Wine Industry Newsletter

Writing the story for Western Australia’s wine regions

A multi-disciplinary team involving DPIRD’s soils, GIS, climate, and viticulture groups is currently undertaking a study of all WA’s premium wine regions to unearth the story of their unique ‘terroirs’.

An extract from this new study is now available. The Geology, soils and climate of the Margaret River wine region report is from the broader description and analysis of the nine wine regions found in the south west of WA. This was produced separately to support timing of the Margaret River Wine Association’s current project of evaluating links between landscape, climate and soil and the premium wine produced in the region. We have tailored this report to the particular needs of the Margaret River wine region, including the use of local soil names.

The project’s authors, DPIRD senior soil scientists Peter Tille and Angela Stuart-Street and GIS Research Officer Peter Gardiner, have collated geology, elevation, soil and climate information for each region, complemented by a series of maps, charts and tables to show how each WA wine region is distinctive. 

DPIRD Scientist Peter Tille (right) discussing soils with vineyard manager Lee Haselgrove.
DPIRD Research Scientist Peter Tille (right) discussing soils with vineyard manager Lee Haselgrove.

The WA wine industry recognises the importance of communicating to customers an understanding of the vines’ environment and how it may influence wine character and quality. Building a picture of what makes the environment of a wine region unique also contributes to the story of the wine. The information in the new report will support that story and underpin it with the most current available data.

The analysis for the other WA wine regions will be available soon.

DPIRD appreciates the received support and input provided by Wines of WA and the Margaret River Wine Association in delivering this work.

For more information on this study contact Angela Stuart-Street.


Mysteries of Gingin Chardonnay clone unravelling

Chardonnay grapes
Western Australian Chardonnay producers have known for many years the clone referred to as ‘Gingin’ is something special.

From its distinct low yields and millerandage (hen and chicken) bunches observed in the vineyard to the powerful structure and fine line of acid enjoyed in the glass, many of the most acclaimed Chardonnay wines from WA can attribute this unique clone to its success.

Inspired by anecdotal evidence, researchers have delved deeper into the ‘Gingin’ clone to better understand its heritage and uniqueness with quantitative research. In 2013, a national research project titled ‘Assessing clonal variability in Chardonnay and Shiraz for future climate change’ undertook a four year study investigating the performance of a number of clones across diverse climatic regions. Within the study, two sites of Gingin Chardonnay were selected, one in Margaret River and another in the Great Southern. Over four seasons, viticultural observations and wine sensory assessment found the Gingin clone was consistently different when compared to the French Bernard clones 76, 95, 96, and 277.

A summary of the findings of this project relevant to WA producers was published in the last edition of the Wine Industry Newsletter.

In 2018/19, DPIRD Research Scientist Dr Monica Kehoe conducted a research project to develop a fast and effective diagnostic tool to test for grape vine virus in the field. Within this study Monica conducted analysis of numerous Gingin Chardonnay vines across WA and found all sites tested positive to grapevine leaf-roll virus type 1 (GLRaV-1). This also aligned with the results from testing the vines from the clone project described above and historic commercial samples submitted to the DPIRD diagnostic laboratory. With this information we now have confidence that the Gingin clone is endemic with GLRaV-1 virus.

DPIRD research scientist Richard Fennessy was the WA researcher on the national clones project, and undertook a detailed investigation into the importation and distribution of the Gingin clone. His findings were published in the June 2018 edition of this newsletter. This work showed it is unclear as to the origin of the plant material initially imported to WA from California, however this mystery is now much clearer with newly published research from the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI).

The AWRI initiated a project to whole genome sequence a number of key Chardonnay clones, and have now incorporated these learnings with newly sequenced clones including Gingin, Old Farm (OF) and Mendoza. In December 2018, DPIRD sampled two separate WA vineyards with the most direct descended vines from those originally imported in 1957. The researchers at AWRI sequenced this material as well of samples of clones Mendoza and OF. Comparing unique genetic markers, the AWRI researchers found that Gingin, OF and Mendoza share a lineage but there is sufficient genetic diversity between them to be unique in their own right (Roach, Borneman & Schmidt 2020). Interestingly, there are more similarities between Gingin and OF than Mendoza. This research by the AWRI has been published in the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research.

DPIRD and the WA Vine Improvement Association (WAVIA) are working together to ensure future true to type Gingin propagation material is available to the WA wine industry. Due to Gingin having GLRaV-1, it is unable to be included into the DPIRD managed WA Germplasm Collection due to risk of viral spread to other material within the collection. DPIRD and WAVIA are working on an arrangement with a third party to be a custodian of this material who will provide best practice management in maintaining this key resource for the WA wine industry.


Roach, M.J., Borneman, A.R., Schmidt, S.A. 2020. Origin of Chardonnay clones with historical significance in Australia and California. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research doi: 10.1111/ajgw.12448

Emerging varieties profiled at DPIRD wine tasting workshops

DPIRD research scientist Richard Fennessy and technical officer Yu-Yi Liao have been travelling across WA’s wine regions presenting wines from the 2019/20 season.

The first of the regional wine tasting workshops was held in Bunbury on 26 August for Geographe wine producers to taste emerging varieties showing potential for the region and a number of locally grown Tempranillo clones. Of the emerging varieties, five whites (Vermentino, Harslevelu, Pignoletto, Arneis and Scheurebe) and four reds (Sciacarello, Graciano, Montepulciano and Saperavi) were presented from three different vintages. This gave the attendees the ability to see how vintage variation and bottle maturation impact on the quality and attributes of these varietal wines. The six clones of Tempranillo were produced from a vineyard located in the Ferguson Valley where the clones are planted within a single block, tasting these wines gave the producers an opportunity to compare differences between the clones especially difference is aroma, flavour, body and tannin.

Geographe wine tasting workshop
Geographe wine producers tasting through trials wines at the DPIRD Bunbury office.

Held on 22 September, the wine tasting workshop in Margaret River consisted of wines produced from clonal demonstrations of Shiraz, Merlot and Tempranillo plus a water addition trial using Frankland Shiraz and Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon. The Shiraz clone demonstration included four clones produced from a Frankland River vineyard and the Merlot clones included two clones from a Margaret River vineyard for comparison. The water addition trials were conducted to demonstrate how the permitted addition of water by means of either straight addition or a run-off and replace impacts wine quality especially considering balance, weight and structure.

Margaret River wine producers tasting through 2020 trial wines.
Margaret River wine producers tasting through 2020 trial wines at the Margaret River Education Campus.

That same week on the 25 September, the Swan Valley wine tasting workshop was held at Riverbank Estate. The trial presented at this workshop included emerging varieties across multiple vintages that showed promise for the Swan Valley and Perth Hills regions. The varieties presented were Vermentino, Graciano, Montelpulciano and Saperavi. The six Geographe clones of Tempranillo were compared and water addition trial wines featuring Swan Valley Shiraz were tasted.

Swan Valley wine producers tasting trial wines at Riverbank Estate.
Swan Valley wine producers tasting trial wines at Riverbank Estate.

The final of the wine tasting workshops will be held in Mount Barker on 16 October, at this workshop emerging varieties with potential for the region will be tasted plus Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Merlot clones. The workshop will be concluded with the water addition trial on Frankland River Shiraz and Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.

Over 50 producers have attended these workshops to date. A copy of the presentation and further information can be provided on request to Richard Fennessy.

These activities have been funded through the Wine Australia Regional Program which is administered by Wines of WA on behalf of the WA wine industry.

Research to help protect WA vineyards against exotic stink bug

Brown marmorated stink bug
Brown Marmorated Stink Bug on Concord grapes. Photo by Keith Mason, MSU.

Researchers are looking for collaboration with winemakers to develop a cost benefit analysis for Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).

The cost benefit analysis will inform Western Australian winemakers on the most appropriate and financially viable biosecurity measures with relation to the risk posed by BMSB to their vineyards.

The specific information requested from collaborators includes: production outputs/costs, current biosecurity/pest surveillance methods and costs, and imported equipment such as wine barrels and machinery along with the associated quarantine treatment costs. All data supplied will be confidential and grouped so that the results produced do not allow for individual identification.  

BMSB is an emerging and pressing threat to Australia’s biosecurity. BMSB is not established in the country but multiple border detections on freight from Europe, North America and Asia have been made to date. If established, the BMSB could lead to extremely large financial losses and decrease in food production and security in Australia.

For winemakers, the BMSB offers a double threat: it has the potential to decimate vineyards and to taint the flavour profile of wine. Overseas, BMSB infestation has resulted in the use of broad-spectrum insecticides, disrupting integrated pest management and making organic production almost impossible.

This project is led by Murdoch PhD student Hamish McKirdy. Hamish is the 2020 recipient of the Wine Australia Award from the Australian Government’s “Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry”. As a result, this project is funded by Wine Australia and involves collaboration between Murdoch University, the Western Australian Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development, the Australian Chief Plant Protection Office and the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis.

Minister for Agriculture, Hon David Littleproud MP presenting Murdoch PhD student Hamish McKirdy the Wine Australia Award from the Australian Government’s “Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry”.
Minister for Agriculture, Hon David Littleproud MP presenting Murdoch PhD student Hamish McKirdy the Wine Australia Award from the Australian Government’s “Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry”.


If you are interested in being involved, and would like further information, please contact Hamish McKirdy at or on +61 400 781 997.

Fresh faces to boost DPIRD wine RD&I

Introducing Yu-Yi Liao
Introducing Yu-Yi Liao

Born and raised in Taiwan, Yu-Yi grew up on her family orchard growing nashis, mandarins, table grapes, and other subtropical fruit.

After completing a degree in business at the National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan in 2006, her adventurous spirit brought her to Australia as a backpacker to broaden her horizons and eventually to become an Australian citizen in 2015.

While working in the horticulture industry as a backpacker, Yu-Yi undertook many hands-on horticultural tasks such as pruning, fruit picking and packing across the south west while also gaining insight into local production systems.

Before completing a Diploma of Horticulture at Bunbury TAFE in 2012, Yu-Yi worked at a large nursery in Donnybrook which specialised in horticulture crops including native ornamental, vegetable and plantation plants. In the six and a half years at the nursery, Yu-Yi rose to be the Native Plant Motherstock program leader and plant health coordinator. Within this role Yu-Yi was tasked with pest and disease monitoring, formulating nutritional programs, propagation scheduling and conducting in-house trials.

Yu-Yi also spent a period of time working at a fruit packing company providing exposure to different varieties of fruit crops such as apples, avocados, kiwi fruit and tamarillos.

Yu-Yi is passionate about sustainability, supporting local producers and developing new skills. As a technical officer Yu-Yi will be working closely with research scientist Richard Fennessy in various grape and wine R&D activities while also supporting other DPIRD horticultural activities including apples and citrus.

Introducing Jesse Bowman
Introducing Jesse Bowman

Jesse Bowman is a recent addition to the DPIRD’s Viticulture Team as a development officer based at the department's South Perth office.

Jesse grew up in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, an area near the coast with subtropical rainforests and industries such as grazing, horticulture and sugarcane.

Jesse graduated from Southern Cross University with a combined Bachelor of Environment Science/Marine Science and Management in 2019, after which he undertook a graduate position with Queensland Farmers’ Federation Agricultural Extension Work Placement Program. Within this program Jesse joined Sugar Research Australia (SRA) in the Burdekin region, north QLD. During his tenure at SRA he was involved primarily in water quality monitoring at the paddock and sub-catchment scale. The purpose of Jesse’s work was to conduct water sampling and deliver results to growers with the goal of ultimately reducing nitrogen entering Great Barrier Reef catchments, while supporting sugarcane growers in a productive, profitable and sustainable way. 

 Professionally, one of Jesse’s main drivers is understanding challenges and issues that growers deal with and solving problems in a logical and efficient way. He has recently become interested in the role drone technology plays in agriculture and looks forward to experimenting with drones and investigating their potential uses in viticulture.  

Jesse will be primarily working with the WA table grape industry but will cross over into wine grape production especially on topics such as pest and disease, vine nutrition and irrigation.

Jesse is keen to learn about and support the industry to improve economic, social and environmental outcomes to the best of his ability and will be mentored by senior technical officer Colin Gordon and Richard Fennessy.


Future events

ASVO seminar series – Understanding phenolics and texture

From a winemaking perspective, better tannin and colour management is generally considered the most impactful way to improve wine quality and longevity.

ASVO is pleased to announce, the “Understanding phenolics & texture" series. During these three seminars, ASVO will bring winemakers, researchers and wine technologists to share their knowledge and experience and provide attendees with methods and technologies to tackle the main questions raised when dealing with phenolics, texture and oxygen in wine.

This series will use a practical approach in order to deliver the most useful information about phenolic compounds in grapes and wine. ASVO offers this seminar to create a more complete understanding about the key chemical processes and technical tools that enhance structure, improve mouthfeel and prevent oxidation. The series will include three workshops:

  1. Developing texture in the Winery: Tuesday, 13 October 2020
  2. Chemical, physical and cognitive effects influencing wine mouthfeel: Tuesday 20 October 2020
  3. Understanding phenolics & texture series: Tuesday, 27 October 2020

For further details and registration visit the ASVO website.


DPIRD wine tasting workshop – Great Southern

Wine producers in the Great Southern are invited to attend a tasting workshop featuring the latest wine trials from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Hosted by DPIRD research scientist Richard Fennessy, the tasting will include:

  • emerging varieties from multiple vintages showing potential for the region
  • two clones of Pinot Noir produced from Pemberton
  • four clones of Shiraz produced from Frankland River
  • two clones of Merlot produced from Margaret River
  • trial wines of Frankland River Shiraz & Margaret River Cabernet demonstrating how water additions can mitigate elevated Baumes and the impact on wine quality.

Friday October 16, 10am - 1pm, Sounness Park

RSVPs can be directed to the Great Southern Wine Producers Association


ASVO Awards for Excellence

The ASVO Awards for Excellence honour and recognise the achievements of dedicated and professional individuals in the Australian wine industry. These awards are judged by independent awards committees, consisting members who are leaders in the wine sector.

In the interests of the health and safety of the community, industry peers and guests, the ASVO 2020 Awards for Excellence will be moved online. ASVO will now be announcing the winners of the ASVO Awards with an online awards event taking place on Tuesday 17 November at 4.30pm AWST.

Register here to watch the action live


XIIIth International Terroir Congress

The XIII International Terroir Congress will still be hosted by the University of Adelaide, Australia. Previous successful congresses have been hosted in France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Hungary and the United States of America.

Since 1996, this biennial event allows the scientific and industry communities to meet and discuss the latest results of research and information on the concept of ‘terroir’. The Meeting will cover the main fields in viticultural, wine and sensory research and innovation focusing on the; History and Innovation of Terroir, People Shaping Terroir, Scales of Terroir and Terroir Conservation.

Considering the safety of registrants and other interested parties, the Terroir Congress Organising Committee has developed a digital platform to deliver the full scientific program.

When: 17 – 18 November 2020

For further details and registration visit the event website.