The staging and conduct of extension programs
The key objectives of the AWRI’s extension programs are to raise awareness and facilitate uptake of research outcomes, assist producers to understand the practical value of these outcomes and overcome any potential barriers for adoption. These aims are achieved by extending research outcomes in forms that encourage adoption by Australia’s grapegrowers and winemakers. These efforts include many of the trusted and successful extension initiatives undertaken by the AWRI, for example the long-standing roadshow seminar program, now held on a two-year rotational basis across Australian wine regions, and the roadshow workshop program, held on a three-year rotational basis. In addition to the roadshow program, a wide variety of training and educational programs in viticulture, winemaking, environmental sustainability and wine evaluation are delivered, including the AWITC workshop program, Research to Practice workshops, the Advanced Wine Assessment Course and other tasting events. Staff that contribute to extension programs also produce content for many of the AWRI’s publication commitments.
Roadshow seminars and workshops
During the year, 19 days of roadshow seminars and 8 days of roadshow workshops were held in the following Australian winemaking zones and regions: Bendigo, Barossa Valley, Canberra District, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, Geographe, Goulburn Valley, Granite Belt, Great Southern, Hunter Valley, Langhorne Creek, Limestone Coast (Kangaroo Island), McLaren Vale, Mudgee, Murray Darling, Orange, Pyrenees, Riverina, Riverland, Rutherglen, South Burnett, Tasmania and Yarra Valley. These events included three smoke taint seminars that were delivered in response to bushfires that occurred in Frankland River, Geographe and Tasmania and a stuck fermentation seminar held in Yarra Valley in response to stuck fermentation issues occurring in central Victoria.
In order to maximise attendance, events are publicised via a range of mechanisms including the Australian Grape and Wine Events Calendar, the AWRI website, social media, state and regional association websites and local press. In addition, staff liaise with the local association(s) to coordinate local promotional efforts within the region(s), including discussion at local association meetings, direct email notification and often placements in print media. A total of 581 participants attended seminars across the 19 events, and a total of 193 participants attended the 8 workshops this year.
Electronic events and communications
The AWRI webinar series complements other extension events and is considered an effective method for disseminating information and knowledge to people located across multiple regions at one time. A comprehensive program was presented by AWRI staff and external experts during 2015/2016, with topics including soil health, cover crops, the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in viticulture, sugar to alcohol conversion and closure technologies.
Extension staff are also responsible for contributing a significant amount of content to the AWRI’s communication platforms including the AWRI website, eBulletins, eNews, Technical Review, Wine Australia’s RD&E News and a regular column in the Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker.
Advanced Wine Assessment Course
Three Advanced Wine Assessment Courses (AWACs) were held at the AWRI during the year, with 16 participants in each course. The course is delivered over four days with more than 40 hours of content. Participants evaluate more than 300 wines under simulated wine show conditions. Lectures are presented by AWRI staff and the course features guidance from a range of wine show judges, journalists and winemakers.
At each course, the top performing participant (based on statistical analysis of scores, verbal skills and group interaction) is named dux of the course and given the opportunity to participate as an associate judge at a national wine show. This year the dux winners for AWAC 36, AWAC 37 and AWAC 38 were announced: Tim Perrin (Oakridge Wines), Tim Bourne (Sons of Eden) and Stephanie Dutton (Penfolds). The three dux recipients were all offered associate judging positions at the 2016 Royal Adelaide Wine Show.
Continuous improvement is an important part of AWAC. This year electronic scoring software was successfully integrated into the course; this software is being developed further so that it can be used by wine shows.
Wine judges program
To provide further insight into wine show judging, the AWRI launched a new one-day wine judging course. Three highly respected current or former national wine show chairs lead the program. Each participant is allocated into a panel and under the guidance of the panel chair, each panel tastes and scores a number of classes of wines selected from a recent national show. Wines are judged under conditions that replicate those followed by the Australian wine show system. Two courses were delivered in July and November. There has been strong interest in this program and it is likely that it will be held annually.
Tailored tasting events
For the fourth consecutive year, the AWRI teamed up with the Barossa Grape and Wine Association to offer a 1.5-day ‘Wine Assessment Tasting’ in June 2016. From the twelve participants in the course, six were selected as associate judges for the 2016 Barossa Wine Show. This partnership is working well as a mechanism to identify and develop talent at a regional level.
Collaborations with Wine Australia
The AWRI continues to support the promotion of Australian wine, and was invited by Wine Australia to participate in the Vinexpo event held in Hong Kong. The AWRI provided a booth with a wine education focus, presenting common wine aromas, both positive and negative, including ‘Brett’, ‘cork taint’, ‘pepper’ and ‘eucalypt’ characters. The booth had a high profile with both trade and consumers, and received very positive feedback. A masterclass was also presented on pepper and spice characters in Australian Shiraz.
Institute of Masters of Wine
The AWRI’s continuing collaboration with the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) includes an opportunity for AWRI staff to participate in IMW events in Europe and the USA. Adrian Coulter travelled to the UK and Bordeaux in February to deliver a number of presentations to students as part of the IMW international seminar.
Research to Practice
The Research to Practice (RtP) training model provides practical, themed, user-pays training sessions for the wine sector. AWRI staff and external providers contribute to the design and delivery of the programs. One module on grapevine nutrition, attended by 20 participants, was presented during 2015/2016.
NSW weather station network
The NSW weather station network forms part of a broader electronic pest and disease warning system, a key initiative of the Skills Development Program for NSW grapegrowers and winemakers. In 2015/2016, 22 weather stations located at Griffith, Hunter Valley, Orange, Tumbarumba and Canberra were added to the online network available via the AWRI website, bringing the total number of weather stations to 32. NSW grapegrowers and winemakers have around-the-clock access to weather data such as air temperature, soil temperature, rainfall, wind speed, wind direction and frost hours.