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Hills producers reach a new stage of enquiry

Following the development of a comprehensive profile of soils, climatic conditions and viticultural features, members of an industry association in the Adelaide Hills have extended their interests to the finer points of growing specific varieties.

The concept of profiling has been supported by the Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation as a means of establishing a baseline for extension projects and to clarify features of regional importance. Profiles have now been completed or are bearing completion for five regions across three states.

Because of the expected workload for the research provider created by regional variability, the Adelaide Hills Wine Region added significant funds to those committed by GWRDC for the project. The extensive variability can be explained by the gentle to steeply undulating landscape with multi-directional slopes.

Many examples of variability can be found in the final project report submitted by Davidson Viticultural Consulting Services. These includes tables that indicate reliability of growing and ripening conditions for a range of varieties (including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris), based on biologically effective day degrees. At one location adequate conditions are charted for all these varieties. This site, however, is exposed to the west and temperature-moderating sea breezes, contrasting with the vast majority of the region where the ability to ripen late maturing varieties can be an issue in a significant number of seasons. In colder parts of the region in particular there may be a high degree of reliability for Pinot Gris, for instance, various degrees of risk for such varieties as Shiraz and Merlot, and much less certainty about Cabernet Sauvignon.

The report shows different patterns may exist even where recording sites are close by, due to such influences as elevation, aspect and effects of topography on cold air drainage. Then there are the “across the board” impacts on all varieties when adverse early season weather affects flowering and floral initiation.

Soils are also far from homogenous, varying in depth and chemical and physical composition and the amount of vigour they impart to vines.

Although there are challenges, the region produces some exceptional wine and hopes to enhance its performance through a current varietal project that expands on the information in the profile report. This work, which began in the 2004–05 season, is being funded through GWRDC’s Regional Innovation and Technology Adoption (RITA) program.

Nepenthe viticulturist Murray Leake was instrumental in the RITA application, which has a focus on Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz and covers sites with different soils and climatic influences.

“Our interests include the influence of management methods and site characteristics on flavour profiles and styles of these varietal wines,” he said.

“Tastings of Sauvignon Blanc, for example, show that while there are different characteristics for more vigorous sites, these can also result in good wine.

“Replicates of sites and recording of data over several seasons are needed for solid conclusions to be drawn but the three year RITA project will mean a better feel for the connections that matter in this region. This may influence seasonal management as well as decisions about where Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz should be planted.”

Dylan Grigg of Davidson Viticultural Consulting Services, employed to conduct fortnightly monitoring and to undertake data collection, presents information in a manner that is interesting and relevant to producers, including use of photographs to illustrate such things as differences in shoot growth.

“Key components of the project have been the field visits and the expanding amount of data that can give guidance to management,” he said.



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