Wine Industry Newsletter

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.