2016 Viticulturist of the year Finalists

2016 ASVO Viticulturist of the Year- Finalists

  1. Colin Hinze
  2. Tony Hoare
  3. Nick Dry
  4. Andrew Pirie
  5. Liz Riley

Colin Hinze

Colin Hinze has  implemented Precision Viticulture techniques at Taylors Wines, including vigour mapping through digital multi-spectral imagery, yield mapping with machine harvesters, soil change mapping by electromagnetic conductance measurement, and a detailed digital elevation model of our entire property (over 700 hectares of land).

Colin believes the key driver for implementation is to improve vineyard productivity (profit) through improved understanding of vineyard variability.  By understanding the key limitations and opportunities of your property, you can maximise the potential of existing vineyards, plus optimise the replanting of new vineyard as part of a redevelopment program.

Understanding vineyard variability has improved our previous practices through:

  • Split picking to maximise fruit and wine quality
  • Troubleshoot poor performing areas with targeted soil pits
  • Locating soil moisture monitoring devices following multi-layer analysis
  • Improved measurement of research projects, both internal and hosted industry-funded research.
  • Improved design of replanted vineyards to minimise within-block variability

Colin has been a continuous member of the ASVO since 1994, joining as an undergraduate student.

Tony Hoare

Tony Hoare began field grafting 10 years ago in response to some requests from local growers and one interstate. Tony adopted a standard technique for grafting  fine-tuning it to cover large areas cost effectively.

Tony’s vision was to provide first class grafting in the field to utilise infrastructure and give growers a return to full production after only sacrificing one season of yield. Providing an affordable alternative to replanting and to provide pre and post grafting advice and service to maximise the result for growers.  Tony recently developed checklists for growers to assess their suitability of their vineyards for grafting and what to expect pre and post grafting.

 Nick Dry

Nick Dry manages a grapevine propagation nursery with the objective to ensure that growers 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 has had a pivotal role in increasing discussion and understanding of the importance of rootstocks, clones and plant material health within the industry, contributing to a shift from being essentially a mono-clonal industry to a poly-clonal industry.

Andrew Pirie

Andrew Pirie from Apogee Vineyard has set up as a research-based vineyard at Lebrina in northern Tasmania to emulate the Grand Cru Vineyards of northern France. The vinyard is used to investigate the economic potential of a Vineyard comparable in scale,intensity and quality to a Grand Cru Vineyard in northern France. Andrew has invested heavily in viticultural inputs including cane pruning and intensive shoot management to form perfect canopies using a new training system to address the issue of high vigour and low yields endemic in this particular region. The system is a unilateral Scott Henry and uses a gap between vines to promote fruitfulness in cane pruned vines.

Elizabeth Riley

Liz is based in the Hunter Valley as an independent viticultural consultant. As a specialist generalist she has been driving the adoption of best practice in the region. This has encompassed setting up regional demonstrations and facilitating workshops to engage the local grower community with concepts and practices that they were unlikely to otherwise explore. The key projects over the last few years has been the “Field Demonstration and Evaluation of heat stress/sun protection products (sunscreens) to improve Semillon wine quality”, Precision Viticulture and the use of insectary plants (informal) as well as ongoing engagement in regards to pest and disease management . The local work has resulted in some practices being tweaked for local conditions which has in turn made them more successful and resulted in adoption. Local winemakers have also been engaged in the process as appropriate to support these activities.

Liz also actively pushes sustainable fungicide use in what is a high pressure region and encourages the adoption of new planting material (clones and varieties) to ensure the long term sustainability of the grape resources in the region. She is active in engaging with the local industry in regards to technical viticultural issues as they arise e.g. smoke taint (V14), Qld Fruit Fly (2007-8).

The Hunter is a very traditional region and the level of formal viticultural training is low. Coupled with its  isolation from the main viticultural areas (i.e. corporate viticulture and the research hubs) and many traditional practices not being “best practice” there is a need to push new ideas and innovations to ensure that region remains viable in the long term. Growers in the Hunter need to adopt new practices and concepts (appropriate to the regional conditions) and add “tools” to the tool box to help them manage variable seasonal conditions (both hot and dry and hot and wet within the one season).

Showcasing new practices enables growers and winemakers in the region to assess the impact of something new, tweak it to make it suitable and cost effectively and then utilise it on an as needs basis with a large degree of confidence that it is a good investment. In the case of sunscreens the level of adoption on a strategic basis is likely to be high, particularly as key regional winemakers are supportive of its use. It is great to now have another tool to manage vine health and fruit quality outcomes during extreme heat events. In this region this will result in a greater volume of fruit being harvested earlier (less risk) and at the desired or higher quality.

Unfortunately the Hunter is to a degree a “follower” as a region, however with its 4 million visitors per year and high level of engagement with the wine media there has been the opportunity to engage favorably with consumers about the new practices which are being adopted in the vineyard.  It enables us to present a fresh face for the grape growing end of the production chain and to talk about both innovation and sustainability in the vineyard.

Social media has made the ability to communicate about anything very easy. In the instance of the sunscreen project (the Hunter being a phenologically early region) we were able to tweet about the project and this enabled a later region i.e. Tasmania to be aware of the project, the outcomes and implement the use of sunscreens in the same season. A great result.

It should however be noted that as a region with challenging climatic conditions our experience under high pressure e.g. wet seasons and harvests results in us being very good as developing tactics and strategies that work to enable the successful harvest of fruit. These strategies can become useful to other regions when  they experience these situations e.g. once in 20 years. Liz has been active in this space in previous seasons.