The Members Meetings recently convened in the Fortified Wines Barrel Room at Berri Estates covered many different topics. The 100+ members who attended heard a series of presentations from Accolade Wines, the Winemakers Federation (WFA), the ACCC, Riverland Wine and Jim Caddy.
Key highlights included commentary from Tony Battaglene CEO of WFA. He spoke of the very recent amalgamation between winemakers and growers and the formation of the united peak industry body to be knowns as Australian Grape and Wine Incorporated (AGWI). He informed the gatherings of a number of reasons why this amalgamation is so important. He stressed the benefits of speaking to Federal politicians with a single voice when influencing industry strategy and policy making. He highlighted the need for increased resources in the area of biosecurity noting especially this region’s dependency on export markets. We simply cannot afford any disruption to the smooth flow of trade and therefore a well-resourced biosecurity framework is essential; much more achievable within a union of growers and winemakers.
Research, development and extension underpin the success of the Australian wine industry. Tony expressed the view that the levy payers will be in a position to exercise more influence over such matters when priorities are debated and agreed in the united forum.
Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) are another really important consideration for our industry. It’s important to be vigilant to be sure that unnecessary regulations don’t impinge on our ability to produce grapes of the highest standard with which to produce consistent styles of commercial wine. With continued and strengthened lobbying Tony predicted that Phos Acid would be back in the toolbox within six to 12 months.
Protecting our ability to grow varieties such as Prosecco and Nero d’Avola is also important. Italian producers have been actively seeking to prevent these varieties and their wines being grown and marketed outside of Italy.
He spoke of how the interests of growers will be protected within the Constitution of AGWI. That body consists of four separate management committees: Small, Medium and Large winemakers and now, following the amalgamation, a vignerons or winegrowers committee. Each of these committees appoints four members who make up the board of 16. Each committee will have the power of veto over the other three thereby ensuring strategy and policy are hammered out in a fair and equitable way.
Organics is another area where the combined body will be looking to open up more market opportunities and to strengthen the regulations around compliance to protect those who are genuinely organic from intruders or pretenders.
One of the big topics with the potential to impact inland regions adversely is that of tax. With strong opposition coming from the Health Lobby and the breweries it is crucial that the peak federal body is strongly resourced and focussed in supporting Australian wine, growers, producers and regional communities.
Tari Georgious, ACCC Acting Director, explained why the Commission has instigated the special wine industry market study through its Agriculture Unit. While many are satisfied that they have good working relationships between growers and processors there is still a need for the commission to be satisfied that market powers are not being abused and that indicative price mechanisms, contained in the Wine Industry Code of Conduct, are being administered fairly and reasonably.
Chris Bennett spoke passionately about optimisation and the opportunities that management regime will reveal for our industry, drawing some parallels with advances in the almond industry since optimisation was trialled.
Victoria Lewis provided detail of the virtual reality project being undertaken by Riverland Wine in partnership with University of Adelaide, 57 Films and the State Government. This project could be a game changer inasmuch as the focus is on promotion of Riverland food and tourism opportunities as well as grapes and wine.
Jim Caddy rounded off the sessions with comprehensive insights into global grape and wine values, finishing on a very positive note of anticipation that the region will witness a fourth successive year of improved grape and wine values.
The next Members Meeting will be convened at Berri Estates once again, not in the Barrel Room but in the brand new packaging facility due for completion in less than a month.
Special thanks to Lucy Clements, Ryan Hodgson, and Wayne Ellis senior managers of Accolade Wines who facilitated the meetings and a big thank you to Rod and Wade Hondow who provided outstanding barbecue and breakfast meals in very trying circumstances on two of the hottest most humid days of the growing season to date.