$3 million to safeguard winegrapes from smoke

Wine Australia has welcomed Friday’s announcement by Deputy Prime Minister the Hon. Barnaby Joyce of a $1.5 million grant under round two of the Rural R&D for Profit program for a project aiming to reduce the impact of controlled burns and wildfires near wine regions.

The new $3 million project will examine practices and advanced technologies to safeguard the supply of grapes and improve profitability for Australia’s grapegrowers.

Wine Australia Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark welcomed the announcement and said that the $3 million project will help Australian grapegrowers and winemakers to manage a problem that affects many wine regions globally.

‘It’s vital that we’re able to provide the Australian grape and wine community with innovative and cost-effective tools to minimise the unintended impacts of controlled burns and wildfires’, he said.

Depending on the stage of the fruit’s development, smoke from controlled burns and wildfires can affect winegrapes so that they develop tastes such as smoked meat, disinfectant, leather or char. It is an issue that affects many wine regions across the world.

‘By investing in this research, we will help the Australian grape and wine community’s competitiveness by reducing the risk, ensuring the certainty of supply and improving profitability in our sector’, said Mr Clark.

‘This project will also help public land management agencies to implement effective planned burn programs that have a significantly lower chance of unintended negative impacts on winegrapes.

‘We look forward to delivering this project’s practical outcomes that will help contribute to a prosperous Australian grape and wine community.’

Outcomes from the project for the grape and wine sector will include:

  • The development of an early warning system for smoke exposure, which will enable the targeted application of protective sprays in vineyards at risk of smoke exposure.
  • Determining the critical distances that reduce the risk of controlled burns to vineyards.
  • The development of practical technologies and processes that prevent smoke taint compounds entering the grapes, and removing these compounds from grape must and wine.

The three-and-a-half-year program Mitigation of Climate Change Impacts on the National Wine Industry by Reduction in Losses from Controlled Burns and Wildfires and Improvement in Public Land Management is a collaborative project between Wine Australia and its partners the Australian Wine Research Institute, Agriculture Victoria and LaTrobe University.