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Ampelography workshop helps industry identify vines

Katherine Lindh

The Yalumba Wine Company, together with ENTAV International, hosted an advanced ampelogprahy workshop last week, which was attended by 28 industry representatives, growers and operations managers from around Australia and New Zealand.

The workshop was led by Jean-Michel Boursiquot, associate professor at Montpellier SupAgro, International Institute for Higher Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources and scientific director of the Vine Department of the French Vine and Wine Institute in France and Laurent Audeguin, clonal selection program manager at the French Vine and Wine Institute and technical coordinator for ENTAV International.

Ampelography, or vine identification, is the science of description and identification of the vine species vitis and its cultivated vine varieties. Put simply, ampelography is a vine identification process, which is critical in quality assurance.

The importance of ampelography was outlined carefully at the three-day advanced course, which offered relevant information about how to look at the precise description of a vine, how to 'speak the language' and how to address OIV international standards.

Topics included winegrape agronomic and technological characteristics, rootstocks origin and linkage, and closely identifying vines in the field.

This was the first time the workshop was held outside of France. Boursiquot, also known as the 'flying ampelographer', and Audeguin, gave a 'hands on' explanation out in the field at the Nuriootpa Research Station.

"Ampelography is particularly important for quality insurance when planting a vineyard to check what variety you have," Audeguin said. "The quality of the end product depends on the variety. If you start with the wrong variety, it's a big problem later on. The consumer trusts the label, so one needs to know what's in the field."

Duncan Farquhar, national extension manager, National Wine & Grape Industry Centre, said it is important that growers make sure the variety they are planting is true to type.

"Ampelography is important for one's power of observation as a personal development skill," Farquhar said. "Growers can see differences in vine varieties and pay attention to detail. Good quality comes from that. In addition, growers who pay attention to detail can identify clones, which is the source of great wines."

Many of those who participated in the workshop found great benefit in attending.

Catherine Cox, rootstock and project manager, Phylloxera & Grape Industry Board of SA, said the course was useful for her because she is very interested in rootstocks.

"As rootstock and project manager, I am here to look at ampelography and rootstocks," Cox said. "The first day of the course was intensive, looking at identifying different rootstocks and dominant characteristics of rootstocks."

"It was interesting to hear Jean Michel explain that there are dominant characteristics of rootstocks, which gave me a better understanding as to why there are certain characteristics in rootstocks. I also think this research is good to be backed up in the field," she said.

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