Wine Industry Newsletter

Clone forum summary

Attendees at a wine industry forum
Research Officer Richard Fennessy presents at the recent Margaret River clone forum

Department Research Officer Richard Fennessy and Development Officer Diana Fisher presented information on the availability and attributes of clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Tempranillo at a forum attended by about 50 industry members in Margaret River on 13 June.

The forum was borne from an industry desire to gain a better understanding of what clones are available in the various public and private collections in Western Australia.

In conjunction with the forum, the department released the booklet 'A review of five wine grape variety clones in Western Australia'. The booklet lists and categorises the availability of close to 200 clones and provides comment on their origins.

This resource provides the WA wine industry with a reference to the diversity and availability of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Tempranillo clones. It also provides information on the processes involved in importing grapevine material into WA and the contact details of vine improvement bodies and nurseries across Australia.

During the forum, key viticultural and wine quality performance aspects of 92 separate clones were presented. This information was derived from a literature review of international and Australian published material.

Complementing the technical information was a discussion session for each of the five varieties:


Discussions on Chardonnay clones highlighted the importance and significance of the WA Gingin clone.

Management points concerning this clone included avoiding excessive sunlight exposure due to increases in undesirable phenolics and also the challenges of exposed sites that may impact on fruitfulness and consequently commercially viable yields. 

It was also noted in the discussions that ideally growers should have diversity within their clonal plantings of Chardonnay so to offer blending options to the winemaker; some believed the power of Gingin blends well with some of the more elegant producing clones.


Tempranillo is a relatively new variety for WA and as plantings increase and vines mature so does the understanding of the performance of the clones currently available.

The panel discussed the potential of certain clones to suit rose wine styles compared to medium bodied reds.

A general point was raised about the challenges of growing Tempranillo, which is typified by large canopies and large bunches, and in regions that have humidity conducive to bunch rot occurrence.

Overall the panel was excited to follow the developments of these clones as the vines mature across the regions.


When the topic of Cabernet clones arose, the importance of the Houghton selection and the Roche series of clones were noted.

The panel shared their respective experiences working with various clones and all agreed that those clones originally selected from the Houghton vineyard in the Swan Valley produce a distinct and superior wine when grown in the right site.

It was recommended that those with a planting of the Houghton selection to inspect their blocks for underperforming vines and to consider replacing them as some plantings can be variable in their ability to yield.


Much of the Merlot discussion revolved around the issues with the variety and how it tends to be planted in more clay dominate soils in Bordeaux, and that French producers take great care in pairing a variety to a soil type which is somewhat different to the general approach we take in Australia.

There was also the topic of rootstocks brought into the discussion and how this should be considered for new plantings of Merlot.


The lack of diversity and knowledge of Shiraz clones was noted in the panel discussion on Shiraz clones.

With a number of relatively new imported clones now available, the general comments were that this is an exciting time to observe how these will perform especially in regions that have great potential for producing high quality Shiraz.

Wine tasting

Forum wine tasting session
Forum wine tasting session

The final session of the forum consisted of a wine tasting of clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Tempranillo.

The first bracket included Chardonnay clones 76, 95, 96, 277 and Gingin.

These 2017 Margaret River wines were from the DPIRD trial assessing the impact of climate change of clonal performance.

Discussion after this bracket showed a heavy preference to the Gingin clone followed by 95.

The Tempranillo bracket consisted of clones 32, 98, 261, 306 and 326 from a Margaret River producer in 2017.

Surveying the tasters found no clone was a clear favourite with 29% of the tasters preferring clone 326, 24% preferred clone 98, clones 32 and 306 both scoring 18% of the preferences and 12% favouring clone 261.

The Shiraz (2018) bracket was a unique opportunity to taste wines made from the same parcel of clonal fruit grown at a Frankland River vineyard made at the DPIRD lab and from a commercial winery.

The clones featured are relatively new to the state and include 174 (France), 470 (France) and Waldron (New Zealand).

The commercial winery also included South Australia clone, BVRC12.

Of the DPIRD wines, the majority of the group (70%) preferred the Waldron clone leaving 22% favouring clone 470 and 8% clone 174.

Waldron received the highest preference of the commercially made clones with 50% of the group giving their preference. Clones 174, BVRC12 and 470 received 36%, 8% and 6% of the preference respectively.

The bracket of Cabernet (2018) included two Margaret River producers, one from Wallcliffe and the other Wilyabrup.

The Wallcliffe clones included 125 and 337, the group overwhelmingly preferred 337 as 125 was described as showing herbaceous characters, where 337 showed greater fruit characters.

The Wilyabrup clones included 191, 337 and Houghton selection of which was the most preferred clone at 64%. Clone 337 scored 31% of the preference votes while 5% preferred 191.

The last bracket of the tasting involved two Merlot (2018) clones from a Margaret River producer. The group heavily favoured clone 181 as it attracted 81% of the preference vote while the other clone, Q45-14 received 19% of the group’s preference.

For more information regarding the forum please contact Richard Fennessy, Research Officer on +61(0)8 9780 6219