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Photo: Ewen Bell / Wine Australia

From surf to vines – all in a day’s work for Colin

RD&E News
Photo: Ewen Bell / Wine Australia
07 Dec 2018
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Colin Bell has the enviable pleasure of balancing his love of the ocean with his passion for the wine sector.

As a Margaret River native, he gets to enjoy both.

Colin starts most days at the crack of dawn with a surf or a run along the coastline, and then jumps in his ute and heads to the ‘office’ – the vineyards of the Margaret River region where he manages company vineyards and consults to wineries and growers in his viticultural consultancy role with AHA Viticulture.

In between, he serves as a board member for Wines of Western Australia, and a Director and independent board member of Australian Vignerons.

Colin’s contribution to the wine sector was recognised recently with the 2018 ASVO Viticulturist of the Year Award – with the judges noting his ‘steadfast commitment to sector connectivity to achieve improvement in all facets of production, financial management, marketing of grapes and wine brand development’.

Colin said he loves to challenge practices and use innovation to improve performance and generate profitable businesses.

For example, his work evaluating Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot clones in Margaret River led to the adoption of new clones with enhanced quality and sustainability; and his use of Growing Degree Days (which measures heat accumulation to predict vine development rates) into the management of all his vineyards has helped him to predict key developmental stages and thus enable proactive decision-making.

The adoption of real-time digital data collection, including unit-based performance and financial tracking, cloud based storage and data sharing has been key to Colin’s success.

‘Embracing technology has changed the way we run at every level of our viticulture. We work in remote areas, and a paperless system has allowed us to communicate faster and act more accurately than ever before.’

Colin said it’s been great to see his staff and clients adapt to new technologies: ‘Our implementation strategy has been to start slowly and involve the crew in developments. It didn’t take long before the improvement suggestions came flowing in from the bottom up!’

Colin said the wine sector was going through an exciting phase as it increasingly embraced regional initiatives that were designed to foster individuality.

‘I’m excited by collaborative self-discovery – where we look at how our regional culture interacts with our climate, soils and vineyards to yield unique characters.’

Looking forward, he hopes to dive deeper into understanding what he has learnt so far ‘and and articulate this in our generational succession.’

Colin believes sector connectivity is critical to the wine sector’s growth, moving forward.

‘Very little is completely made in Australia these days – and even less so in country Australia. Wine is so important for regional communities as it brings a three-stage economy to the bush.

‘Wine production adds incredible diversity, opportunity, and value to our communities; and increasing export is the key to the sector finding its greater potential.

‘When we connect across the whole sector, we give ourselves a chance to make better strategic decisions and capture a greater share of the international wine market. When you focus on export collectively, you shift your competitiveness to other wine producing countries and not the grower next door.’

Colin says he is honoured to receive the ASVO award – but is quick to acknowledge others.

‘Much of the sector work I have done is dry dinner conversation. Many who contribute tirelessly and voluntarily to the sector fly under the radar. The wine sector and community have given me a career, countless friends and a rewarding life. Giving back has been great.’

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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.