Wine Industry Newsletter

Research project shows the uniqueness of clones.

Titled ‘Assessing clonal variability in Chardonnay and Shiraz for future climate change’, this four-year research project was completed last year and the final report now available from the Wine Australia website. The aim of the project was to assess the viticultural performance and wine sensory properties of a common selection of Chardonnay and Shiraz clones grown in a diverse range of climatic regions across Australia.

Sites of mature plantings in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia were selected. The majority of the sites were not replicated clonal trials, rather being row by row plantings of the different clones. In WA, Chardonnay sites were in Margaret River and Great Southern (Mount Barker) and a Shiraz site also in Margaret River.

Field work commenced in the 2013-14 season, three consecutive seasons of vine performance and wine sensory data were collected from the Shiraz sites while four consecutive years of data was collected from the Chardonnay sites.

Chardonnay clones included in the study were; 76, 78, 95, 96, 277, FVI10V1, FVI10V5, Gingin and Penfold 58. The Shiraz clones included; BVRC12, BVRC30, 1654, SARDI 4, SARDI 7, PT15, PT23, R6WV28, WA Selection and Bests.

The following discussion focuses on the findings from the WA sites concerning viticultural performance and wine sensory attributes.

Project team photo.
Project team, L to R: John Whiting (John Whiting Viticulture) , Richard Fennessy (DPIRD), Liz Waters (Wine Australia), Mike McCarthy (SARDI) and Glynn Ward (DPIRD - retired). Absent - Libby Tassie (Tassie Viticulture Consulting)

Chardonnay viticultural performance

In terms of canopy volume, the Gingin clone was comparably lower in the Great Southern than the other four clones. Pruning weights of Gingin were consistently lower in both Great Southern and Margaret River.

In the Great Southern, clones 277 and 96 were consistently higher yielding and perhaps the most stable across the four seasons, while 76 was the lowest yielding of the Bernard clones which aligned with the Margaret River observations. Gingin had the highest number of bunches in both Great Southern and Margaret River. The data suggests the conditions of 2015-16 and 2016-17 favoured the Gingin clone in Margaret River as it out yielded all other clones although the large standard deviation of the data suggests there was a high vine-to-vine variability.

Bunch compaction measurements were restricted to three years, in Margaret River the Gingin clone recorded the lowest bunch compactness in all three years. In the Great Southern, Gingin had the lowest bunch compactness in two of the three years and equal lowest in the other year.

Observations from the two WA sites clearly shows the Gingin clone exhibited different cropping characteristics from the other clones assessed.

In the Great Southern, 96 recorded the highest number of berries per bunch in each of the four seasons and Gingin had the lowest berry weight in three of the four seasons. Clone 277 had the highest or second highest across all seasons.

Clone 96 in Margaret River had the heaviest berry weights in three of the four seasons while Gingin was highly variable (highest in 2013-14, lowest in 2016-17).

Gingin in both regions was picked at consistently higher Baumé, indicating this clone has a tendency to ripen before the Bernard clones. Clone I10V1 in Great Southern also showed a similar trend in ripening before the other clones. In both Margaret River and Great Southern Gingin repeatedly recorded the highest TA and lowest pH, a similar trend was observed in the 76 clone.

Shiraz viticultural performance

No significant difference was found between Shiraz clones in Margaret River in terms of canopy volume, surface area, porosity or leaf area index. The WA selection of Shiraz had the heaviest prunings in each of the three years in Margaret River.

Inconsistency was observed between Shiraz clones for berry weights and berry numbers per bunch. There were no significant differences between the productivity of the four Shiraz clones across the three seasons in Margaret River.

Soluble solids concentrations of the Margaret River Shiraz clones were significantly influenced by yield rather than clone and there appeared to be no relationship to clone considering pH and titratable acidity.

Wine attributes

Within each region there were significant differences in the sensory scores between clones in each year while the number of attributes that were significantly different varied between regions.

Great Southern Chardonnay

In all four years, Gingin scored the highest of the clones for yellow colour while 277 scored lowest in two of the years. Gingin scored highest in stone fruit flavour in three of the years as did I10V1 in 2016 and 2017.  As a contrast clone 96 scored low in stone fruit flavour in three of the four years. In 2014 and 2015 clone 76 scored high in box hedge aroma.

Margaret River Chardonnay

There were less consistent scores across the years but still significant differences between the clones within each year. Similar to the Great Southern results, the sensory panel noted Margaret River Gingin to have higher yellow colour than the other clones, ranking highest in 2014 and 2016. However, the other Great Southern results in regard to Gingin weren’t replicated in Margaret River wines. There were high scores for both box hedge and citrus aroma in 2015 and 2017 for Margaret River Gingin.

Margaret River Shiraz

Of the Shiraz clones from Margaret River there were no consistent attributes over the three years however there were a number of consistent observations over two seasons worth noting. In 2014 and 2016 clone PT15 scored high in dark fruit flavour and low in confection aroma compared to the other three clones. The WA selection scored low in green flavour in both 2015 and 2016 while 1654 scored high in green flavour in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Scoring opacity (colour intensity) BVRC12 was comparably lower than the other clones in 2015 and 2016.

Overall the project found statistically significant differences in sensory attributes of a range of Chardonnay and Shiraz clones however, there were few consistent trends in the differences between clones. The project concludes there is merit in planting a range of clones within vineyards and then using the diversity between the wines to produce specific and unique wines.

New Wine Australia Regional Program for WA

Five new activities have been approved by Wine Australia to go ahead in the 2020/2021 Regional Program for WA. These activities were derived and approved by the Wines of WA (WoWA) technical committee and are aligned with the strategic priorities of the WA wine industry as identified in the 2017 research development and extension review facilitated by WoWA.

Demonstrating how clonal selection can influence Cabernet Sauvignon wine quality

Anecdotally, the clonal diversity of Cabernet Sauvignon in both Margaret River and Western Australia is predominately clone 126 and a mass selection of the local ‘Houghton clone’. There are 20 clones/selections accessible to WA producers via public and private collections. The activity aims to improve the knowledge of viticulturists and winemakers on the benefit of clonal diversity.

In 2019, a block of mature Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Margaret River were grafted over to 12 clones of Cabernet as part of a Wine Australia funded project. The first crop off these vines is expected in 2021, this activity will involve the harvesting and small lot winemaking of the 12 clones and present to industry at a tasting workshop to demonstrate the impact on sensory attributes.

Biosecurity training

Research conducted by Vinehealth Australia in 2017 indicated that 44% of female visitors and 28% of male visitors to wine regions expect to be able to walk amongst vines and take photos as part of their wine experience.

Wine tourism and general tourism into WA wine regions has experienced significant growth especially in the Margaret River wine region where interstate flights will soon be operating from the nearby Busselton airport. Associated with this increase in regional visitations is the risk to growers of biosecurity incursions of grapevine pests and diseases not yet present in WA and also the transmission of pests and diseases between local vineyards.

Currently very few grape and wine producers in Western Australia have policies or plans on how to mitigate biosecurity risks associated from both public and private entries onto vineyards. This is most obvious by the lack of visible signage at vineyards communicating biosecurity risks and the policies applicable to properties.

This activity will engage Vine Health Australia to conduct workshops in key visitation areas to inform producers on the biosecurity risks and provide tools on how to best manage these risks.

Workshopping the use of harvesters to manipulate bunch architecture

WA growers are beginning to experiment with the potential of managing bunch rots through non-spray methods. One of these techniques is the use of mechanical harvesters over vines post-flowering. Harvesters are used to remove trash trapped in the bunches that act as potential inoculum sources and manipulate bunch architecture, improving airflow and spray penetration.

New Zealand are the leaders of this work and have been successfully utilising and honing this technique for a number of seasons. However, as New Zealand growing regions have different climatic conditions and production techniques to south-west WA production, some application differences are likely to be required. With an increasing movement towards more sustainable practices, the use of harvesters to reduce bunch rot severity and incidence may assist growers in reducing the need for fungicide applications.

DPIRD pathologist Dr Andrew Taylor is completing a trial (Wine Australia Incubator Initiative) in WA regions assessing the impact of this technique on the varieties Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay.

This activity will consist of workshops in at least two WA wine regions with a guest NZ viticulturist sharing experiences and Dr Andrew Taylor to present his local research findings.

Promoting sustainable wine production

Sustainability is a key priority for the WA wine industry and specifically, to reduce the environmental impact and enhance long-term success and resilience by increasing capacity of best practice sustainable land management practices by wine growers and wineries.

The increased capacity to undertake these practices will improve and protect soil condition, biodiversity, water quality and better manage pests and diseases, waste, social and economic impacts through the introduction of an environmental plan and implementation of sustainable management practices.

With the launch of Sustainable Winegrowing Australia in 2019 there is now a national program to assist and support producers to achieve sustainable best practices within their businesses. This activity plans to utilise the resources of this program to encourage adoption, regional benchmarking and optimisation of sustainable practices through a series of regional workshops presented by Mardi Longbottom from the AWRI.

Pruning workshops

As some of WA’s vineyards approach 40 – 50 years of age, growers are facing new challenges to manage vine health and maintain commercially viable yielding capacity.

Simonit & Sirch is a global consulting and training company in vine pruning and training. They have developed a pruning method that focuses on four principles; branching, vascular flow, cuts and crowns and protective wood. The objective of this method is to ensure longevity and productivity. Aspects of the Simonit & Sirch method addresses necrotic wood and trunk disease thus important strategies to adopt when pruning old vines.

This activity aims to promote new thinking when considering pruning and to educate growers on how best to handle older vines to ensure longevity.

The Wine Australia Regional Program continues to be administrated by WoWA and managed by DPIRD Research Scientist Richard Fennessy, for further information regarding these activities please contact Richard.

COVID-19 health and safety guidelines for vineyard workers

Vineyard in dormancy
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way in which we work and with pruning only weeks away for some it is important for vineyard managers and operators to be familiar with the latest guidelines to protect staff undertaking pruning and other vineyard operations.

The AWRI and Australian Grape & Wine have in conjunction produced the following guidelines. 

COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease. Spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 is mostly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Transmission is also possible through contact with contaminated surfaces. As such, high levels of personal hygiene, physical distancing and cleanliness of shared facilities are fundamental in minimising the risk of the virus spreading.  

All businesses engaging workers have a legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of their workers and others at the workplace and must follow the advice from the Department of Health and the relevant state and territory governments. Each workplace must comply with public health directions and physical distancing. It is recommended that all activity in the vineyard is documented including visitors, hygiene protocols and any illnesses or symptoms reported by employees. 

Before pruning starts, all workers, including contractors, must be informed of their health and safety responsibilities. When engaging contractors, it is best practice to formalise the roles and responsibilities of the workers using a contractor induction agreement before work commences. 

Worker health

Any person who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or been in direct contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, should not report to work. Anyone experiencing symptoms including: high temperature, sore throat, fever or cough, must not present for work and it is recommended that they seek medical advice. 

Personal hygiene

All workers should be encouraged to maintain a high level of personal hygiene, which can be encouraged using appropriate signage and the provision of washing facilities, soap and hand sanitiser.

Physical distancing


Transport in cars should be restricted to one passenger per vehicle unless the passengers reside in the same household. Seating in buses or minivans should be restricted to maintain a 1.5 m spacing.

 In the vineyard

Outdoor activities such as pruning pose a low risk of spreading COVID-19 if workers practice physical distancing. Physical distancing is a key control measure; a minimum 1.5 m buffer should be maintained between people in the vineyard at all times.

Strategies to achieve this might include:

  • Consider alternatives to ‘group training’. This may include pre-pruning demonstration panels which can be used as a reference by pruners and supervisors or the distribution of printed instructions or demonstration videos.
  • Space pruners at least 1.5 m apart.
  • If possible, schedule the timing of breaks to limit the number of workers congregating in shared indoor areas and encourage workers to use alternative areas during breaks.

Sharing tools and equipment

The risk of spreading COVID-19 increases when tools and equipment, including vehicles, are shared. Identify which equipment is usually shared by the pruning gang and look for strategies to either completely avoid or minimise sharing. For example, if heavy loppers are required, it might be feasible to nominate a single person the task of making all ‘big cuts’ so that the loppers are not passed from person to person. If equipment needs to be shared, ensure that disinfectant is readily available to wipe down those tools and that staff know to clean them before and after each new use. All ‘high touch’ surfaces (e.g. door handles, handrails, steering wheels and gearsticks) should be disinfected between users. If feasible, the use of tractors should be limited to one person to minimise risk. 

Sanitisation options for tools and equipment

Recommended cleaning processes and products are outlined in the Australian Grape and Wine Cleaning and Disinfection Guidelines.

Maintain a clean workplace

Shared areas such as toilets and lunchrooms are high-risk zones for virus spread. Maintain a safe work environment in these areas by: 

  • Cleaning toilets, shared indoor spaces and high traffic areas at least daily using surface steriliser.
  • Maintaining a cleaning schedule for shared areas and recording the time and name of the person responsible for cleaning.
  • If lunchroom facilities are provided, requesting that employees bring their own cups and cutlery rather than providing communal supplies.
  • Providing plenty of water, soap, hand towel, rubbish bins and/or hand sanitiser for maintaining personal hygiene.
  • Modifying the layout of shared areas to allow for the maintenance of physical distancing.
  • Using COVID-19 specific signage to highlight the risks and actions required to stop the spread of the virus. Signage can be accessed from SafeWork Australia.

This information has been provided by the AWRI, contact the AWRI helpdesk on 08 8313 6600 or for assistance with specific technical queries

Avocado project on six-spotted mite may benefit grape growers

A new DPIRD-led project looking at management of six-spotted mite in avocado orchards has recently started. Six-spotted mite, Eotetranychus sexmaculatus (Riley), are also a pest of grapevines in the lower south west. Often natural enemies, such as predatory mites, can keep six-spotted mite numbers in check, however intervention may be required especially in avocado orchards and occasionally in grapes.

Foliage damage from six-spotted mite.
Grapevine foliage damage from six-spotted mite.

This research project aims to develop an integrated pest management program for six-spotted mite in avocado crops. It includes work on optimising the monitoring methods and timing, determining the possible role of mass reared predatory mites for management and integrating chemical control into a sustainable management program. It is likely a number of these project outcomes will be relevant to the wine grape industry.

Six-spotted mites active on the underside of a leaf.
Six-spotted mites active on the underside of a leaf.

Six-spotted mite feed primarily on the lower surface of leaves, adjacent to leaf veins. The distinctive sign of feeding is discolouration of leaves along either side of the veins and visible from both sides of leaves. The discolouration is yellow on white grape varieties and red on red grape varieties. Higher levels of feeding damage can lead to leaf drop and leaf death, and in heavy infestations result in severe defoliation. This results of infection may delay ripening or failure of grapes to fully ripen and thus reducing quality and yield of the crop.

Close up of a six-spotted mite.
Close up of a six-spotted mite.

The project is due for completion in the latter half of 2022. If you have any questions about six-spotted mite please contact Manjimup based Research Scientist Alison Mathews,

New restrictions on the number of Group M3 and Group M5 fungicide sprays

Vineyard sprayer in operation
Changes to the recommendations for Group M3 and Group M5 fungicides will appear in the AWRI 2020/2021 ‘Dog book’. 

The recommended number of sprays of Group M3 fungicides is now limited to no more than three sprays per season. 

The Group M3 fungicides are known collectively as dithiocarbamates. The dithiocarbamate active constituents registered for use in wine-grape production are mancozeb, metiram, propineb, thiram, zineb and ziram. The fungal targets for these active constituents include black spot, downy mildew and phomopsis cane and leaf spot.  

Note that the limit of three sprays per season includes when Group M3 fungicides are co-formulated with other active constituents such as metalaxyl (-M).  

A change has also been made to the restriction on use for mancozeb which is ‘Use no later than E-L 31, berries pea-size (not > 7 mm diameter)’.    

The number of sprays of Group M5 fungicides is also now limited to no more than three sprays per season. Chlorothalonil is the only Group M5 fungicide. The fungal targets for chlorothalonil are black spot, botrytis bunch rot and downy mildew. 

This information has been provided by the AWRI, contact the AWRI helpdesk on 08 8313 6600 or for further assistance.


Entomologist reflects on 47 years in R&D

Stewart Learmonth
Retiring senior entomologist Stewart Learmonth has been witness to the impact of insect pests on the emergence and success of many of Western Australia’s agricultural crops over a career that has spanned nearly half a century and the state.

Retiring Senior Entomologist Stewart Learmonth has been witness to the impact of insect pests on many of Western Australia’s agricultural crops over a career that has spanned nearly half a century and the State.

The University of Queensland graduate started his 47 years as an entomologist with the then Department of Agriculture in Kununurra in 1973, after a short stint at the South Perth office.

Then the Ord River Irrigation Area was in its infancy and cotton was the main crop.

Stewart spent the next three years working alongside his mentor Phil Michael to mitigate the impact of a range of pests on the northern cotton crop.

“Every crop has a suite of pests so it was a great learning curve for a young entomologist,” he said.

“There’s an old adage that goes: you need an agronomist to find the right crop and 10 entomologists to sort out the pest issues – that was certainly the case in Kununurra.”

With help from Dr Mike Carroll, who went on to become Director General, Stewart then took a two year sabbatical to study for his Masters Degree at the Waite Institute in South Australia before returning to Kununurra, to find the landscape had changed dramatically.

“Cotton was no longer king and a wide range of other crops were being grown to try to find replacements,” he said.

In 1986 Stewart moved to the department’s Manjimup office, where he initially worked with the CSIRO seeking alternatives to organochlorine insecticides to control soil pests of potatoes.

“The removal of these insecticides changed the industry overnight,” he said. “One day you had organochlorines and the next day you didn’t.

“It was a frustrating time for industry but exciting times for a scientist.”

Stewart has been based at Manjimup ever since, where he has been involved in entomological research alongside the development of a range of crops.

Stewart was introduced to viticulture through his studies into the life cycle and management of garden weevil in the late 1980's which cumulated into a research partnership with Curtin University titled ‘Sustainable protection of grapevines from garden weevil’ completed in 2011.

From this time Stewart has worked on grapevine pests such as African black beetle, mealy bug, apple looper, six-spotted mite, auger beetles, rust mite and thrips.

Stewart has presented at numerous wine and table grape workshops over the years across many (if not all) regions. He fondly remembers the series of Research to Practice workshops on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in the early 2000’s when the industry was expanding and engagement with stakeholders was high.

More recently, Stewart has been involved with research to assist the expanding avocado industry by reducing the impact of six-spotted mite through the use of beneficials.

He has also worked with the Australian truffle industry contributing to an IPM manual and a field guide.

Stewart said he feels privileged to have worked alongside innovative farmers and many wonderful colleagues, including mentors and technical officers.

“The department has been a terrific place to work,” he said. “It seems to attract good, hard working people, who are happy to put in the hours and work well with industry.”

Stewart offers his thanks to the many vignerons he has had contact with over the years especially for their generosity of their time, access to vineyards and sharing of information.

His work on avocados, truffles, grapes and a suite of other crops will be continued by his colleague, DPIRD research scientist Alison Mathews. 

Future events

Australian Wine - Winning the long game (online seminar)

The Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) in collaboration with the Wine Communicators of Australia (WCA) are presenting a three-day seminar tackling the big issues: growing, making and selling wine in the future.

Wine businesses today are confronted with the threat of fire, drought, rising energy prices, disease and climate change (among other things).  Consumers are seeking out businesses whose practises offer a reduced footprint combined with a health and wellbeing focus.

The seminar will provide technical information and real case studies, to build capability and efficiency in the Australian wine industry. Drawing on the expertise from within the wine industry and the experiences of others, attendees will gain a greater understanding of our impacts globally, strategies to improve the environment through winegrowing and making practices, and how best to communicate these messages to customers and consumers.

Headlining the event is Sophie Taylor-Price, sustainability consultant, Landcare Australia Ambassador and the granddaughter of the late former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke presenting the cases for urgent climate action and also for optimism. Presenters from the Australian wine industry include 2018 ASVO Viticulturist of the Year Colin Bell, Nuffield Scholar Marty Gransden and 2019 graduate of the Australian wine industry’s Future Leaders program, Hayley Purbrick from Tahbilk Winery.

The final program is available on the ASVO website.

When: Monday, 30 June to Wednesday 1 July 2020

Where: Streamed to your office or home


Wine Australia webinar: Consumer wine consumption behaviour during and post COVID-19 in South Korea, China and Japan

Wine Intelligence CEO Lulie Halstead will present findings from the latest Wine Intelligence COVID-19 impact reports for South Korea, China and Japan. Based on data collected in late March and April 2020, she will review how wine consumers’ behaviours and attitudes have changed – or not – as a result of the impact of COVID-19.

In addition, Lulie will review how consumers anticipate their lifestyles, behaviour and drinking habits will both change and be prioritised post-lockdown. She will share insights on what wine businesses can proactively do to build for the future.

A recording of this webinar will be accessible by Australian wine sector levy payers only.

When: Thursday 2 July 2020

For more information visit the Wine Australia website.


Australia’s Wine Future: A Climate Atlas – what does it mean for WA?

Save the date

Exploring how the climate will change in our wine regions, from today to 2100.

Wine Australia and Wines of WA are delighted to present an exciting webinar that will delve into the new, world-leading resource Australia’s Wine Future: A Climate Atlas and what this shows for the regions in WA until 2100.

Australia’s climate is variable and it is changing. Grapegrowers and winemakers in Australia are already adjusting practices in their vineyards and wineries to keep pace. However, to date, many of these changes have been reactive; driven by the changes that are experienced season-to-season.

Australia’s Wine Future: A Climate Atlas will help improve our climate adaptation response, as it provides a range of detailed insights about how the climate is projected to change within each of Australia’s wine regions until 2100.

Presented by Dr Tom Remenyi of the Climate Futures team at the University of Tasmania, this webinar will explore The Climate Atlas and what it shows for WA.

The Climate Atlas combines a series of climate change models to clearly show projected trends in temperature, rainfall, aridity and in their distribution patterns in regions of Australia where grapes are grown.

It will help to explore the regionally specific climate challenges that we will need to manage and includes an indication of which regions around the country are similar now to through to the predicted conditions in 2100, allowing growers and wineries to look to their peers and viticultural experts around the country on how to adapt for the future.

Click here to watch a special report on Landline about The Climate Atlas or here to download the Climate Atlas.

When: Thursday 9 July 2020

Time: tbc

Location: Webinar

Cost: Free

Registration details will soon be available, refer to the next Wines of WA newsletter or contact Richard Fennessy.

A recording of this webinar will be accessible by Australian wine sector levy payers only.


Managing texture phenolics and oxidation

The program of this ASVO oenology seminar is still being developed but key themes will cover phenolic development in grapes, processing aids and phenolic manipulation, extraction in fermentation, and texture and mouthfeel perception.

When: Thursday, 1 October 2020

Where: Streamed to Margaret River

More information here.