Wineries band together to attract visitors

Three Victorian wineries are putting aside traditional rivalries to help each other recover from the coronavirus.
And they’re using award-winning wines and food, nature, and the relatively low profile of
the region as their biggest drawcards.
Tahbilk, Fowles, and Mitchelton — three, five-star rated wineries, located in the Strathbogie
Shire, approximately 90 minutes north of Melbourne — have been hit hard by border closures and Melbourne’s recent ‘ring of steel’, which separated regional Victoria from metropolitan Melbourne:
• The historic Tahbilk Winery is Victoria’s oldest winery situated on the banks of the Goulburn River. Once referred to by the first people as ‘tabilk-tabilk’ (or the ‘place of many waterholes’), Tahbilk is a carbon neutral winery nestled among river flats and kilometres of backwaters, creeks, and walking trails.
• Just up the road, also fronting Victoria’s longest river, is Mitchelton Wines, a mid-century architectural masterpiece, which has been recently updated to include the iconic Ashton Tower, overlooking the Goulburn River and ranges, award winning cellar door, 58 room hotel, restaurant, major events, and one of Australia’s largest Aboriginal art galleries.
• Fowles Wine is the relatively new kid on the block – a five-star winery and farm located in the small township of Avenel, a short drive from the other two wineries. Fowles has also invested in its future, opening a new cellar door and renovating its restaurant, drawing on inspiration from the quintessential Aussie shed and majestic views of the Strathbogie Ranges.
“Each winery is completely different. Yet, by coming together, we offer the chance for guests to experience the best of the Victorian wine industry in a day. This is a great opportunity for people who want real, authentic experiences,” according to Fowles Wine owner Matt Fowles.
Like most businesses in the region, Tahbilk, Fowles, and Mitchelton depend upon holiday makers and daytrippers using the Hume Highway, which completely dried up as a source of tourism in 2020. But now the renowned Shiraz and Riesling producers are fighting back, using the region’s natural hidden gems, and relatively low tourism profile, as part of a new campaign to secure their share of Victoria’s $10bn regional tourism market.
“Relatively little-known wine regions and townships, like nearby Nagambie and Avenel, now have a fighting chance to compete with better-known visitor destinations because of the virus,” Fowles said.
Tahbilk CEO Alister Purbrick said there were about 4.4 million people visiting and spending money in regional Victoria every month in 2019.
“That’s a lot of visitors, even before the pandemic begun, and that gives us a lot of heart to make a serious comeback from the ravage of this pandemic,” he said.
With Victoria’s regional tourism boom expected to go deep into next year, Mr Purbrick said it made sense for the three wineries to band together to offer an attractive alternative to the regular touristy spots.
“In the coming months, we expect to see a surge in visitors from Melbourne, within the region, and even interstate, looking for places to visit and explore, which are different, unexpected, and safe.
“People will still want to have a great food and wine experience in a beautiful regional setting. But, post-lockdown, they will also want to be able to stretch out, breathe, feel safe, and be totally free from the hassle of queues and crowds, which is exactly what we are offering,” Purbrick said.
Chief winemaker at Mitchelton, Andrew Santarossa, said the Take Nature’s Road Trip campaign exploited the fact the region is not always top-of-mind, or on the ‘map’, for most day-trippers.
“For us, this has become one of our greatest strengths as we don’t have the same crowds, or traffic problems, which other more frequented regional wine destinations are likely to encounter this coming summer.
“But what we do have is an amazing natural setting boasting some of Victoria’s best wineries and dining, wide-open spaces, the Goulburn River and Ranges, bush trails and billabongs, and friendly smiles,”  Santarossa said.

App designed to protect wine industry against biosecurity threat

Peninsula Vignerons Association (MVPA) and Agriculture Victoria has announced that they will use the Snap Send Solve platform to locate amenity vines in the Mornington Peninsula, in an effort to help protect the region’s valuable wine industry from biosecurity threats.

A threat is phylloxera, an insect that can devastate a commercial grapevine and is transferable between vines. This transfer occurs not only amongst commercial vines but just as easily from Amenity vines – vines generally located in households or public places for decorative purposes. One of the difficult elements of surveying these Amenity vines is discovering their location.

“We are thrilled to be an integral part of Agriculture Victoria’s ‘Tackling Phylloxera’ campaign,” said Danny Gorog, founder and CEO of Snap Send Solve. “With more than half a million people in Australia already using the platform to report a range of issues within their community, we believe this is a natural channel for the general community to locate and report Amenity vines within the Mornington Peninsula area.”

Snap Send Solve allows anyone that discovers an Amenity vine, typically the hardest to locate, to report the location directly to Agriculture Victoria so they can undertake an inspection.

The app uses GPS to discover the precise location of the reporter and is geo-fenced, so that users can only report Amenity vines in the areas that the Agriculture Victoria is looking to survey.


Sensor system uses internet to maximise vineyard irrigation efficiency

A wireless sensor system to maximise vineyard irrigation efficiency will begin field trials in January.

SmartVine, developed in South Australia by TK SmartTech, will utilise a network of sensors to collect data on soil, crop health and moisture from across a vineyard.

Using SmartVine’s software, vignerons can then assess and manage their irrigation zones using a central system on their laptop, smartphone or tablet.

TK SmartTech Co-director Tenzin Crouch said the package would allow growers to optimise watering solutions based using a series of algorithms.

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“You basically end up with a map of the vineyard which shows the areas that are most productive,” he said.

“That way we can easily map the optimum watering to the right type of soil, and work out where your inputs need to go.

“We’ll be running some algorithms for the farmers, based around what agronomists suggest, and that that will eliminate the farmer’s need to interpret all this complicated data – they’ll just get some really simple outputs.”

The data from SmartVine will allow growers to more effectively determine optimum watering patterns, reducing waste in the vineyard.

“Of course water is one of the biggest costs for any grower, and it’s a really critical part of the growing process as well,” Crouch said.

“It’s really important to make sure you get the right amount of stress to get the optimum grape, which comes back to how you’re watering.”

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While SmartVine can automate the irrigation process based off its algorithms, data gathered using the software can also be sent to other experts for analysis.

Vignerons can then set up watering schedules using the program, based on the individual needs of their crop.

“We’re basically trying to give the grower the tool to make that decision themselves,” Crouch said.

“Our algorithms will be useful to get a good baseline, but sometimes your farmer might want a specific profile, or something based off what their winemaker has said.

In its current form, the sensors will connect to a private system, but as Internet of Things technology grows, SmartVine will take advantage of the rapidly expanding network.

One McLaren Vale vineyard is already locked for the January trial but TK SmartTech is still looking to recruit growers in the Barossa Valley and Riverland regions.

Trials will continue until after harvest with SmartVine with expected to be commercially available by June 2017.

Crouch and fellow TK SmartTech director Kai Harrison recently completed an entrepreneurial course through Flinders University’s New Venture Institute where they were also finalists in a pitch competition with their SmartVine system.

IoT developer Thinxtra announced this month it would partner with the South Australian Government to roll out a statewide network by mid-2017.

This story first appeared on The Lead.

Taylors sweeps the awards at Great Australian Shiraz Challenge

Family-owned, Clare Valley winery Taylors Wines has stolen the show with its 2014 Taylors Estate Shiraz, taking top prize for Best Australian Shiraz as well as Best Australian Shiraz under $25 at the nation’s premier shiraz competition, The 2015 Great Australian Shiraz Challenge.

Receiving a score of 19.5 from the esteemed judging panel, the trophy-winning Estate Shiraz is one of The Challenge’s highest scoring wines in the competition’s history.

This is the second time in The Challenge’s history that a single wine has received both trophies on offer at the competition.

Third generation Managing Director Mitchell Taylor is proud to be receiving such a prestigious accolade.

“We are thrilled with the result. These award wins are a credit to the hard work and dedication of our vineyard and winemaking teams who craft top quality wines across our entire portfolio,” Mitchell said.

Now in its 21st year, The Great Australian Shiraz Challenge has become Australia’s pre-eminent and valuable single class wine competition. 

The Challenge was established by the winemakers of the Nagambie Lakes region who laid down a challenge to determine Australia’s best shiraz producers. Wines entered are classed and tasted based on climate and regional points of difference, ensuring all entries are judged fairly and objectively.

The Challenge has proven to be a very successful show for Taylors Wines. It first received the People’s Choice Award in 2000 for the 1997 St Andrews Shiraz, taking the top trophy for Best Australian Shiraz the following year with the 1998 St Andrews Shiraz. Taylors also received the trophy for Best Australian Shiraz under $25 in 2011 for the 2010 Promised Land Shiraz.


Babich wines celebrate 100 years of winemaking

This month, Babich Wines, one of the pioneers of New Zealand winemaking, will be dusting off the archives and sharing its family stories to celebrate the company’s centenary in 2016.

Babich will be posting 100 stories on, meaning anyone with an internet connection will be able to learn about the family’s trials and tribulations. They will also be sharing rare images, including shots of the original vineyards and the tools they used.

“We wanted to throw the doors open and share the most intimate and interesting parts of our history,” explains Joe Babich, Managing Director and second-generation winemaker. 

“Our family’s story is one of passion, grit and hard work; caring for the earth and the vines; and at the end of the day, creating wines that represent excellence through experience. We’re excited to celebrate that and to share our success with wine lovers both here in New Zealand and around the world.”

New stories will be added to the website each month, kicking off with 26 in September. They touch on a range of emotions. Some reflect the struggles endured by the founder, Josip Babich, in the 1900s, while others show how pure hard work and innovation has ensured its century long success. Scattered among the stories are tales that will have readers laughing out loud.

Founder, Josip Babich, produced and bottled his first wine in 1916 at just 20 years old. According to Joe, he was an honest businessman, whose approach to winemaking was built on integrity, hard work and delivering quality and value to the customer.

“Can you imagine today, what it would mean for a 14-year-old boy to leave his parents and join his brothers to earn a living on the other side of the world? This journey was the humble beginnings for Josip, whose honest hard work and determination set the way for generations to come,” says Joe. 

“His traditional values still guide the business today, nearly 100 years on – and of that, we are immensely proud.”