NEW grapevines planted at Orange Agricultural Institute marks the Central West institution’s first foray into viticulture research.
A one-hectare planting of 40 new varieties went in on December 19, just six days after Wine Australia and the CSIRO signed a $37-million co-investment agreement.
NSW Primary Industries Department is partnering CSIRO throughout the trial.
With 48 plants of each variety, it’s part of a larger project across three states, NSW, South Australia and Victoria.
The new varieties have been bred for resistance to downy mildew and powdery mildew and will not be sprayed.
Primary Industries Department southern horticulture systems leader Myles Parker – a specialist in citrus, temperate fruits, nuts and wine – said given the Orange region’s dynamic and growing array of cool-climate wineries it made sense to begin viticulture research.
“There’s more vineyards than apple orchards in the region these days,” he said.
The CSIRO has bred the new varieties, 20 reds and 20 whites, that share characteristics of existing grapes, but are unknown quantities to Australian vignerons.
Mr Parker said if even just one of them became the essence of a popular tipple, the project would be on a winner.
It will be a least three years before the vines reach maturity, at which time the fruit will be transported to Wagga Wagga’s Charles Sturt University to be made into micro batches by National Wine and Grape Industry Centre senior research scientist Dr Bruno Holzapfel. Samples will then be forwarded to panels of winemakers and judges to determine if the wine might make it commercially. Mr Parker said if successful, the grapes could significantly reduce costs for growers and increase quality.
In announcing the deal with CSIRO, Wine Australia chief executive Andreas Clark said the group was “delighted to continue our long-term partnership with Australia’s internationally renowned research organisation. We eagerly anticipate the benefits for the Australian grape and wine community from robust new varieties with greater pest and disease resistance that make wines with unique flavours,” he said.
“Growers and winemakers will also benefit from better vineyard management tools, and an ongoing source of excellent planting material for the Australian winegrowing community.”
Mr Parker said things were happening at the Orange Agricultural Institute. “There’s been rumours of us reducing what we’re doing, that’s not right, it’s increasing and it’s changing,” he said.