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Richard Smart says CSIRO not to blame for Albarino mix-ups

International viticultural consultant Dr Richard Smart has slammed the critics of CSIRO who blame the organisation for the Albarino mix-up. Smart has long been a fan of Albarino and other Spanish varieties, believing that they have a great potential in Australia.

“If anyone is to blame for this mix-up it is the caretakers of the Spanish National Collection who distributed incorrectly labelled Savagnin cuttings as Albarino around the world,” Smart said. “Other countries have also been affected.”

Smart noted that the CSIRO imported many varieties to support its own breeding program, not for the benefit of the Australian wine sector. The former CSIRO Division of Horticultural Research has been particularly active in identifying and resolving misnomers in Australian vineyards, especially through the efforts of the late Alan Antcliff, who worked with French ampelographers invited to Australia for the purpose of resolving confusion. This program was effective in identifying problems including several imported vines from the University of California. The CSIRO also published two ampelographies of winegrape varieties in Australia.

“Critics of CSIRO should also acknowledge that CSIRO has developed the DNA database for commercial use by Provisor, and used this technology in collaboration with its Spanish colleagues to resolve the issue about Albarino,” Smart said.

While Smart defends CSIRO, he is critical of industry organisations involved in the Albarino situation.

“If the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation (AWBC) has the power to prosecute for mislabelled wines, then one must ask, what safeguards the AWBC provides to protect Australian producers from misnomers? I believe there are none,” he said.

“An example of the AWBC incompetence is the approved list of variety names which can be used in Australia,” said Smart. “For example, the synonym list includes Albarinho, which is neither the correct Portuguese nor Spanish synonym. Sauvignon Vert is incorrectly listed as a synonym for Sauvignon Blanc, and worse still Petite Syrah (Durif) is incorrectly listed as a synonym for Shiraz. Those who want to retain their Savagnin vineyards will have to wait for a correct name, as Savagin is not listed, and the other true synonym for Savagnin being Traminer is listed incorrectly as a synonym of Gewurztraminer, which is incorrect. ”

Smart added that the Australian wine sector had failed to invest in a coordinated importation and evaluation program for virus-tested material, despite several articles to this extent by himself and others.

“The AWBC and Grape and Wine and Development Corporation, both levy-funded organisations, are both negligent in their concerns about germplasm resources available to the Australian wine sector,” he said.

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