Limestone Coast soil stewards get ‘down and dirty’

Limestone Coast grapegrowers and winemakers have been getting down and dirty this year as part of the 2014-15 Regional Program funded by Wine Australia, which saw the Soil Stewardship Program come to a close with a unique workshop titled ‘Down and dirty’ held in the Naracoorte Caves.

Limestone Coast Grape & Wine Council (LCGWC) executive officer Ulrich Grey-Smith said, ‘Our soil stewards – Nick Baverstock (Penfolds Robe vineyard manager), Luke Tocacui (Patrick of Coonawarra director/winemaker) and Anna Hooper (Cape Jaffa Wines winemaker) – organised a great day in the caves, hosting a number of soil experts and keynote speakers to help them wrap-up their own projects and look at the latest soil research.’

The two-year Soil Stewardship Program involved the stewards undertaking a range of study tours and work with program facilitator, Melbourne-based advisor in environmental sustainability, Russell Fisher, to explore their own region’s soil diversity and management practices, as well as investigate the soil management practices from other regions.

‘The aim was for the stewards to use and share this accumulated knowledge and to help devise a sustainable soil management strategy for the whole region’, Mr Grey-Smith said.

The soil stewardship program also received funding through the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council and support from The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI).

‘Though it’s officially ended, we hope work will continue in this area and other wineries and nearby regions are able to use what’s come out of the program.’

A number of workshops were also held, including a four flavours sensory workshop hosted by The AWRI at the Wynns’ Cellar Door.

‘We held four tutored tasting workshops – looking at Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Shiraz’, Mr Grey-Smith said.

‘All workshops sold out, and they weren’t just excellent opportunities to learn more, we found the networking was also valuable. It’s a good time to chat about what we’re all doing and share ideas – and a few of us have become excellent glass polishers.’

However, Mr Grey-Smith said the major highlight for 2014 was getting internationally acclaimed scientist and conservationist, Professor Tim Flannery as keynote speaker for the ‘Opportunities in a new climate’ workshop held in Penola in November last year.

‘It was a great collaborative experience with Coonawarra and The AWRI – and a real highlight for many of us to hear from someone as well-respected as Tim. It’s not the rosiest of topics, but we’re hoping the conversations and research presented will lead to a number of new projects and outcomes for the region.’

The planning for a number of projects in the approved 2015-16 Limestone Coast Regional Program has already started.

Mr Grey-Smith said the LCGWC would again work closely with nearby Coonawarra Grape and Wine Inc. when they host the Australian Cabernet Symposium on 15 October 2015.

The symposium is expected to attract a number of international speakers and guests. More details available here.

‘We’ll be running more tutored tasting workshops, but this year we’ll move away from variety specific tastings and look instead at the influences of alternative practices in the vineyard and winemaking’, he said.

‘We have started planning for a follow-up to the climate workshop with an alternative energy seminar.

‘We’re also going to start a new alternative varieties case study, with the help of viticulture consultant Libby Tassie.

‘We hope to take a closer look at the alternative varieties most suited to the Limestone Coast. We’d like to offer recommendations for alternatives, not just in terms of growing suitability but also those with strong sustainable business cases as well.’