A viticulturist on tour…

19 August, 2019 - Dr Mary Retallack

In July 2019, I travelled to Europe to visit three Great Wine Capitals. First stop was Cité du Vin, an impressive museum and exhibition centre which provides a voyage of discovery for the Bordeaux wine region. My mission was to immerse myself in each region, visit local producers and researchers with a focus on environmental stewardship practices and fine wine!

Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux France

Highlights included visits to Château d'Yquem, Château Suduiraut Château Coutet, Vignobles Bardet, and Domaine Emile Grelier. Each had a fantastic story to tell which involved a considered approach to growing vines as naturally as possible with minimal intervention and the use of pheromones to interrupt the mating of key leafroller pests using ‘sexual confusion’, or as we say mating disruption, so the male moths can’t find the females!

Château Coutet employed the use of both a horse to plough undervine, as well as the latest technology, the VITIROVER robot to mow weed growth undervine. Domaine Emile Grelier are leading the way with agroforestry, the use of boxes to attract bats and insectivorous birds in the vineyard and the conservation of many species including serpents (snakes). I am not sure how well that will catch on in Oz! Naturally occurring insectary plants including chamomile were encouraged throughout the region. I also met local researchers from INRA who are carrying out long term, landscape ecology studies on the biocontrol of key pests and the use of insectary plantings. After a fantastic few days consuming botrytised desert wines and reacquainting myself with Merlot from the right bank, I travelled to north-east Italy for my next adventure.

Verona, Italy

Verona, Italy

I arrived in Verona a UNESCO world heritage city, which is just over an hour from Milan on the train. It is located in the Veneto region which is famous for the production of recioto dessert wine and Amarone style wines made from dried grapes to concentrate the flavour. I visited the World Biodiversity Association who are leading the way in studying and conserving biodiversity throughout the world, as well as Allegrini, Cantina Valpolicella Negrar and Masi Agricola who have vineyards throughout the world and document their practices via Masi Green. I also met with researchers at the University of Padova to the east, and Fondazione Edmund Mach to the north, who are leading the way to find biological control solutions for a range of insect pests, many that are of interest here due to their exotic status in Australia in the event of an incursion. They are also planting a range of insectary species including lavender at the ends of vine rows to encourage the presence of good bugs.

Lausanne, Switzerland

Lausanne, Switzerland

Switzerland was the last stop on my tour and I headed to the research organisation Changins just out of Lausanne briefly to check out their approach to minimising herbicide use by using native plants.

My final destination was Geneva to present at the 42nd World Congress of Vine and Wine on the topic ‘Native insectary plants support populations of predatory arthropods for Australian vineyards’ which was simultaneously translated into 5 languages. It was received with much interest. It was great to catch up with fellow Aussie Peter Hayes who is the past president of the OIV. As a result of this trip have been invited to join the Australian delegation of the Viticulture Commission, and ENVIRO group. I am looking forward to making a contribution to both.

With thanks to Josépha Guenser from Vitinnov for accompanying and translating for me in France and Nicole McPheeters who recently studied at the University of Adelaide and is now based in Saint-Émilion who provided accommodation during this leg of the trip.

I wish to thank Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) for the opportunity to travel to the great wine capitals in France, Italy and Switzerland, as well as all of the people I met along the way who generously offered their knowledge and advice.

This was a unique opportunity to meet with growers and researchers, and experience what each great wine capital has on offer. It was a great way to expand my professional networks and to also share more about the great wine capital of Adelaide and South Australia.

Further info can be found in my travel report. (PDF 4.7 MB) Please take a look and enjoy a short tour of these Great Wine Capitals.

Dr Mary Retallack, Retallack Viticulture Pty Ltd.