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ASVO Viticulturist of the Year 2022 – Nick Dry

RD&A News | December 2022
16 Dec 2022
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We speak to Nick Dry, ASVO Viticulturist of the Year 2022 about what makes him tick – and his work on the Australian National Grapevine Collection.

As a child growing up on the outskirts of Gawler, where the housing developments meet farmland, Nick Dry had the freedom to explore wide open spaces.

When he wasn’t freewheeling around town on his bicycle, he could be found across the road at the newly-built primary school, taking advantage of the shiny new basketball court, cricket nets and footy goals. To this day, he says he’s a ‘sports nut.’

Gawler is a small town between Adelaide and the Barossa Valley – close to where his dad lectured in viticulture at Roseworthy Agricultural College – and Nick always knew he’d choose an ‘outdoor’ job.

“I was good at chemistry and biology at school, but like a lot of teenagers I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left school.

“What I did know was that I wanted to work in a field where I could combine working outside and travel.

 “Through my exposure to dad’s career I knew that viticulture ticked both of those boxes, so I went to university to study it.”

Nick says he started the course straight from school and felt very ‘young and naïve’ compared to many of the of the other students who mostly had come to the course with some life experience as mature age students.  

“The first year of the course was all science, with no viticulture or winemaking subjects, so it felt like a bit of a slog at the time, but meeting new and interesting people and hanging out in Adelaide made up for it.”

However, once he moved to second year at the Waite Institute and started doing more viticulture specific subjects it all just clicked, and his love and appreciation for viticulture grew from there.

After stints working in different wine regions across Australia and Europe, Nick returned to Australia to work with Yalumba, where he stayed for 10 years before establishing his own consultancy business, Foundation Viticulture.

Today, Nick is a well-known name in Australian viticulture, with ASVO judges noting his extensive knowledge of variety, clone and rootstock performance, along with an intimate understanding of grapevine trunk disease, grapevine virus, germplasm management and nursery practices.

Nick’s nomination as the ASVO Viticulturist of the Year 2022 focused on his role with the National Grapevine Collection, where he is engaged by Wine Australia as the Coordinator.

The project aims to establish a national, centrally-managed collection of grapevine assets which are appropriately resourced, established, maintained and protected for the grape and wine sector into the future. Nick’s role involves engaging with all stakeholders across the grapevine supply chain, establishing the physical assets of the collection, coordinating associated activities to fill vital gaps in quality assurance, and delivering a plan for securing the future of the collection beyond the three-year term of the project. Also on Nick’s radar are the two pillars of the collection; a certification standard for grapevine propagation material and a centrally maintained and publicly-available national database of grapevine varieties, clones and rootstocks. 

“It is also validation for the hard work I and more importantly all the other researchers and practitioners that have been working away in the area of vine improvement for the past 70 years. I am simply a conduit for those that have come before me; legends like Richard Cirami, Harry Tulloch, Max Loder, Peter May, George Kerridge and Alan Antcliff to name but a few.”

Currently, Nick is consulting with the sector to identify which of the 205 unique grapevine varieties in the CSIRO and SARDI collections should be prioritised for access and distribution.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.