Grapegrowers in Western Australia now have a wealth of information on the diversity, availability and potential of close to 200 grapevine clones.
The State Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development has released the booklet A review of five wine grape variety clones in Western Australia, which lists and categorises available clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Tempranillo, along with comments on their origins.
It also provides information on the processes involved in importing grapevine material into WA and the contact details of vine improvement bodies and nurseries across Australia.
The release of the booklet coincided with a forum in Margaret River, at which the Department’s Research Officer Richard Fennessy and Development Officer Diana Fisher talked through the wine quality performance aspects of 92 separate clones, using information derived from an extensive literature review.
They also held a tasting and a discussion session for each of the five varieties.
‘This has been a really satisfying activity’, Richard said. ‘I regularly receive enquires from producers wanting to know more about the performance attributes of the clones available in WA and this booklet will now provide a great reference’.
‘I have already received interest from producers in other states about the booklet, so I feel this activity has tapped into both a regional and national need.’
Identifying and understanding clonal material was one of the three main activities run under the Wine Australia Regional Program in WA over the past year. The other activities included a greater focus on promoting innovative winemaking practices and ongoing work evaluating and demonstrating alternative varieties.
An annual Winemakers’ Trial Forum has been held in Margaret River since 2015 and this was extended to include sessions in the Swan Valley and Great Southern, through funding from Wine Australia, which also allows for guest winemakers from outside WA to participate.
In Swan Valley, Corrina Wright from Oliver’s Taranga gave an interesting perspective on growing and making Grenache and Shiraz in McLaren Vale, while in Margaret River, Andrew Hales from Penfolds shared insights into Chardonnay and Cabernet production from a non-WA perspective, including detailing the clones sourced by Penfolds from premium wine regions in South Australia and Victoria.
A tasting in Great Southern will be held later this month.
Margaret River Winemakers' Trial forum
Meanwhile, the trial of 22 alternative winegrape varieties at the WA College of Agriculture – Harvey is well under way. This year’s vintage was the second season for which progress was evaluated, with students joining college staff in recording key phenological dates, counting bunches and harvesting fruit.
To pass on information to the sector, Richard has conducted workshops and tastings in the Great Southern, Geographe, Blackwood Valley and Margaret River regions, as well as conducting field walks at the demonstration site. He made all of the small-lot wines at DPIRD’s Bunbury wine laboratory.
Workshops and field walks will recommence now that the 2018 wines have been bottled, some of which will be assessed by the Geographe Wine Show judges next month. In addition, a forum is planned for later in the year to discuss and explore the potential of alternative varieties.
Work on alternative varieties and innovative winemaking will continue through the next year. The 2018–19 Regional Program also includes a series of pest and disease workshops featuring internationally renowned grapevine pathologist Professor Wayne Wilcox from Cornell University in the USA and Victorian research plant pathologist Dr Bob Emmett.