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News posted on Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Winemaker in WA's south-west begins earliest harvest on record
Harvest has begun in vineyards across Western Australia's Margaret River and Geographe regions, with one winemaker saying it is the earliest he has ever picked fruit. According to growers, grape yields are looking slightly below average this year, but quality is looking high. Colin Bell, from AHA Viticulture, said many were expecting an "exceptional" 2015 vintage for the Margaret River region. Harvest began last week for many wineries in the state's south-west, with many growers reporting an early start.

Accolade Wines launches new Magnum size cask
Together with the tag line “great wine, one glass at a time” industry giant Accolade Wines has launched a new packaging format designed to hold the equivalent of two regular bottles of wine. The 1.5 litre ‘Magnum’ casks will sit alongside the brand’s glass equivalent on retail shelves and in the fridge - a first in the Australian market, according to Accolade. Michael East, Accolade Wines general manager Asia Pacific, said Magnum’s release followed two years of consumer and market research by Accolade Wines. “The proportion of people drinking wine at home has increased over the years, with just under half of Australian wine drinkers choosing to enjoy their favourite wine in the comfort of their own homes,” East said.

Winemaker crowdsourcing in Castlemaine
Crowdsourcing isn’t usually associated with the wine industry but it is exactly what three friends are doing with their new winemaking venture in Castlemaine. It's all part of creating 'liquid literature'. A fine arts graduate, a waiter and an ex-environmental consultant have come together to share their resources and knowledge in winemaking. "There is a lot of money involved in this industry and it's pretty hard to do this independently, so for us, pooling our resources and working together has allowed us to get ahead a bit quicker," said Tim Sproal.

All Saints Estate finds cloud perfect venue for managing events
The number of events hosted annually by vineyard All Saints Estate and sister estate St Leonards, both in the Rutherglen wine region, had increased into the hundreds but their booking systems had not kept pace. Established in 1864 in north-eastern Victoria, All Saints Estate produces a variety of wine types and offers unique venue spaces for a range of events. St Leonards — on the banks of the Murray River — produces a collection of wines including Shiraz, Chardonnay, Semillon and Malbec. The vineyard offers ¬diverse options for events including open-air spaces and intimate rooms. All Saints Estate, known for its Durif and fortified wines, even has its own castle, complete with turrets and a tower.

Perfect conditions to harvest grapes
A warm start to the grapegrowing season and “perfect conditions” have set the scene for the first harvest at Brown Brothers’ Milawa vineyard. The renowned Australian company began harvest of its sparking varieties this week and indications so far are for an impressive taste for wine connoisseurs once bottled. Winery manager Joel Tilbrook has been observing good natural acidities in the fruit with flavours that have been “excellent”. Long lasting intense heat usually present in summer hasn’t come this year, different to the heatwaves of 2013-14 when the mercury hit 40 degrees Celsius some 14 times.

Smoke-tainted Marlborough grapes a concern
A handful of Marlborough wineries may have to rethink their harvest plans, with fears that smoke from the 600-hectare fire in Onamalutu could have tainted vines. While only a very small corner of Marlborough was affected, at least two wineries have confirmed they will be testing fruit in some vineyards following the blaze. Nautilus Estate winemaker and winery manager Clive Jones said there was a chance their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes in their Kaituna Vineyard had been exposed to smoke. "There is a risk, so we will be harvesting some unripe grapes and lab fermenting them to see if they are tainted. If they are, we'll have to write it [the vineyard] off."

Fonterra's blunder will cost NZ exporters
OPINION: Helped by the Kiwi dollar's decline against the greenback, the United States is on the verge of becoming the New Zealand wine industry's biggest export market. In the year to November 2014 53.9 million litres of New Zealand product was shipped to Britain, 51m litres to Australia and 50.7m litres to the US. The US market's growth was an impressive 15 per cent. A Rabobank analyst said this growth trend is set to continue. While the US is NZ's third biggest market for total exports it has long been our biggest beef market. The deer industry has been growing its business there, too, and the US last year displaced Germany as the biggest destination for our chilled-venison exports.

California’s bumper 2014 harvest means overstock on bulk wine, broker warns
California produced a “shed-load” of wine – 4 million tonnes – in the chronic drought conditions of 2014, which will lead to an inventory surplus, a top bulk broker has warned. The bumper harvest came on the back of two large vintages – and cheaper wines and their growers, will struggle to find a market, experts have said. “What will happen if they find some rain?” asked Daniel Murphy, of bulk wine broker Murphy Wine Company. “At 4.2 million tonnes, then you’ve got a problem.”

Fighting powdery mildew on grapes
UC Davis researchers have uncovered important genetic clues about the pathogen that causes grape powdery mildew. California growers use more chemicals, mostly sulfur and other fungicides, to control powdery mildew than to manage any other vineyard problem. Grape powdery mildew is caused by the fungal pathogen Erysiphe necator. It has been found that the E. necator genome, which they discovered is exceptionally large and dynamic and can evolve quickly to adapt to strong selective pressure such as repeated treatments with fungicides with similar modes of action, leading to fungicide resistance.

Predicted slowdown in U.S. wine consumption
John Gillsepie of Wine Opinions says that generational change and economic factors remind him of 1993, the last time wine sales dropped. After 20 years of rapid growth, the U.S. wine industry might be at a turning point, and not for the better, according to the Wine Market Council. The annual report delivered last week in Yountville was the first in many years with a less-than-rosy outlook. Wine Opinions CEO John Gillespie, who based his report on surveys and market research, emphasized that he's not sure what the immediate future brings, and more growth might be on the horizon.

WSTA website aids fraud crackdown
The Wine & Spirit Trade Association is calling on the drinks industry to make use of its new website designed to tackle the UK’s £1.3 billion alcohol fraud problem. www.wstafraudreport.co.uk allows drinks producers, distributors and retailers to support the work of police by reporting suspected fraud cases with the use of an online map. This allows the WSTA to pass information to the authorities confidentially and is expected to help in the identification of particular trends and fraud hotspots. Fraud offences range from a failure to pay duty to counterfeit or illicit alcohol sales.

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