March (No. 494)
Movie reminder of SCIRO foresight
The advent of the popular film,The Motorcycle Diaries, to Australian theatres serves to remind us how lucky this countryís wine industry really is.
Because I was involved in the importation of the first commercial grape machine harvester, I can assert it was the hero, Che Guevara, who afforded us world leadership in mechanical harvesting of grapes and the consequent economic advantage which led to our current global status. Letís be honest, we would never have picked the grapes manually in our far-flung regions during recent decades.
About 1969, Guevara had organised the Mexican labour force that used to pick the grapes of California to such a degree, that its wine industry agreed not to use the newly-invented mechanical harvester.
To the credit of our CSIRO scientists, John Possingham and Peter May, they sought the prototype and the
University of California and Cornell University actually gave it to them. Then, with inspired help from important Government officials, especially Clive Garrow, the three-tonne machine was flown to Australia in time to catch the 1969 vintage.
Current viticulturists and oenologists should know that this enlightened leadership happened at a time when industry leaders questioned why we were wasting money researching mechanical harvesting! The CSIRO was the butt of much wine-writer criticism, but today the French arguably pick a higher percentage mechanically than we do.
Ian Hickinbotham RD Oen OAM