Mark Deegenaars, Sirromet Wines, QLD

Mark Deegenaars, Sirromet Wines, QLD

Name: Mark Deegenaars
Place of birth: Port Macquarie, New South Wales
Professional qualifications: Ass Dip App Sci (winegrowing) Charles Sturt University
Professional experience: Cassegrains, Hastings Valley for one year. Inglewood Vineyards, Upper Hunter Valley for six years. Sirromet Wines, Granite Belt for five years
Current job title, winery & region: Vineyard manager, Sirromet Wines, Granite Belt

What made you decide to become a viticulturist?
Easy, the lifestyle.

Which are your favourite varieties to grow?
Pinot Gris because the results are very rewarding

What is your least favourite variety to grow?
Pinot Gris because it's challenging to achieve consistent results. Who likes hard work anyway?

Do you have any plans to expand the growth of certain varieties, or plant any new varieties?
Yes, we are finalising the expansion of our white varieties this coming season. (45% whites, 55% red)

What steps do you take to ensure good lines of communication with the wineries that purchase your fruit?
Honesty. If there is a problem with the fruit, they will know about it. Winemakers are usually afraid to venture out to the vineyard so they need to be updated regularly with vine health and the standard suite of analyses via emails and phone calls.

Can you remember the 'worst' vintage you've ever been through? What was the problem and what did you do to solve it?
That would have to be a wet year in the Hunter - 1996 I believe. Chardonnay turned from premium to crap in two days of rain, helped along by some lightbrown apple moth. It went all down hill from there.

Is there a standout season for you, when everything ran just about perfectly? When was it, and what made it such a good year?
Yes, 2007. Dry year, low disease, low yields, high sugars, what more could you ask for… flavour? Well, I will let you decide that one.

What do you like to do when you're not tending vines?
Crazy stuff like scuba diving, paragliding, work, but mostly ride my road bike with a couple of other wine industry nutters.

If you had an unlimited budget available to establish your existing vineyard all over again, what would you do differently?
Patent an overhead open and close hail net/shade cloth/rain catch and storage device to have complete control of the vineyard mesoclimate. It would also involve an enclosed spray applicator, and possibly be powered by solar or wind.

What is the biggest challenge you face growing grapes in your particular region?

What is the most important piece of equipment in your vineyard?
Agrilink soil moisture monitoring equipment.

Have you learnt any 'tricks of the trade' you can share with your colleagues?
Keep your winemaker happy. If it means not sending fruit to them, then so be it. Better to provide consistent quality then be a hit and miss grower.

If you could remove one vine pest or disease from the face of the earth forever more, which would it be?

What keeps you awake at night?
Voices in my head (I read a bit).

What sends you to sleep?
Voices in my head (once I get bored with the voice keeping me awake).

Do you have a mentor who has influenced you, or your direction in viticulture?
Yes, a number. Where do I start… here we go in sequential order,
Libby Tassie, Brett Keeping, Richard Smart, Peter Watters, Terry Morris, and Jim Irvine.

Which areas of grape research do you find of most interest, and most practical benefit to your work?
Most interest would be flavour accumulation in grapes. Most practical, spray application.

What do you think is the number one problem facing today's industry?

What would be your solution to this problem?
Rain. Or force irrigators to irrigate wisely or not at all.

And, I have to ask, what's your motto in life?
Lead, follow or get out of the way.

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