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Incubator Initiative: What practices in the vineyard lead to the consistent production of medal-winning wines?


Twelve years of wine judging results from the Barossa Wine Show were analysed to discover those Shiraz and Riesling wines consistently winning medals. An email survey was deployed to ascertain the viticultural practices used to grow the fruit to produce these wines. The viticulturists for the 15 Riesling and 17 Shiraz wines were contacted. Due to a variety of reasons, there were difficulties in obtaining responses. Other approaches to improve the data collection for this type of study are discussed. In general, the responses to the survey showed that medal winning wines were made from grapes from single cordon, spur pruned vines with approximately 40 buds left at pruning.


Results show that in general fruit produced for consistent medal winning wines is more likely to be from spur pruned vines, trained to a single cordon and with fewer than 40 buds per vine at pruning. This vineyards will have good vineyard floor management – with no bare soils for either Shiraz or Riesling as well as relatively low volumes of water use.

Survey response collection was challenging particularly for Shiraz wines. A range of factors contributed to the low response rate. A recommendation is to document vineyard practices centrally as part of the wine show entrance, based on the elements covered by this report. This practice would make it possible for growers and wine makers to analyse the practices over time, which provide for “higher” quality wine.

The wine show system holds elements of self-selection (not all wines are entered) and variability in judging quality. To better understand which vineyard practices lead to better quality wines another approach could be to start from the vineyard perspective. Blocks of Shiraz or Riesling from the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley could be assessed for the vineyard practices they use and then this information could be linked back to a wine. Wine writers could then link the wine back to any show results or features. In this way, a greater cross-section of the Barossa could be analysed and more holistic data produced.

The Waite Research Institute contributed financially to the project and is engaged to develop the extension materials to be presented to the Regional Partner. Additionally, Torbreck’s Nigel Blieschke provided input on the survey development and Nicki Robins, from the Barossa Wine Association, has edited and contributed to drafts of all the work arising from this project as well as providing show results and contact information.

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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.