Two field evaluation trials designed to improve the productivity and quality of Riverland grapes are the focus of ongoing research in the region.
The first is a clonal trial looking primarily at Shiraz and Chardonnay but also including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. The clones have been selected from a variety of sources in Australia and overseas.
The second is a rootstock trial that aims to evaluate a range of new rootstock selections against the ‘industry standards’ commonly used in the Riverland. In all, 10 rootstocks plus own roots across two varieties – Chardonnay and Shiraz – are being evaluated.
‘From a winemaker’s perspective, the clonal trial has raised a lot of interest’, said the coordinator of the Riverland Regional Program, Chris Bennett. ‘While many of the clones have similar attributes, the wines are difficult to distinguish. A number consistently produce wines with a quite different style, which quickly has the discussion turning to matching these with specific market opportunities.
‘To be able to identify clones that either make consistently higher quality wine or exhibit characteristics that would be appreciated and sought after in specific markets would be a very important outcome for the region.
‘We think it is very important to identify specific market requirements and then attempt to service these as best we can. Not all markets are the same.’
While the initial results are very encouraging, a number of clones have yet to be evaluated and the ongoing work will ensure these are assessed against the best found so far.
The rootstock work is nearing completion, with the results from the work to date currently being analysed. This includes both the viticultural aspects as well as the wines produced. As would be expected, initial observations are that the characteristics can be quite diverse, so the results will be of great value to growers who are looking to select the best options for their conditions when putting in new plantings.
‘The program is a true collaboration, with a number of regional partners working together to ensure success’, Mr Bennett said.
‘The program is supported by funding from Wine Australia and Riverland Wine, clones and rootstocks and field work are being supported by Riverland Vine Improvement Committee and Yalumba’s Oxford Landing Estates, sensory analysis is being carried out by the AWRI and microferments are being undertaken by the Department of Economic Development in Victoria.’