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John Whiting retires

The wine industry and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI) are bidding farewell to John Whiting after more than 35 years’ service.

John has been at the forefront of industry development for a long time, especially with regards to his rootstock and clonal work with grapevines. He set up numerous trials around Victoria to assess the field performance of grapevine varieties and has produced many publications on aspects of viticulture.

In a time of rapid industry growth in the 1990’s, John became the Victorian State Viticulturist and has achieved enormous respect from the industry, which accepts him as one of their own. John has also been a strong advocate for and leader in extension, especially ensuring that research outcomes are relevant to growers, which led him to be one of the initiators of the Grapecheque extension program.

Among the many tributes John has received, Peter Hayes, a former colleague and now President of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, said that John had demonstrated a huge commitment to the wine industry at a national level.

Jim Hardie, from the Co-operative Research Centre for Viticulture, observed that most of Victoria’s wineries would have benefited directly or indirectly from John’s work.

Pat Murphy, from Trentham Estate, thanked John for his contribution to viticulture, saying that “Over the last few years, I have bought grapes from various parts of Victoria and have yet to find a grower that does not know John Whiting.”

“I have sought his advice on rootstock selection, the best clones of various varieties and many other issues, and I wish him all the best for the future.”

John modestly describes himself as a dabbler in many different things, including trellising, weedicides, nutrition, soil management, mulching and berry sensory assessment.

He has fond memories of his work when he first joined DPI at Irymple in 1971 as a cadet.

“I conducted trials on what were then “new” grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, as well as more obscure varieties such as Nebbiolo and Sangiovese,” he said.

“The results of the trials were fed back to growers and winemakers and it is good to see these varieties now being used throughout the industry.”

John notes that a highlight of his career has been observing the growth of the industry during the time he has been involved. He now plans to take some well-deserved time off, but will then continue to work part-time in the industry.

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