Richard Fennessy

  • Member since 2010
  • Director (Elected November 2018)
  • ASVO AWAC Scholarship 2015

What attracted you to your current role?

I joined the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (Formerly Department of Agriculture and Food WA) in 2008, prior to that I was working as a winemaker in New Zealand. On returning home to WA this position was being advertised, I applied for the role as it was such a unique opportunity to work with the WA wine industry on a macro scale. I take great pride that my role supports WA wine producers and am driven by contributing to the success of the State’s wine industry.

Tell us about an interesting finding in your current or past research

I have completed two seasons of evaluating and demonstrating 22 alternative varieties at a trail site in the Geographe wine region. The work involves recording key phenological stages, measuring berry weights, bunch weights, yields and also small lot winemaking to determine their suitability to WA growing conditions. Winemaking batches range from 4.5L to 28L. For the second year the Geographe Wine Show have agreed to judge these wines to provide an assessment of wine quality. In 2018 these wines were entered into the commercial classes for the first time. The results exceeded my expectations, four varieties were awarded gold, four silver and nine bronze. In my mind these results demonstrate true potential for some of these varieties and if I can achieve these levels of quality in small lots using modest equipment and techniques I’m excited to think what a commercial producer could achieve with their resources and expertise. What inspires you? The passion, drive and dedication of the people working in the WA wine industry. There are so many people creating world class wines here and it’s not attributed to luck. The department has a long and proud history of working with and supporting producers in developing the WA wine industry. I hope I can follow this proud tradition and contribute to the ongoing development of this great sector.

What/ Whom do you look up to the most and why?

Through my role I have an extensive network of producers and researchers. Regardless of what their role is I’m always impressed by those who are passionate, generous and modest. These are the people I most look up to and am fortunate to have met and worked with a long list of such individuals.

Outside of your work, tell us some interesting facts about yourself

My first career choice was to work in the fishing industry, I completed a Diploma in Fisheries Management after leaving school and was set to be involved in fisheries management or research but the wine industry in the Margaret River region (where I lived) was booming in the late 90’s and after a few weeks of casual work in vineyards I was hooked. What is the best piece of career advice you've been given? Follow your passion, don’t be afraid to fail and don’t burn your bridges.

What advice or recommendation do you have for students interested in a career in wine science?

The wine industry is a fantastic industry to work in and has such large and varied fields you can specialise in whether it be production, research, marketing, hospitality or journalism. I found working in vineyards before I began my studies gave me enough of a taste of the industry that I knew it was something I wanted to pursue and 20 years later I’m still working with wine.

Membership How long have you been a member of ASVO and why would you recommend ASVO to your colleagues?

I’ve been a member since 2010 and believe that it is important that our industry has a professional society that supports education, research and the dissemination of technical information. The ASVO also provides scholarships to members and I was fortunate to be awarded the inaugural AWAC scholarship to develop my wine judging skills which was a fantastic experience.

What has been/will be your Membership contribution?

As a newly appointed Regional Director I will be representing Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania. I look forward to ensuring ASVO content continues to be accessible to members within these States and that the Board is informed of regionally specific technical issues when considering topics for upcoming events. As a Research Officer I enjoy great exposure to both producers and researchers and feel these networks will be of great benefit in this new role.

What other organisations do you contribute to?

I am an active member of the Wines of WA Technical Committee, Western Australian Vine Improvement Association and National Wine Research & Extension Network. I am also the WA regional partner for the Wine Australia Regional Program and Incubator Initiative.