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Australian Shiraz to get $5.3m terroir makeover

The Australian wine industry has launched a six-year AU$5.3 million research project to help it better understand the effects of terroir on its expression of Shiraz as part of an ongoing effort to lift demand and raise the premium paid for its wines.

Brian Croser

The country-wide project will see a number of research institutions, including the University of Adelaide, Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC), South Australian Research and Development Institute and the Australian Wine Research Institute, come together to analyse Australia’s unique terroirs to determine how they influence wine style and quality.

The multi-million project was announced by Wine Australia this morning, with Brian Croser AO, deputy chair of the organisation, calling it the “most exciting and insightful research project I have seen undertaken in the Australian wine community in my 40-year involvement”.

“Australia makes wines of exceptional quality and finesse that reflect their provenance and terroir, but they don’t currently receive the international recognition they merit,” said Croser.

“It is these wines that will most quickly elevate the image and reputation of all wines we produce. We are focused on building international recognition for our wines to increase demand and the price paid for all Australian wines. We already know that unique Australian terroirs exist and that climate, topography, soil chemistry and soil physical properties are the most important factors contributing to the differences between wines from different sites.”

The project follows Wine Australia’s pledge to invest AUD$35 million (£17.2m) annually for the next five years in a bid to lift the demand and premium paid for its wine as part of the organisation’s “Strategic Plan 2015-2020”. Funding will come from a combination of grape grower and winemaker levies and the Australian government, which has a programme to match funds for research, development and extension projects.

This project will focus on Shiraz, Australia’s most planted variety, and the grape which also represents a large proportion of Australia’s premium offer. Of all Australian exports valued at more than $10 per litre, 40% are Shiraz.

Specifically, the project will see Dr Leigh Schmidtke from Charles Sturt University at the NWGIC lead a sensory-focused benchmarking project looking for correlations between the taste profiles of a diverse range of Australian Shiraz wines, their chemical profiles and the climatic regions from which the grapes were sourced.

Associate Professor Cassandra Collins at the University of Adelaide will lead the vineyard terroir project that will determine “marker compounds and chemical profiles” for unique Australian Shiraz wines to better understand how vines respond to express terroir.

A selection of top sommeliers, set to be hosted by Wine Australia as part of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in April, will also help classify a subset of Australian Shiraz wines to inform the project.

“What these projects seek to do is to understand how these environmental signals translate into physiological changes in grapevines that result in changes in berry composition and in turn result in the expression of terroir in wines,” added Croser.

“When we understand how these environmental signals work, we can then understand how winegrowers can refine the expression of terroir and uniqueness in their vineyards, so that they can produce wines that express their unique terroir with greater confidence and obtain the premium such wines warrant.”

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