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Taking the guess work out of clonal selection

RD&A News | July 2020
10 Jul 2020
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The Western Australia (WA) Regional Program clonal project is set to expand in 2020–21, with the project moving its focus to the influence of clonal selection on Cabernet Sauvignon wine quality.

Already, the group has compared the performance of Tempranillo, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot.

The WA Regional Program hopes its clonal project will help improve growers’ knowledge of clonal diversity – and which ones may be preferable for WA conditions.

‘While there are a number of clones available for the key varieties grown in WA, until now little was known about their performance and suitability. We hope this project will go some way to changing that’, said Richard Fennessy, Research Scientist (grape and wine) with the WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

Richard Fennessy pictured with four Great Southern Shiraz clones prior to bottling


In 2019–20, a number of vineyards across WA were identified that had multiple clones planted within uniform blocks.

Six Tempranillo clones from a vineyard in the Geographe wine region, four Shiraz clones from a vineyard in the Great Southern subregion of Frankland River, two Pinot Noir clones from a Pemberton vineyard and two clones of Merlot from a Margaret River vineyard were measured on yield, bunches per vine, average berry weight and bunch compaction.

Small lot wines ranging from 3–7 litres were then made from the clones. The wine was bottled recently and will be presented at sector tasting workshops later in the year so producers can be better informed on how these clones perform in the vineyard under WA growing conditions.

Having successfully characterised clones for the other varieties, the project team is now focusing on Cabernet Sauvignon.

In 2019, a block of mature Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Margaret River were grafted over to 12 clones of Cabernet as part of a Wine Australia-funded project. The first crop off these vines is expected in 2021.

‘Once again, we will harvest the grapes and make small lot wines from these 12 clones and make them available for sector tastings’, said Richard.

High Baumé red must project

The WA Regional Program is also completing local trials of water addition to manage high Baumé red must.

Parcels of harvested fruit taken in 2019–20 included Swan Valley Shiraz, Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon and Great Southern Shiraz at three different sugar maturities.

The first picking maturity (~13.5°Be) represented a control. The second (~14.5°Be) and third (~16°Be) maturities received two dilution treatments plus a control.

One treatment was the addition of a volume of water to bring back the Baumé to the first pick maturity while the second involved the run-off and replacement of juice to water to the same initial maturity.

Wines from the various treatments have been scheduled for bottling and will be presented to the sector through a series of regional tastings later in the year.

Richard said the project would help demonstrate how the permitted addition of water could mitigate elevated sugar levels in red musts that could be experienced in challenging seasons.

Other WA Regional Program events scheduled for 2020–21 include:

Biosecurity training

Vinehealth Australia will conduct workshops in key tourism areas of WA to inform producers on key biosecurity risks and provide tools on how to best manage these risks. 

Workshopping the use of harvesters to manipulate bunch architecture

This project aims to extend growers’ knowledge of a non-spray method of managing bunch rot through the use of mechanical harvesters post-flowering. The aim is to develop protocols for the optimal set up of various harvester brands to maximise bunch trash removal or architecture manipulation.

Promoting sustainable wine production

Regional workshops on the Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (SWA) program will promote adoption and provide access to regional benchmarks. Dr Mardi Longbottom will also guide producers through the functionality of the SWA platform.

Pruning workshops

International consultants Simonit & Sirch will conduct pruning workshops on addressing necrotic wood and trunk disease as important strategies managing old vines. This activity aims to promote new thinking when considering pruning and to educate growers on how best to handle older vines to ensure longevity.

For more information on any of these projects, contact Richard Fennessy on

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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.