Emerging and hybrid grape varieties that can handle high rainfall and humidity are the focus of current activities within Wine Australia’s Regional Program in Queensland.
Spearheaded by the Queensland Wine Industry Association (QWIA), the activities aim to find new varieties that are suited to the diverse climatic conditions throughout the state’s south-eastern corner, where 99 per cent of Queensland’s wine grapes are grown.
‘Within the next couple of years, our goal is to confidently recommend varieties that are suited to particular climatic extremes in Queensland and are commercially viable and accepted by consumers’, said Mike Hayes, Director of Viticulture and Winery Operations at Sirromet Wines, and 2017 ASVO Winemaker of the Year.
Queensland has a small but enthusiastic wine sector – which is set to grow with initiatives around these emerging hybrid varieties.
In a joint venture with the CSIRO, the Regional Program will soon begin trials with hybrid varieties to evaluate their suitability for propagation, winemaking and consumer acceptance.
‘This is exciting as it will eventually extend our growing regions to produce quality wine in Queensland’, Mike said.
‘In previous years we have had issues with growing thin skinned varieties in warm humid climates. This trial will establish the possibility of planting hybrid varieties that can handle higher rainfall and humidity.’
The majority of the upcoming Regional Program activities centre around alternative varieties and sharing knowledge with local producers. Highlights include:
- The alternative small batch winemaking initiative, which aims to determine the suitability of emerging varieties in terms of both marketing and wine quality. This year, the Regional Program made wine from 13 of the varieties planted in the Vineyard of the Future Project.
- Small plot vineyard establishment for gateway schools, which has involved planting trial blocks of emerging varieties to observe disease susceptibility and suitability for growth in individual regions. Thirteen schools in Queensland have become ‘gateway schools’ to the wine tourism sector, to help educate and motivate future young winemakers and tourism operators. Specific curriculum offerings provide industry-relevant training in viticulture, food processing (wine), hospitality and tourism; and students are linked with their local wine tourism sector through work experience and structured industry placement.
- Emerging variety field day – to be held on 21 November at Queensland College of Wine Tourism, Caves Road, Stanthorpe from 9am – will focus on discussions between winemakers and growers on issues around growing and making wine. The day will also include wine sector experts discussing key issues around emerging varieties including consumer acceptance, originality and the needs of restaurants and retail outlets. Nick Dry from Yalumba Nursery will also hold a session on rootstock selections.
Mike said the Regional Program was invaluable for Queensland’s advancement within the Australian wine sector.
‘Not only has it delivered valuable information on our point of difference in emerging varieties, but it has also aided in national communication and cross-referencing ideas across many regions. This is a vital link to the wine sector in Queensland.