Improving viticulture and oenology practice through extension
The AWRI’s extension program uses a range of platforms with the aim of facilitating early awareness of research findings, adoption of new technologies and practice change, all of which contribute to improvements in sustainability and competitiveness. Activities include the long-standing AWRI roadshow seminar program; workshops featuring practical components including tastings; webinars; the Research to Practice program; the Advanced Wine Assessment Course; and other tasting events. Education activities in areas not covered by levy-payer-funded extension are delivered under a user-pays model. Having a number of different platforms for the extension of technical information is important in the pathway to adoption, as it helps cater for diverse audiences and provides different ways for messages to be delivered.
Roadshow seminars and workshops
Seven roadshow seminars and eleven workshops were held in 2020/2021. The roadshow seminars presented updates across a range of grape and wine science topics, and the workshops presented Chardonnay winemaking treatment tastings. Of these events, only seven were able to be held face to face, due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. The other 12 events were held virtually, with new processes and technology for wine sample distribution adopted allowing tasting events to be held successfully online. A total of 337 participants attended seminar and workshop events during the year. While 2020/2021 did not see anywhere near the number of bushfires as the previous year, helpdesk enquiries following a large fast-moving fire in early January in the Limestone Coast region prompted the organisation of a smoke Q&A session in conjunction with the local regional association, which was delivered in Coonawarra prior to vintage.
Increased focus on practice change
Since the completion of Wine Australia’s extension review, the team has increased its focus on activities that facilitate adoption and practice change. Priority areas that are aligned to Wine Australia’s Extension and Adoption Strategy 2020-2025 and Strategic Plan are identified in consultation with Wine Australia and Australian Grape & Wine’s Research Advisory Committee. This year, two practice change themes were selected: use of oxygen in winemaking; and irrigation scheduling and profitability. A range of activities will be rolled out and delivered in late 2021, vintage 2022 and beyond.
Twenty-one webinars were presented to a total of 2,199 attendees in 2020/2021 – a 67% increase in attendance from the previous year (1,316). Webinars covered a wide spectrum of topics including undervine cover crops, irrigation, managing frost, managing Botrytis, climate outlooks, use of oxygen during fermentation and new smoke research findings. The portfolio of presenters remained diverse, with more than 50% of the sessions presented by non-AWRI staff. The most popular webinar presented during the year (with 192 attendees) was titled ‘The ins and outs of undervine cropping’ and was presented by Prof. Tim Cavagnaro, Chris Penfold and Dr Thomas Lines. Views of webinar recordings via YouTube also increased significantly from 19,400 in 2019/2020 to 53,499 in 2020/2021. The webinar recording that attracted the greatest number of views was ‘A beginner’s guide to grapevine pruning’, which has received more than 24,900 views.
A pilot program of podcasts was initiated during the year. Three podcast episodes were recorded with AWRI researchers on the topics of Australian Shiraz terroir, ‘stone fruit’ flavour and the use of oxygen during fermentation, with four additional episodes scheduled for recording early in the new financial year. The podcasts will be released as a flavour-themed series prior to vintage 2022, under the title ‘AWRI decanted’.
Educational courses and events
The AWRI delivered three Advanced Wine Assessment Courses (AWACs 51, 52 and 53) in May 2021. A new, completely web-based version of the ShowRunner software platform was used during these events. The events team also coordinated the return of the Barossa Wine Assessment Training, a one-and-a-half-day ‘mini AWAC’, held in conjunction with the Barossa Grape & Wine Association.
Support for Wine Communicators of Australia
The AWRI provided technical support and hosting of the WCA webinar program and continued to enhance and support the WCA website.