The Vindata database
A peek behind Vinodiversity's information collection
My Vinodiversity.com website is supported by a simple database, a spreadsheet really, of the Australian wineries and their alternative varieties.
I use this database to collect information which later forms the lists which appear Vinodiversity’s pages on wine regions and individual varieties.
I began assembling the database back in 2005 just after the website started to grow.
Each entry in the database consists of a single wine producer, the region and the alternative varieties that they produce. At the moment there are over 1300 entries. In general terms that means that about half of the wineries in Australia are doing something different.
There are about 170 varieties listed in the database, most of them are classed as Rare Ozzies - used by just a few producers.
Initially I started building the database by scrabbling around various printed and online resources. Back in those days the most comprehensive consumer guidebook to Australian wines seemed to studiously avoid mentioning alternative varieties. Perhaps there was an aversion to interlopers disturbing the cosy world of Shiraz, Cab Sav, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. At that stage many wineries did not have their own websites, so data collection was a somewhat painstaking task.
The database quickly grew, so I needed to prune it back. Pinot Gris/Grigio became very popular and was in fact discarded from the varieties included at the Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show. So I followed suit and dropped it from Vindata.
I also dropped Viognier from Vindata. Many wineries on my list were using small amounts to make the once popular Shiraz Viognier. Varietal white Viognier is certainly an alternative variety, but I found it too difficult to keep track of.
Grenache and Mourvedre are mostly used in blends. There have always been a few varietal wines made from these reds. More recently varietal Grenache has become more popular, but I have left both varieties out, mainly because of the sheer number of producers.
The result of this pruning is that the database has become more focussed. Perhaps Tempranillo and Sangiovese could be dropped in the future.
Each year a few wineries disappear for various reasons. I tend to keep them on Vindata for a few years as some of their wines will still be in circulation. But eventually I drop them.
Over the past few decades the association of wineries with particular regions has eroded. Formerly the business model was fairly vertically integrated. A producer, often a family firm, owned the land and the vines, made the wine and did a lot of the marketing at the cellar door. Although sometimes some grapes were brought in from other regions the consumer could be confident that if a winery was located in a particular region then that’s where the wine came from. Other established wineries have opened substantial operations in new regions, eg Brown Brothers and Taltarni in Tasmania, Calabria in the Barossa.
A further complication is that the business model nowadays is for many aspiring winemakers to buy grapes from wherever they can and make the wine in rented premises. I call these virtual wineries.
Thus I have some problem in assigning wineries and varieties to particular regions.
The database continues to grow as more wineries, real and virtual, come onto the scene and as existing wineries diversify. It is still very useful as long as readers appreciate the problem of allocating wineries to regions.
I am still gathering data into Vindata. The results of Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show always alerts me to new producers and new varieties. Ditto for many of the smaller shows around the country. Many winemakers let me know when they have planted a new variety or their first vintage of it.
The information Vindata eventually finds its way onto the pages of the Vinodiversity website. I do this manually, so it is sometimes some months before a particular region or variety is fully up to date.
Can you help?
You can comment below, or you can email me darby.higgs@gmail
I’d love to hear from you.