Adapting to changing climatic conditions is a priority for the Queensland Wine Industry Association (QWIA), with two current Wine Australia-funded projects looking at practical responses.
The first is a long-term trial of alternative grape varieties in partnership with the Queensland College of Wine Tourism (QCWT). The aim is to assess the value and potential of varieties already planted in the College’s display vineyard and then trial other options.
The vineyard is being expanded, with the first 30 new varieties, selected on the basis of previous research, planted last October. The list includes many names little known in Australia, such as Sauvignonasse Tocai Fruliano, Trincadiera, Pignoletto and Harslevelu.
A regional field trip and workshop are planned and there is also a research component to the project, with a report from QCWT academics due this financial year.
According to QWIA President Nick Pesudovs, local growers and winemakers are only too aware of the need to prepare for the future.
‘Queensland has the most northerly vineyards is Australia and we’ve always had to deal with bursts of severe weather such as heavy rain and hail’, he said. ‘But we are now seeing rising temperatures and the pattern of rainfall distribution has decreased over the growing months.’
The project supervisors are QCWT’s Peter Reilly and viticulturist Mike Hayes from Symphony Hill winery in the Granite Belt.
‘Mike has amazing knowledge in this area’, Mr Pesudovs said. ‘Four years ago, he was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to look at alternative varieties and he has brought an enormous amount of information back to Queensland.’
Mr Hayes is also co-supervisor (with Bruce Cleaves from Dusty Hill Vineyard in South Burnett region) of the second project, which is investigating the most appropriate composting and mulching techniques and materials for Queensland conditions.
‘Soils in Queensland viticultural areas are often low in organic status and don’t hold water well’, Mr Pesudovs said. ‘We see composting and mulching as effective and sustainable ways of improving the situation for growers, many of whom have limited access to water.’
Growers are testing different approaches at three different trial sites, with a focus on closely monitoring water usage and undertaking regular moisture readings. A field day to report results is expected to be held in June.