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News posted on Thursday, 8 January 2015

The heat is on in Australia as fire engulfs vineyard
A changing climate could mean a change of plan for Australian grapegrowers as bush fire season begins. As bush fires threaten vineyards near Adelaide, and Hunter Valley wineries spray their grapes with sunscreen, the Australian wine industry is getting used to life at the sharp end of a changing climate. The current bush fire raging in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia has been described by firefighters as the worst since 1983 and it has destroyed half of one of Kersbrook Hill's vineyards, with flames coming within 20 meters (65 feet) of the winery itself, managing director Paul Clark told the ABC.

Hunter vignerons under scrutiny by Fair Work during fruit-picking
Fair Work inspectors say they are hopeful rogue labour hire firms will stay away from the Hunter's vineyards this summer harvest season. Last year Fair Work inspectors operating under the Harvest Trail Program visited several Hunter youth hostels and conducted site visits at 16 local vineyards. They issued several fines after dozens of overseas workers were found to have been underpaid. There were also issues involving money being unlawfully deducted from staff pay.

Grape expectations for early harvest in Orange region
Grape harvests are expected to take place about two weeks earlier this year at some of Orange’s vineyards following warm temperatures and plenty of rain. At Orange Mountain Wines, Chardonnay, Pinot and Viognier varieties are all developing a couple of weeks early. Terry Dolle, winery co-owner, said he had received the ideal amount of rain and his grapes had not been damaged by the warm weather conditions or summer storms.

Winemaker Toby Porter from d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale gives his drinks tips
Toby Porter is a winemaker at d’Arenberg in McLaren Vale, South Australia. He began working there in 2003 and has seen the winery’s portfolio grow from 30 to more than 60 wines. “One of the exciting aspects of making wine at d’Arenberg is that we get to play with more than 30 different varieties of grape. Amongst these are some fantastic European varietals such as Sagrantino, Tempranillo and Souzao. There are also some outstanding examples of Grenache out there — it’s a variety that people are coming back to as their knowledge about food matching improves.”

Easy-going vibe for new cellar door
A new Martinborough cellar door with a difference is attracting attention from locals and visitors. Colombo Winegrowers in Todds Road, on the outskirts of the town, opened its vineyard venue to the public on December 27. The winery is owned and operated by husband and wife team, Carolyn Irwin and Baptist Sieber, who combine running the business with family life - baby son Monty, dog Bruno and cat Lulu. Martinborough man David Beveridge manages the cellar door.

Family passion flows in Alpha Domus
Anthonius and Leonarda Ham, who arrived in New Zealand from Holland in the '60s, and their boys Paul, Henri and Anthony, developed their winery ambitions and dreams across a 20ha spread of land on the Heretaunga Plains which they had purchased in 1989. It lies within the highly regarded Bridge Pa Triangle where the soils are premium in terms of growing varieties like Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. And, being off Maraekakaho Rd, it was in the flight path of several aircraft which use the Bridge Pa Airfield.

Molecular genetics ready to launch a golden age of winegrape breeding
Growing winegrapes may be the most backward form of horticulture that exists. The vast majority of the world’s production uses only about 20 cultivars out of thousands of available grape varieties. The wine industry is convinced these traditionally-cultivated varieties alone provide all the diversity necessary and that newly-bred varieties can’t compete on wine quality. This belief persists in the face of modern genetic evidence that many of the world’s traditional varieties were intentionally bred from older ones.

A taste for scandal in Italy's Tuscany wine region
Tuscany, home to many of Italy's best-known wines, may be in danger of tarnishing its reputation with a series of wine-related scandals. The picturesque region in central Italy is just a victim of its own success, according to Fabrizio Bindocci, a Tuscan winemaker and president of the Brunello di Montalcino consortium. "You don't get people making fraudulent copies of products nobody wants," Bindocci said. Tuscany is known for the quality of its wine more than the quantity it produces, and the U.S. is the largest export market for Tuscan wines, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Is a great wine palate God given, learned or bought?
When one wine lover wants to compliment another, the words “great palate” are often bestowed. An oenophile with such a palate is perceptive, discerning and often possessed of an extensive if not expensive wine cellar—or so it seems. (I’ve read one wine lover’s waggish suggestion that the greatness of someone’s palate is directly proportional to the value and size of his or her wine cellar.) The Merriam-Webster definition of the word is pretty straightforward: “the roof of the mouth separating the mouth from the nasal cavity.”

Tributes to wine industry leaders who died this past year
Now that the new year is under way, Wine Spectator recalls the vintners, winemakers, distributors and industry champions who died in 2014. Wine lovers around the world mourned the passing of Baroness Philippine de Rothschild of Bordeaux first-growth Château Mouton-Rothschild in 2014. Baroness Philippine was laid to rest in September next to her father, with 1,200 mourners in attendance, including family members from many branches of the Rothschild clan.

SMOKE TAINT: Fires threaten to produce ashtray wine vintage
Fires sweeping through southeast Australia are carrying with them the spectre of a silent killer for grapes growing in the nearby Adelaide Hills wine region. Winemakers fear their grapes may have fallen victim to "smoke taint", which results in wines that taste like an ashtray and can ruin an entire vintage. "It's a nightmare of a problem," said Mark Krstic, a specialist in smoke taint at the Australian Wine Research Institute who is liaising with worried growers in the Adelaide Hills.

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