Wine Industry Newsletter

DPIRD vintage update

The 2018/19 season proved a challenging one for grape and wine research. With expectations of more than 30 separate batches and in excess of 1000kg of fruit, only 21 batches and 560kg of fruit have been harvested due to bird and disease pressures.

Alternative variety evaluation

Evaluating the 22 alternative varieties planted this season at Harvey Agriculture College will be the last funded through the Wine Australia Regional Program.

The plan was to evaluate the performance of the varieties to demonstrate to producers the key viticultural and wine attributes over three consecutive seasons.

Leading up to January, the vines and crops were looking very promising but as the sugars accumulated, so did the bird attention. With an unforeseen delay in applying the bird netting and the addition of powdery mildew outbreaks, has meant little fruit was harvestable.

Settling wines in 2L glass vessels
2019 Vermentino, Arneis, Scheurebe and Fiano settling post fermentation.
Table 1 This years harvest data of alternative varieties
Variety Harvest date Baume pH TA Quantity
Arneis 19 Feb 12.4 3.13 6.9 13

Powdery mildew over 50%

Scheurebe 19 Feb 12.2 3.22 5.6 5.5 Significant bird peck
Pignoletto 19 Feb 12.4 3.27 5.8 51.5 Clean fruit
Vermentino 19 Feb 11.9 3.15 7.6 68.5 Powdery mildew ~10%
Fiano 19 Feb 12.4 3.02 8.0 6.5 Sunburn and powdery
Harslevelu 26 Feb 12.4 3.23 7.1 32.5 Split berries, powdery mildew and bird peck
Sciacarello 27 Feb 13.7 3.47 9.4 41 Some powdery mildew
Tannat 27 Feb 13.9 3.50 9.5 43 Bird peck
Graciano 13 Mar 12.8 3.20 5.6 28.5 Bird peck
Montepulciano 13 Mar 12.5 3.30 5.2 15.5 Clean fruit
Alicante Bouchet 13 Mar 14.3 3.40 6.2 13 Powdery mildew ~80%
Carmenere 13 Mar 11.4 - - 6 High amount of shot berries

Demonstrating differences between Pinot Noir clones

This season we have initiated a pilot trial to utilise a commercial planting of diverse Pinot Noir clones. We have collected some harvest data and will make small-lot wines to demonstrate the differences between clones 114, 115, 777, D5V12 and WA Droopy. This fruit has been sourced from a Pemberton vineyard and we thank them for their support.

If this pilot trial proves successful it may be expanded to more varieties next season. Growers that have plantings of multiple clones within a single block or uniformed site and are interested in participating next year are encouraged to contact Richard Fennessy.

Pinot Noir ferments in stainless steel buckets
Small-lot ferments of five different Pinot Noir clones.

Virus trial

Led by DPIRD Researcher Monica Kehoe, this innovative trial aims to examine the influence of virus on Chardonnay wine quality. Two sites in Margaret River had been identified as having clonal vines with no detected virus and Grapevine leaf roll virus 3 (GLRV3). These two viral loads represent ‘treatments’. Once the winemaking is completed, a formal sensory evaluation will be undertaken to see if there is a correlation between wine attributes and viral load.

Invertebrate pests update

A suite of pests, differing in their severity across regions, have been important this season. These include:

  • Garden weevil was generally considered to be important but reasonably well managed. Under vine cultivation seems to be having a positive effect in reducing numbers. With the cooler season, the weevil was present in greater numbers later in the season.
  • Mealybugs were important enough to warrant treatment in some vineyards, and control with insecticides seems to have been effective.
  • While grapevine moth was considered less important this season compared to the previous one, heliothis caused some concern, especially in newly planted vines. Mature larvae are voracious feeders and can easily attack growing tips which has a severe impact on the growth and vigour of young plants.
Heliothis larva on grapevine feeds on leaves and growing tips – usually a minor pest but important in some seasons.
Heliothis larva on grapevine feeds on leaves and growing tips – usually a minor pest but important in some seasons.
  • Snails, both garden snail and small pointed snail were important. Early season baiting of garden snail did not do as good a job as expected, despite the theory that this is the most strategic time to limit populations for the following spring bud burst. Small pointed snail is always a challenge to control and a few more of them around contributed to contamination in harvested crops.
  • Grapeleaf rust mite was notable in some crops to the extent that spraying with a miticide was considered.
  • European earwig was around but not in significant numbers to cause major concern.
  • One surprise was the presence of Portuguese millipede that managed to finish up in harvested grapes. With unseasonal summer rain, these invertebrates will be driven to higher ground and in the case of millipedes in a vineyard, this means climbing into the canopy.
  • Wingless grasshoppers were reported in high numbers and further into the season than usual in some areas, requiring targeted sprays where necessary.
  • Other surprises included what appears to have been vegetable beetles damaging young vines. The use of grow guards appears to have been an attraction in some instances with the beetles climbed onto the young vines and proceeding to defoliate them within the guards.
  • There was one other case of an unidentified tiny weevil attacking buds in grafted vines. We hope to get specimens of this weevil to have it identified.

As usual, it was a case of expect the unexpected. Comments by vignerons on their experiences to complement this report are welcomed.

A big thanks to consultants and vignerons across the WA regions for sharing their experiences this season upon which this summary is based.

For more information, contact Manjimup based Senior Entomologist Stewart Learmonth.

Wine Australia Incubator Initiative – Chardonnay and Grapevine leafroll viruses

In 2018, Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development (DPIRD) Researcher Monica Kehoe, together with Brenda Coutts and Richard Fennessy, was awarded an Incubator Project.

A survey was conducted throughout the growing season to identify Chardonnay vines both with and without grapevine leafroll viruses.

In total, nearly 600 samples were tested by Quantitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (qPCR) in the DPIRD laboratories for Grapevine leaf roll virus 1 (GLRV1) and Grapevine leaf roll virus 3 (GLRV3). In addition, the infield Loop mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test for GLRV1 was deployed in the field, successfully testing around 300 vines in the field, where it was used for confirmatory testing of the vines to be selected for harvest.

The infield diagnostic test was developed as part of the Wine Australia sponsored Science and Innovation award to Monica in 2018.

In the end, two blocks were selected for harvest. The grapes were harvested by Monica, Richard and Craig Webster, and the small batch wine making process is now underway. The results of the experiment will not be available until after the sensory evaluation of the wine. There is currently no record of any similar study on a white variety, so we are keen to see how the project finishes.

Project team picking Chardonnay
Chardonnay vines identified with no detectable virus and GLRV3 were harvested separately so to be made into different wine treatments for sensory evaluation.

This information will help us to understand the influence of virus infection on the wine quality, and whether the virus is as detrimental to the overall vine health as is commonly thought. The exception is the Gingin clone of Chardonnay, widely thought to owe some of its favourable characteristics to infection with GLRV1. We look forward to the results, and the discussions around virus disease management that will follow.

Weighing Chardonnay bunches
Bunch numbers and bunch weights per vine were measured at harvest to compare between treatments.

Collaboration the key for smoke taint prevention

A vineyard with smoke rising from behind a ridge
Autumn, land burning, harvest. An unholy trinity fraught with potential conflict for both land managers and the wine industry.

Research carried out in 2004 conclusively proved that undesirable smoky flavours in wine, described variously as ‘smoky’, ‘burnt’, ‘bacon’, ‘medicinal’, or ‘ash’, were directly attributable to bush fire smoke. A pro-active approach to managing prescribed burns by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ (DBCA) Parks and Wildlife Service together with wine industry stakeholders has resulted in the creation of processes to mitigate vineyard risks resulting from prescribed burns, which acknowledge risk factors such as timing, wind, temperature, atmospheric conditions and soil moisture.

Key to the success of the process is collaboration and information exchange between the government agencies, stakeholders and the local shires, local fire brigades, and vineyard owners.

President of the Pemberton Wine Association Ash Lewkowsky, said that the level of engagement that DBCA is effecting with the wine industry has been outstanding.

“We are in constant consultation which has been integral to us working around our optimal harvest dates. This process ensures the best outcomes for both our industry and the protection of the community,” he said.

The first step of the process involves Parks and Wildlife Service releasing its annual and three year plans of prescribed burns to both State and regional wine associations. Regions via their associations are then able to comment on the plan, identifying windows of opportunity for burning and potential issues.

The regions in turn communicate with local fire officers to update on ripening progress and anticipated harvest dates, while Parks and Wildlife Service constantly monitors conditions for burning against potential impacts on the community and vineyards.

As vintage progresses, the regions update Parks and Wildlife Service on areas available for burning as grapes are harvested.

Brad Barton, Regional Leader Fire Management – Warren Region, visits each of the regions three to four times a year. “We’ve learned a lot more about the industry and the nuances of grapegrowing, and we understand each other’s businesses a lot better now”, he said. “Through this process, growers understand when and why we need to undertake certain burn activities.”

Executive Officer of the Great Southern Wine Association John Gates agreed. “The feedback to this pro-active approach has been very positive. Our producers are not working in the dark and have appreciated the openness of the Department in sharing the planning process,” he said.

Still an unknown is the effect of low intensity stubble burning on grape flavours, and this is the subject of research being carried out in South Australia by the Australian Wine Research Institute and the University of Adelaide.

DBCA has made a video outlining the consultation process for prescribed burns and it can be viewed here.

Vineyard owners or managers who would like more information on prescribed burns and when they are taking place are encouraged get in touch in the first instance through their regional associations, listed below.

Western Australian Vine Improvement Association update

Chairperson’s Report, Jim Campbell-Clause
Feb 2018 to Jan 2019

WAVIA has had a busy year with increased demand for propagation material, consolidating source blocks, adjusting our constitution, and improving ordering procedures.

WAVIA continues to rely on a very small team of dedicated volunteers, and assistance from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD). I would like to thank those on the Committee from industry and DPIRD. I would especially like to thank Patrick Bertola (Deputy Chairperson) for his role of reviewing the association’s Constitution to comply with new legislation. It was an involved process, but now WAVIA complies with the legislation and has a useful set of rules for the future. Chris Harding as Secretary has also been busy with the new rules, ordering procedures and keeping the website up to date (please check the website for alternative variety information and the WAVIA order form).

Many thanks also to Colleen Gillespie for managing the association’s finances, and for an amazing job of collecting, labelling, bundling and sorting an enormous number of cuttings. Thanks to Stephen Kirby (Margaret River Region) for his contribution to the Management Committee, and we welcome Lyn Metcalf (Blackwood Valley WIA) and Lee Haselgrove (Great Southern Region) to the Committee.

We are very grateful to Richard Fennessy from DPIRD and staff for their continued support and assistance. Richard has done a great job supporting WAVIA, helping at meetings and with research and extension. Many thanks to Ian Guthridge, Manager of the Manjimup Horticulture Research Institute (MHRI) for his team’s work with the Germplasm collection in Manjimup, and with assistance with cutting and distribution of propagation material.

We appreciate all the work that Alan Jacob has done with managing the day to day care of the Germplasm collection, and for assistance with cutting collection and distribution, and wish him well in his future endeavours and look forward to working with Lisa Starkie and team.

Orders in 2018 were higher with 24,310 cuttings ordered and filled from source blocks and from the Germplasm block. Orders this year were of improved clones of traditional varieties including Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Gamay, Malbec, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and Meunier. WAVIA had orders for many alternative varieties, including; Montepulciano, Grüner Veltliner, Barbera, Cinsaut, Touriga, Nebbiolo, Pignoletto, Brachetto, Harslevelu, Durif, Fiano, Furmint, Dolcetto, Sangiovese Brunello di Montalcino, Vermentino and Scheurebe. WAVIA received orders for rootstocks including Ramsey, 1103 Paulsen, 110 Richter, and Schwartzmann WA5.

The MHRI Germplasm collection and MHRI Alternative Variety Trial block continue to play a vital role in WAVIA's ability to supply material to the industry of these emerging varieties and clones. Source blocks were able to be used to supply some material. Colleen Gillespie did a great job of collecting, packing and dispatching all the material for the orders. Interstate customers were again important, and the new ordering process for interstate customers made this more efficient. Thanks to Jock Riddell for his assistance with the shipment of WAVIA interstate orders.

Source Blocks continue to be important sources of propagation material, and WAVIA is keen to continue to work with growers to develop new source blocks. If you are planting new clones or varieties, and are interested in planting a source block to help generate some revenue, please discuss this with a WAVIA representative.

The Harvey Agricultural College at Wokalup is a very important resource, and a significant amount of work has been in progress this season reviewing the collection, virus testing parts of the collection, and putting in place procedures to ensure high-quality propagation material can continue to be collected from the site. The WA Grape Germplasm Collection and Alternative Variety Block at the MHRI continues to be well managed by the staff at DPIRD with help from WAVIA.

Research and development continue to be an important activity of the association, and we are pleased to report on some projects promoting vine improvement. The Alternative Variety Block at the Harvey Agricultural College at Wokalup continues to be an important resource as a source of propagation material, a site for grape growers and winemakers to view the varieties with Richard Fennessy hosting a field day on January 30th for interested parties, and a source of grapes for trial wines. Richard made 22 wines from the block in 2018 and entered these into the Geographe Wine Show with excellent results and feedback, winning gold medals for Lagrain, Scheurebe, Arneis and Harslevelu.

A forum organised by DPIRD on clones was held in Margaret River in June and was well attended. Clones of Chardonnay, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot were discussed and tasted. A publication A Review of five wine grape variety clones in WA, is available from both the DRIPD and WAVIA websites.

An alternative variety forum hosted by DPIRD was conducted to explore trends, opportunities and barriers concerning alternative varieties in the Australian market place. This forum included gatekeepers crucial to the success and adoption of alternative varieties in the marketplace such as vignerons, winemakers, distributors, sales representatives, retailers, sommeliers and restaurateurs.

The wine and grape industries look to have a positive outlook, and WAVIA is keen to help by providing high quality true to type propagation material of new clones and varieties. As I have said before, I see this as the most proactive step producers can use to improve yield, quality and profitability, and to keep Western Australia producing better wine than our competitors. WAVIA continues to work with industry to import new and improved varieties and clones, you can submit an expression of interest to have new material imported into WA by contacting Richard Fennessy.  

Grants available for industry-led projects to expand Collie

Collie town site at night
Applications are now open for the Collie Futures Industry Development Fund, which offers up to $2 million per project for initiatives that will create jobs and boost the local economy.

Initiatives from a wide range of sectors that can demonstrate the capacity to make a significant and sustainable impact on the local economy, will be eligible for consideration under the Collie Futures Industry Development Fund.

The program also provides funding to develop business cases and undertake feasibility, scoping or planning studies.

Successful applicants will need to match the State Government's funding contribution. Up to $2m available per project. For more information and to apply for grants, visit

Future events

Soil microbes in viticulture: lessons from the Okanagan Valley

Soil is the source of all microbes that influence wine quality from the vine to the bottle.  Irrigation, fertilization and cover crop management significantly alter soil microbes – which can affect their vigour, yield and berry composition. Unfortunately, soil microbes are not often part of vineyard management plans. 

Miranda Hart is a professor from the University of British Columbia, Canada.  She is currently a visiting professor at the University of Western Australia and Curtin University.  She studies soil microbial ecology and plant microbe interactions in viticultural systems, largely in the Okanagan wine growing region.  Her work focuses on how growers can manipulate soil biodiversity to improve vine performance and berry quality. In this talk, Miranda will discuss how soil microbes can be used as a tool in viticultural systems.

  • When: Friday, 29 March from 3.00pm – 4.45pm
  • Where: Room W10 - Margaret River Education Campus, Bussell Hwy, Margaret River
  • Cost: Free
  • Registration: Register here

One-day Export Ready Session

Developed for new and experienced exporters, Growing Wine Exports is a practical, hands-on national skills development program delivered through regional workshops and working sessions, and supported by a comprehensive suite of user-friendly tools.

In this one-day workshop, you will develop an export prospectus outlining your initial market intent, potential wine offer, sales target estimates and market risks – as well as a working draft of your export brand story.

  • Margaret River – 6 May
  • Great Southern – 8 May
  • Swan Valley – 10 May

Cost: $50 (+GST)

More information and registration details can be found on the Wine Australia website.

Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production research update

The Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production (TC-IWP), located at the University of Adelaide and Charles Sturt University, will be visiting Margaret River on Wednesday 15 May 2019. The TC-IWP conducts research across a number of areas directly relevant to the wine industry.  Research projects fall into two broad themes: Responding to Challenges and Increasing Profitability.

Eleven researchers will talk about an integrated approach to achieving lower alcohol levels in wines, viticultural practices to grow grapes with more flavour and less sugar, how to manage bunch heterogeneity, indigenous yeast, smoke taint, how to increase efficiency of winemaking processes, and distinctive flavours of Australian Cabernet Sauvignon wines with a focus on Margaret River wines.

You can find out more about TC-IWP research on their website. There will be an opportunity to hear about the most recent research at the universities and to provide an industry feedback to the researchers.

The event will be hosted by the Margaret River Wine Association at the Margaret River Education Campus campus.

  • When: Wednesday, 15 May from 9.00am – 1.00pm (followed by lunch and networking)
  • Where: Margaret River Education Campus, Bussell Hwy, Margaret River
  • Cost: Presentation Only $15 | Presentation & Lunch $25 (both tickets include morning tea)
  • Registration: Book tickets here.

Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference and Trade Exhibition

The 17th Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference (AWITC) will be held at the Adelaide Convention Centre 21-24 July 2019. This event will incorporate the Outlook Conference in partnership with the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, feature the WineTech trade exhibition in collaboration with the Wine Industry Suppliers Association and Fair Events, and partner with the McWilliam’s Maurice O’Shea Award Dinner. Program details will be added to this site as they become available.

Registrations are now open.

  • Date: 21-24 July 2019
  • Venue: Adelaide Convention Centre, Adelaide

Details regarding the program and registration can be found at