Finalists announced for 2018 viticulturist of the year award

Finalists for the ASVO’s Viticulturist of the Year award for 2018 (from left) Colin Bell, Kerry DeGaris, and Nick Dry.

The Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) has announced the finalists for its Viticulturist of the Year award for 2018. The three finalists are Colin Bell, director of AHA Viticulture in Western Australia; Kerry DeGaris, chair of the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council and a key player in the efforts to get a better understanding of the challenges in the region such as eutypa, iron bacteria and Cabernet berry shrivel; and Nick Dry, nursery manager and viticulturist at Yalumba Nursery in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

The Viticulturist of the Year award will be presented in Adelaide on 13 November at the ASVO’s Awards for Excellence. Now in their sixth year, the awards will also see the presentation of the Winemaker of the Year Award and the Best Viticultural and Oenology Paper of the Award as selected from the ASVO’s Australian Journal of Grape & Wine Research.

ASVO president Dr Tony Robinson said the awards recognise the achievements of some of the most dedicated and professional individuals in the wine industry.

Hunter Valley-based viticultural consultant Liz Riley is chair of the selection committee for the Viticulturist of the Year Award which comprises representatives from wine industry bodies, the research community and state representatives. The 2017 recipient of the Viticulturist of the Year Award, Riley said it was pleasing to see a diverse field of viticulturists nominated from across the country “from small and large businesses, corporates and independents, male and female candidates”.

“It took some effort for the panel to select a short list and the further selection of finalists was very difficult. All the finalists should be very proud to have reached this stage of the process. The challenge in making the selections was very heartening, as it reflects the depth of talent in the viticultural sector of the Australian wine industry as well as the next generation who are following behind.”

Robinson said: “As an industry, we are fortunate to have many very skilled and professional people who are contributing significantly to the wine community, inspiring those around them to seek out and adopt innovative practices. The quality of this year’s finalists is absolutely outstanding, and I congratulate each of them on their achievements to date.”

Further details on the nominees:

Colin Bell – Colin completed the Future Leaders program in 2010 and is now deputy chair of Wines of Western Australia and a director of Australian Vignerons. Colin said, “It’s easy to imagine innovators as minds working on complex projects like genetic clone identification and the dynamics of anthocyanin and flavonol profiles but viticultural practices are also complex; there is no standard that if applied in all situations will achieve the same results. Practices need to be challenged, results need to be reviewed, learnings must be communal, innovation is a way of life. Western Australia is remote and I have made an effort to connect our community to the wider wine industry. It’s important the shared learning goes both ways across the Nullarbor.

Kerry DeGaris – Kerry’s passion for locally-targeted research has resulted in the Best Practice manual and fact sheets that have been distributed locally to grapegrowers and irrigators and featured nation wide on ABC Rural Hour, with calls received from interested researchers across Australia. Kerry supports and promotes the dissemination of research inviting PhD students from The University of Adelaide to present to growers in the region. “This was an innovative formula” said Kerry. “Students could develop potential research topics and growers could form relationships with up and coming researchers”.

Nick Dry – Nick joined the Yalumba Nursery team in 2008 and during this time has honed his skills to ensure that customers have access to the best quality scion and rootstock material for their vineyards as well as the best quality information from which to make decisions. Nick strives to continuously improve practices across both the production and customer service aspects of the business with the knowledge that high quality planting material and high quality information on the performance of clones and rootstocks has a direct benefit to the competitiveness of the Australian wine industry. Nick is a member of the Vine Industry Nursery Association.