Achieving sustainability is a colossal challenge for the majority of Riverland winegrowing businesses. The region’s reputation for being unflappable and growers’ habits of hard work, patience, persistence, resilience, stamina, staying-power and toughness have been pushed to the limit for almost a decade, ably assisted by the millennial drought. It may be too soon to proclaim success but the indicators are pointing up at long last. Whispers of growing demand, following the modest upswing in 2016 prices is encouraging.
The fact remains, the great majority of Riverland Wine is exported; much of it as ‘blends’ with wines from other regions. Despite regularly producing more than 400K tonnes there is demand for it all. Industry needs the region’s production levels to achieve the critical mass necessary for volume sales but also, perhaps especially, to drive the industry research, development and extension programs.
To aid the region’s producers reputations for reliability, consistency, and competitiveness in world export markets, Riverland Wine receives modest funding from Wine Australia, each year, under the ‘Grassroots Regional Program’. These funds enable the organisation to assist members in adapting and adopting new technologies; putting the levy funds to work through the national R&D program.
In recent years much of the focus and funding of Grassroots funds in the Riverland has been directed towards large, innovative programs such as the Riverland Clonal and Rootstock Trials and several other major programs, including trials to determine the best ways to control Gazanias. These projects were undertaken in response to grower calls for more guidance in ‘what to plant’ and what methods and chemicals are best to overcome hard to control grasses and weeds. The results and reports of these works are presently being compiled into factsheets. These will be published on the website over the next few months and members will be informed through newspaper columns and the weekly e-flyer. Relevant factsheets will be available on the Riverland Wine website or through the office.
The website is continually being updated to be the “go-to” site for technical information relevant to winegrowing in the nation’s most productive region. As well as writing up the Gazania control trials and factsheets, Riverland Viticultural Technical Group (RVTG) members will also publish factsheets on the use of ‘sunscreens’ on vines and organic grape production.
Another Riverland innovation, nearing completion is the computer based toolset, designed by Andrew Weeks and currently being refined and tested by the RVTG. These tools will be published on the website progressively, between now and November. They deal with grapevine nutrition planning, fungicide programming and herbicide planning. All three should prove useful for growers in ensuring cost effective, efficient programs are developed each season.
Now is not the time to toss it all in. The region’s reputation for consistently high quality wines that meet consumer expectations is growing. The industry needs Riverland Wine growers. International markets need them. The Riverland community needs them. There is reason to anticipate that 2017 prices will be better again than 2016. All the jigsaw pieces are in place. The resilience will begin to shine through in the form of greater recognition for the work of the past decade.