three sessions such as keynote/feature presentations, workshops or panel discussions, covering topics around the growing, making, marketing and drinking of alternative variety wines.

The continued commitment to education and knowledge-sharing from the AAVWS committee, and crucial support of industry partners, has allowed the organisation to present an inspiring and informative Talk & Taste program each year.  The calibre of presenters and quality of content is ever growing, as are audience numbers.  Over recent years we have had the opportunity to bring some amazing international speakers and showcase incredibly rare and unique wines, many of which are not even available to buy in Australia, to colour the discussions and support presentations.  The Talk & Taste has cemented itself as an annual event not to be missed for anyone involved in, or considering becoming part of the alternative variety wine scene. Talk & Taste, along with the AAVWS Fellowship, Sponsor a Variety and our extensive detailed collection of viticultural and winemaking data on alternative varieties are just some of the reasons the AAVWS can proudly call itself more than just a wine show.


In 2016 we take a good hard look from the OUTSIDE IN to see what the rest of the world really thinks or knows about alternative variety wines from Australia and New Zealand.  For the first time AAVWS Talk & Taste presents a 100% marketing focused program across three informative sessions looking at image, reputation and perception with a key spotlight on export trends and opportunities.  Presenters include Sarah Ahmed (UK), Ned Goodwin MW, Chuck Hayward (USA), Jane Faulkner, Professor Larry Lockshin, Matt Gant, Pablo Theodoros, Leanne Altmann, Emily Leishman.


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Changing the World

“The massive impact the AAVWS has had on wine production and consumption in Australia over the last 15 years is now flowing overseas as alternative varieties breathe new life into the UK market and add colour and excitement to the Australian offering.”