“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland)

Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin

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28 July 2009

CASTAGNA SLAMS ADELAIDE WINO CLUB

Biodynamic Guru Cracks A Fruity
Beechworth Produces New Outlaw

by PHILIP WHITE

Julian Castagna, the passionate father of Australia’s burgeoning biodynamic wine movement, has just released his annual newsletter and remodelled Castagna’s handsome website.

More importantly, he’s had his say about the current rude ignorance with which most of the wine world and plonkblogs international seem suddenly, fashionably, to regard Australian wine.“I am constantly amazed by the reception our wines are accorded,” he writes. “Amazed, not because they like the wines, why wouldn’t they, but totally amazed and saddened by the perception held by many people who think Australia is incapable of making anything other than non-gastronomic, sweet, high-alcohol wine. Amazed, also, because when I tell them of the very many other wonderful small producers making wine which is real - how it used to be - they are surprised; surprised at our industry’s lack of communication in that regard.













“It is a story about the exaggerated influence of some powerful but myopic journalists in Australia’s main overseas markets; a wine industry dominated, controlled and shaped by the big companies; and an official wine body ruled by a South Australian-centric view of wine to the detriment of the rest of Australia,” he writes, echoing a quiet but rising call from the makers of very fine wine who quite rightly feel cheated by these powers that be.

Castagna rolls his sleeves up to attack the Adelaide Club of outspoken psychotics (I can say that), weird Gollums and sly backroom operatives who seem intent on steering the wine industry into the future, when, incontrovertibly, they have failed abysmally in the past.

Even that great Colonel, James Halliday, seems almost ready to admit there’s something wrong (see following piece).

“A mandatory, export approval system which can and does deny export approval to wine that is not what ‘they’ consider the ‘norm’ or is unfamiliar, by branding it faulty, which they sometimes do even when
laboratory tests clearly show otherwise,” he says of the export approval tastings that mighty minds like Ian Hickinbotham’s consider to have no further reason for existence.

Then he gets into the fusty but powerful nature of the wine show system, which respected judges like Zar Brooks rotely call “The wine guessing games”. This writer, moi, who no longer participates in such a scandalous racket, calls them The Wine Races. They are stacked with Fine Cottons never exposed.

“Perhaps it might also be true to say that as much as the wine show system has helped deliver much
improvement to the general quality of Australian wine, it has created a culture around a small group of the in-crowd who seek to control the direction of Australian wine, from style; to who gets to sit at the table when important decisions are made about our industry, or, who are given access to important wine press from overseas when they arrive in Australia. Has this self-appointed club put self-interest before what this country needs? - individual, high quality, terroir- driven wines made by people who eat, breathe and live their land in pursuit of something special?”

Then Castagna quite literally calls for revolution:

“It is time Australia had a revolution from the ground up, one which shakes our industry’s mixture of
self-satisfied smugness and corporate neglect. The fact is, there are very many small Australian producers making wine, at many price points, that the world actually wants to drink. We simply are not communicating that fact. Our industry bodies are meant to represent all wineries in Australia but seem incapable or unwilling of supporting all sections of our industry equally.

“If ever there was a time for the small serious producers to take matters into their own hands, it is now. If we leave it to those who seek to lead us, Australian wine will continue its slide into sameness and mediocrity. I for one will not be surrendering to those who seek to trivialize the small, independent
winemakers. Many of us are more committed than ever to the pursuit of the highest quality; individual wine of terroir. It is time to expose the world to the wonderful wines made by small estates which have been till now forced, on a world stage, to take a back seat to the mediocrity which has been marketed and promoted as Australian wine in the last few years.”

Get straight onto the Castagna website and give this brave, impassioned, brilliant winemaker and environmentalist some written support, and for the sake of Bacchus and Pan, buy his exquisite wine.

THE CASTAGNA VINEYARDS ENJOY FASTIDIOUS ATTENTION TO ISSUES LIKE SWARD BETWEEN THE VINE ROWS. CLICK ON ANY OF THESE IMAGES TO FLIP TO THE CASTAGNA BLOG, NEW WEBSITE, AND ORDER FORM

HALLIDAY FEELS THE CHILL NEW HEAT

JAMES HALLIDAY THINKS FUTURE OF MURRAY IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PREDICT

Why Didn't He See This First? (No Second Chance Up Shit Creek!) Fourth Estate Pundit Finally Predicts Third World Down Under Fifth Columnist There All Along
 
James Halliday, if the pre-publicity for his new book is any indicator, seems to be discovering that the Australian wine business is in deep shit.

In his annual compendium of five star wineries to be published tomorrow, Halliday threatens that Australia is about to become a "Third World wine producer ... with the prospect of losing all the huge gains made in the industry since the 1980s”.

But the famous winemaker, author, critic and wine show judge still doesn’t seem to get it. His reluctance to grasp reality has become, in fact, a first-class symptom of the whole dread disease. Any business whose success depends upon a weak currency, the butchering of arid land, and a supply of endless water that doesn’t exist, is surely decrepit from the start.

In tomorrow’s book, Halliday maintains the "future of the Murray Darling [is] almost impossible to predict''.

"Out of these and other issues, the view has emerged that the annual crush should be permanently reduced by up to 400,000 tonnes ... so 46,500ha have to be removed,'' he has written.

I would have thought the future of the Murray Darling Basin is very easy to predict. What was is over. The Basin’s cactus. Any river with a dead estuary is a dead river. And the Murray is well and truly dead down my end. Where the estuary used to be.

Which leads to the responsibilities of the respected critic. While wine writers have done little more than promote themselves along with an impossible-to-grasp scrillion product recommendations, I began writing about the wine industry’s environmental record in the early ’eighties, and so drew constant fire from a string of editors, most of whom eventually fired me.

I know this was published somewhere away back in DRINKSTER, but I should again draw your attention to a speech I made ten years ago. It’s long, but it makes very clear the fact that the collapse of the Australian wine industry could be very easily forecast with a fair deal of precision many, many years ago.

Those who constantly did little else but talk it up should surely share the wine industry’s blame for the destruction of waters, communities, land and public health it has wrought since the boom began.

Here follows a lesson about hubris.

THE MOUTH OF THE RIVER MURRAY FILLS WITH SEA SAND AND CLOSES IF IT'S NOT DREDGED - THERE IS INSUFFICIENT FLOW TO KEEP IT OPEN
The wine industry and urban and rural South Australia


Speech to the AGM of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies, 26 March 1999, and delivered later to planning students at the University of Adelaide, Wednesday 13th October, 1999.

by PHILIP WHITE

You may be surprised to hear that I'm deeply interested in water.

I pay particular attention to the Murray Valley. During the last vintage, I flew its length, boated upon it, and traversed and criss-crossed its valley by car. Beginning at its mouth - which discharges nothing more than idiots on jet skis who swarm through to infuriate surf fishermen enjoying the isolation outside - I have travelled upstream, if stream is what you would call it. Cancerous bowel is more like it.

The first point of interest, beyond Tom and Wendy's boat thing, is the vineyard district called Langhorne Creek, whose size was always limited by the reach of the flooding of the Bremer. There was a good fresh aquifer there, but greed and ignorance saw it sucked until it turned too saline for use.

So the local politician, the then Premier, Dean Brown, arranged new irrigation permits with the Murray Darling Commission, permitting new pipelines to irrigate the higher ground with water from Lake Alexandrina. That saw the Creek explode in a rush of prospective viticulture that seems to dwarf the gold rush which helped set the whole neighbourhood on its feet last century.

In 1991, there were 471 hectares of immaculately tended vineyard at Langhorne Creek. This area had been restricted and limited by the amount of available water. But by mid 1997, with the Premier’s extra squirt, there were about 2,500 hectares, and the locals thought that might double, by 2002, to about 5,000 hectares. But at the closing of vintage 1999, vignerons counted 4317 hectares, most of which has yet to bear a commercial crop. That's tenfold in eight years, with no mention of stopping. Nobody in the Creek knows how much has been planted this year, but it’s huge.

In one $30 million hit, Peter Pargeter, of Vinescape Management Services, planted 320 hectares for the Guild Pharmacists’ superannuation fund, on completely unproven land. Orlando's new vineyard alone involves 200,000 trellis posts, 1,000 kilometres of drip line, and 50,000 kilometres of wire.

Among the new speculators are some of the country's biggest wine names and some notorious abusers of water. Some vineyards are already weedy and unkempt, but because most of them are yet to produce a berry, nobody really knows whether the flavours of the bold new irrigated world will match the classic trophy-winning mudflat characteristics that led them to this district in the first place.

There is one advantage these new, slightly higher vineyards have over those on the traditional floodplain. Until the stagnant Lake itself is poisoned, they will escape, for a short time, the pollution that will come down the Brukunga Creek and the Bremer from the two leaking mine tailings dams there. The Kanmantoo dam holds millions of tonnes of arsenic, copper, detergent, reagents, lead and lord knows what. Under light rain, it leaked 300 gallons per minute when I worked there in 1972. Nobody works there now, so nobody sees.

Leave the cowboys of Langhorne and fly north to Wellington. The Lake's surprisingly healthy green may be broken here or there by some algal bloom, until the Murray oozes in like a twist of pus. Last summer, its water was yellow. Follow it to Morgan, where Southcorp recently sold 1,200 hectares of vineyard. This was mainly used for cheap bladder pack wines, but Southcorp finds it better business now to source that fruit in third world countries, where there are few restrictions on irrigation and few environmental controls. And the peasants are not so greedy about wages.

Across the river, BRL-Hardy plans to stick around. When it bought the over-grazed Banrock Station and took the sheep off to make way for irrigated vineyards, it discovered the reeds and native vegetation along its significant river frontage regrew. This is now being championed internationally as an environmental triumph. Early Banrock bladder packs were made with wild seeds impregnated in the cardboard, so they'd grow if you soaked them in water. Advertisements for the clean green Banrock hit even the pages of The National Geographic.

And yet Banrock is still a high-yielding, scorched earth policy vineyard, with nothing organic about it. It's sobering if not outright depressing in its dull monoculture, and it's irrigated with water from a river that carries over two and a half tonnes of salt - per minute - past you as you stand there at the huge pumps.

Cross the vast reaches of dead salinated riverflats toward Renmark and the east, and outside the river channel, you'll see new vineyards crawling towards all horizons, across marginal, or seriously arid land. Mr. Goyder has long been forgotten. This growth mirrors the rest of Australia's viticulture.



In 1995, prominent wine industrialists devised a thirty year plan for the growth of the wine industry. They called it Strategy 2025, and preached that gospel so loudly to politicians, speculators and tax dodgers that we now have thirty years worth of vineyard expansion suddenly undertaken and complete, with no planning nor overview, in just four years. Nobody really knows how much has been planted, but estimates of an increase of between 25% and 30% are not considered wild. I could think of more edifying ways of spending a billion dollars.

At Mildura, plantings are so profuse that there’s one unexpected result which reminds the community of its excess every day when the soil dries out enough for the automatic irrigation switching to turn all the new pumps on. In the old days, human nature saw pumps turned on and off all day, depending on what time the farmer crawled from bed. Now that it’s automatic and preset, and all happens at once, and you get an electricity discount if you install a bigger pump, Mildura’s lights go out when the pumps turn on. There’s not enough power in the grid to drive the pumps.

Twenty or thirty per cent of Australia's total vineyard has yet to produce a berry. South Australia leads the way, with 47.1% of the nation's new plantings for 97-98. More of this has occurred in the Upper Murray than in any other district.

It's interesting that the most popular varieties planted, cabernet sauvignon in the reds and that weed, chardonnay, in the whites, both require good French oak for proper maturation.















Just as an indicator of how utterly stupid this development has been, consider the oak forests of France. In 1991, for example - the most recent figure I can procure - France harvested enough oak to make about 250,000 barrels. If the 20,000 hectares of Australian plantings yet to produce a berry eventually produce 12.5 tonnes per hectare, which is modest, and all this was the great quality stuff they're promising, and it all got the "new French oak" treatment which the back labels promise, and Australia by miracle took possession of ALL of France's annual barrel make, then we'd be about 300,000 barrels short. And we're talking only of the 20,000 hectares which have not yet produced a berry.

No effort was put into exploring premium grape varieties which provide flavours that don't require French oak. No effort was put into selecting varieties or clones which do better in marginal land, or which require less water to thrive.

This sort of blindness is best reflected in a recent remark of Dr. Richard Smart, Australia's pre-eminent viniculturer. Dick pointed out that the trendy world of microbiology, cloning and DNA manipulation now uses most of Australia's grape research dollar, while there are at least 10,000 grape varieties known on earth which have never been trialled in Australia.

But back to wood. Wine and wood have an even more perverse relationship. A year ago, Tim Frazer, the Murraylands Regional Investigator for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, grew sick and tired of Riverlanders whingeing about how slow he was to process their applications for new native vegetation clearances for viniculture. So he went public in what he thought was the least sensational manner, and told his local Riverland ABC radio that his apparent sluggishness occurred because he was too busy pursuing illegal clearances, which it was his duty to prosecute.

By the time I'd reported this in The Australian, just a few days later, Tim had been silenced. "He's not allowed to talk to the media", a telephonist politely explained. Word was he'd been despatched to the Gammon Ranges, handed a Winchester, and told to shoot goats.



When a reader of my columns wrote to Premier Olsen and Minister Kotz for an opinion on such deviant mutterings of mine, relating to illegal clearances and published in The Advertiser, they said I used too much journalistic flair. The Premier announced that I was simply incorrect.

But back to the water. Cross the border to Wentworth, and you'll see where the pus has been coming from. To the east, the Murray's a murky brown. But at Wentworth, the jaundiced clay-filled Darling comes in from the cotton fields of Queensland. Some bright spark recently decided to give the Darling such a flush that thousands of red gums along its banks have collapsed into its stream. But this doesn't stop the viniculturers, who are spreading in desert land between Wilcannia and Bourke, all sucking the last few drops of that yellow muck through their huge pumps.


And on it goes. The Barossa's Viniculturer of the Year 1998, Prue Henschke, called for a national ban on native vegetation clearance for new vineyard development. You can hear the moans: she's fortunate that the Henschke families did their clearing long before her marriage to Stephen, so she now has the run of such enviable heritage vineyards as the Hill of Grace.

The Barossa vignerons are peeved because the McLaren Vale district this year surpassed them for total plantings. Once again, this is determined by available water resources. So the Barossa has set up a private company of interested vignerons who are planning a new pipeline to suck in more of that salty water from the Murray, just to set the numbers right again.

Old Barossa Lutherans cleared vineyard blocks as deftly as they cleared church and school land, because everything was done to the glory of God. It seems that the Australian wine industry has changed dieties since.

Henschke's comment followed that of Michael Himsworth, Chairman of the Riverland Wine Grape Council, and Deputy of the Wine Grape Section of the S.A. Farmers Federation. He made a bitter complaint about short-sightedness plaguing the biggest Murray Valley wineries, souring vintage 1998.

"We've seen vineyard area nearly double in response to industry calls", he said, "yet the wineries certainly haven't doubled in processing capacity, so they're telling growers they should leave their grapes on the vines and wait." He went on to say, and I quote: "The winemakers have become incredibly arrogant. They order more fruit than they can process properly, especially reds. They can't cope when vintage happens all at once, like it's happening all around Australia now."

The growers' critical moment is that short climax of ripening, when the grapes' sugar and acid levels, and their pH, are at the optimum. It's vital that they should be picked and processed at that point. Beyond it, acids fall, sugars rise, berries raisin, weight drops, and skins may split and moulds occur if it rains. The wines are jammy and dim, and require a great deal more chemical manipulation. A day or two of typical summer can make the difference between glittering trophies and pitiful bladder packs; between Jimmy Watson’s and Victoria Square.

"And these buggers are expecting some growers to wait not just a day or two, but two or three weeks after ripening", Himsworth said. "By that stage you can kiss it goodbye."

And that was 1998. 1999 was much, much worse. Next year makes people quiver. These matters deserve immediate attention. The wine industry councils have no chance of addressing them while they refuse to admit that these dire problems are the direct result of their gung-ho management regime. Not to mention the little matter of over-production leading to certain grape price slumps, especially in a place like the Mallee, which the industry approaches like a mine for cheap legal sugar. You can hear the lips smacking.

These problems are occurring at different intensities right across eastern Australia. I think I have made my point.

But governments regard the wine industry as vital and wise advisors in other industries, too. The same people responsible for this economic and environmental time bomb are now being regarded as tourism and cultural experts.

Let's talk for a moment about culture and tourism and the wine industry.

Tourism, I presume, is travelling for pleasure. If that be so, the success of all tourism depends upon food and wine. As a person whose profession requires the constant pruning back of stories, I should stop there. My theorising is complete.

But what leads me to continue is the sad fact that food and wine operatives are rarely expert at tourism. In fact, most of them are not even expert at food or wine.

I first visited the Barossa in 1959 and lived there for the latter half of the eighties. I soon discovered that a newcomer was anybody who did not arrive on the first ship, or their descendants. A stranger was somebody who’d lived there for twenty years or less. Everyone else is a tourist.

Except for black pudding, schwarzrtbrot and metwurst, the Barossa ate bland white food:

cauliflower, white sauce, cabbage (fermented to sauerkraut in wooden troughs by apronned ladies in the local factory), pickles, pork, fritz, chicken, potato, grain - and its white products - onion and a little garlic.

Since the advent of wine tourism, the sauerkraut factory shut down, along with most of the wurst houses. The health authorities advised Fechner’s Apex bakery, which still uses a woodfire oven, that its wholemeal bread didn’t meet the government fibre regulations, and suggested the addition of some chicken feathers if the local stoneground flour couldn’t come up to the grade.

I knew it was over when I received a complaint about my review recommending that a certain local spatlese riesling - the traditional German style - would go very well with saeurkraut and smoked wursts. A local said I was being patronising.

Many Barossans cried foul when I argued for the retention of their ancient settler’s cottages against the wave of triple-fronted cream brick veneers in which they all quite sensibly sought to live. So up went all those perfectly clean and tidy new houses, leaving the perves called Cultural tourists with no old walls to peer over.

The Barossa now has the worst Chinese restaurant in the world, and the second worst pizza restaurant. It has no licensed premises specialising in Barossadeutscher cuisine.

Its best indicator of some level of handling of the tourist boom is the fact that Penfold’s, the biggest winery in Australia, has done away with the four bays in its cellar sales area. These were designed to hold one busload of sweet sherry drinkers each. I think that was called experiential tourism.


Across the Valley, the tiny cutesy pie, custom-built heritage cellar of Rockford erected a sign to announce that buses and limousines were not at all welcome.

The Barossa has become famous for shiraz, grenache and semillon; three varieties it swore would never sell again, a dogma that led to government paying growers to uproot these, farm by farm, with the encouragement of the wine industry, just a dozen years ago.

This was an attempt to reduce the number of peasant-scale growers each company dealt with, and contain the threat of increasing prices.

In those days, Penfold’s paid about $186 per tonne (minimal grape pricing) for Grange hermitage quality grapes; the same price it was paying for sultana in the Murray Valley.

The 83 Grange was soon selling at $180 per bottle.

That Vine Pull was a very immediate threat to the very lure of the Valley.

The crisis of confidence which that uprooting installed has ensured that, a few acres of viognier aside no other grape varieties have been tried in the valley ever since.

And the Barossa Resident’s association which was formed to fight the vine uprooting scheme on planning grounds, and land useage, and amenity, now fights to limit vineyard expansion by opposing the removal of any trees.

So we have the ugly situation now where vineyard expansion is being limited by the residents, led by a few self-interested prominent vignerons who seem to believe they don’t need the new competition. These folks hold demonstrations with their kiddies to stop the bad man chopping a tree down, while the local golf course, at which many successful winemakers play, hired a kick-boxing champion to remove mature trees at the rate of one per day for a month, and nobody complained.

Not one squeak.

Except for the day when the heavy rang me at 8am on a Saturday and demanded to know whether it was correct that I was planning to write a story about what was going on.

So what would the experiential tourist do here? Demonstrate, chop, or wallop?

Jump to the Hunter in 1982 - when I arrived for the first of many intensive inspections, the tourism boom was beginning, and the better cellars were already complaining that the tourists were driving serious wine buyers away.

I use the Hungerford Hill winery complex as my example - it was winner of many tourism awards, but the reality was:

1 Cheap wines at the front. These entertained the flood of tourists which washed in from the seashore whenever the weather there turned bad. They were not Hunter Valley wines, and they were usually sweet.

2 Commercial wines in the inner sanctum. To get in here, you had to be a member who’d learned a few skerricks of knowledge about the stuff out the front and passed some sort of test or spent a certain amount of money.

3 Good wines out the back. In this very special sanctum you could get to taste the local wines this company sold in its normal marketplaces, with a fussy interferist coach.

Anybody who was used to drinking these wines quickly learned that if they visited the winery, they’d be trapped in this room with a mob of pretenders and a coach that would put them off drinking that brand ever again.

They felt that if the people in that room were indicative of the types who regularly drank that brand, then it was an urgent matter of INCLUDE ME OUT.

This sort of behaviour pattern soon led to Murray Robson erecting a sign at his winery gate which said:

No sweet wines
No drink-now wines
No fortified wines
No cheap wines
No single-bottle sales
No buses
Visitors welcome

I think government planning and tax regimes should be restructured very quickly, dividing wineries into two categories. Historical, boutique, and tourist wineries should be one thing.

Enormous wine refineries, like the 75,000 tonnes per annum monster which the Premier’s special projects unit has just approved for Mildara Blass, against all local argument, north of Nuriootpa, should instead be built in hidden industrial parks. As a local, I watched that Bilyara site sink beneath a metre of floodwater on numerous occasions. This is serendipitous, when you consider that one tonne of grapes requires about 1.5 tonnes of water for manufacture. I am not including the irrigation water it takes to grow a tonne of grapes - just the water needed for washing and rinsing during vinification.

BRL-Hardy is now locked in a new environmental struggle - in the Barossa - which offers it a golden opportunity to show the true hue of its Banrock Station greenness. It wants a new 9,000 tonnes capacity winery at Marananga.

MARANANGA LUTHERAN CHURCH

The winery would be directly opposite the heritage-listed Seppelt’s mausoleum, on a road hedged by the magnificent heritage-listed Seppelt’s palms. It would occupy a currently empty field in the heart of the Greenock Creek/Seppeltsfield vignoble, which is right now earning unprecedented international admiration for the astonishing quality of its shiraz and grenache. The winery would be directly opposite the Marananga Lutheran Church, which is the most famous and most photographed of all the Valley’s churches, and which features constantly in government promotional material.

Unfortunately for Hardy’s, many of the neighbours work in the wine industry, and, being good Barossans, with a work ethic unmatched, declare with open throats that they are most certainly NOT anti-development. They include the likes of John Vickery, the great riesling maker of Leo Buring and now Richmond Grove; and many local winemakers, including Richard Lindner, Malcolm Seppelt, Michael and Annabelle Waugh, Brian Falkenberg, and David Powell.

These folks are quick to list concerns about the Hardy plan. They want it moved to an industrial zone. They say the proposed 20 acre woodlot is unlikely to healthily sop the 15 to 20,000 tonnes of waste water such a factory will exude each year, as the local moisture-retentive soil types will not handle such a system. And of course the joint will grow, once it’s approved and up.

Residents don’t want the stink of vintage, nor the extra demands on their water and power. They already complain that their water mains manage only a dribble at the height of summer, and when the Seppelt refrigeration plant kicks in their lights already go dim. They say the poor tourism roads are nowhere near adequate for the industrial traffic such an instalment will require - it has no bottling line - and that their council will have to pay for constant rebuilds.

These neighbours don’t want the huge floodlights such a factory involves, nor the constant roar of cooling plants and trucks which will echo down the natural ampitheatre below the site, where the heritage listed cottages of the Vickerys, the Falkenbergs and the Craigs have slumbered since the beginning of the colony.

Consider these proposed buildings. One will be 135 metres long. They’ll be 17 metres high. Not only will they obstruct a famously uninterrupted rural vista, but they will be made from that famously heritage Barossa shedding, colourbond.

It’s easy to understand how our big wineries have gathered the confidence to mount such audacious projects, right in the face of the very communities upon which they depend. The Olsen government froths at the bit to bash things through for industry, and the $40 million four-story office block taxpayers are shouting the wine business in our own beloved Botanic Gardens is just one indicator of their lofty presumptions. That building, coincidentally, will be about the same size as the colourbond job at Marananga. But if it’s cool in the sacrosanctity of the Botanic Garden, it’s a breeze in the Barossa countryside, eh?

Ironically, these Barossadeutschers are the same people who practised what was probably the world's most organic dryland viticulture methods for the 130 years preceding the invention of the broadacre vine trellis.

The trellis, by the way, was made essential by the invention of the grape-picking machine.

The invention of the grape-picking machine was made essential by the introduction of equal pay for women, thankyou Gough Whitlam.

The trellis made possible the age of minimal pruning, which brought about the age of moulds and fungicides and sprays of every nasty description.

So the Hunter has become a sort of WINEWORLD, where everything is expensive and pretentious, nothing is real, and you never see a real local human out and about. The Barossa seems confused about whether it should be GERMANWORLD or WINEWORLD, but it'll be interesting to follow nevertheless.

And now these great brains, these planning gurus, have brought their vast sensitivity and expertise to our Botanic Gardens, where we shall pay to install them in a wine industry headquarters designed by the man responsible for the architecture of the Rundle Mall.

I've had some experience in government sponsored wine centres. I was invited to assist in the planning and content of the interpretive display there in the Fleurieu Visitors Centre. Here we saw government unite with local wine identities to spend $1.3 million on a tasting room which also houses a display.

When the building, which brings to mind a southern Californian petrol station, was called finished, which it wasn’t, the budget not stretching to accommodate much of the original plan, there was $70,000 left in the kick for the experiential displays, photography, videos, web-page and all the informative display texts within.

I’d still like full payment for the texts, but they never seem to find any money left at the bar, which I notice is sponsored by a brewery.


I'm also stupidly responsible for the National Wine Centre. Back when Valmai Hankel, the librarian who keeps the rare and precious books and the wine collection, was trying to find a use for what had formerly been the State Library reading room on the corner of Kintore Avenue, we worked together on an idea for a wine centre for visitors to Adelaide who didn't have the time to visit any of our wine regions.

If it didn't work in the Library, I thought, the then derelict Botanic Hotel would do the job. I called Brian Croser about using the Botanic, and he suggested nobody would pay for the development. Eventually, in a futile attempt at cynicism, I suggested that Tram Barn A might do.

The idea proposed a tasting room where your could see a flight, say, of rieslings, choose which you liked best, see a video of its source, and the B&Bs you could use there if you had the chance, order the wine for delivery from the maker to your door in New York or Paris or wherever, and begin planning a more leisurely return trip.

Dean Brown took the Liberals to election on his promise of demolishing Tram Barn A and that awful retentive Victorian pile beside it, in spite of Philippa Menses' unpopular National Trust plans to have them retained. But once elected, the new Premier blanched, uncertain of the real public attitude.

You could hear the minders ponder: "What's popular? What can we use it for? Wine! Bewdy! Didn't somebody suggest a Wine Museum? Whitey! He'll back us! Let's go!" And off they went.

So what started as a simple, profit-making service for visitors quickly became a State-funded wine museum, which quickly reverted to an office block for bureaucrats and mandarins, partly because nobody thought the word museum was much good in this modern age. On the committee I joined at Premier Brown's invitation, the first wine centre committee, the word museum was abandoned because nobody really knew what it meant.

NATIONAL WINE CENTRE, BOTANIC GARDENS, ADELAIDE

None of those great brains had heard of Zeus, or Jupiter, the boss of the heavens, nor of his wife, the Goddess Mnemosyne, or Memory. They didn't realise the daughters of this couple, the cover girls of their day, were the official inspirers of all poetry and art. Cleo was the trigger of history, Thalia of comedy. Euterpe was the source of all music; Urania of astronomy, and so on. They were called the Muses, just like my much uglier lot's called the Whites. The Muses lived in the Museum.

No good, no good. It'll have to be the National Wine Centre. It'll have to be in the Botanic Park because:

1 The Gardens already attract 1.3 million visitors a year - more than any other government-owned property;

2 The East End is already a famous tourism and gastronomic precinct (The Universal Wine Bar's there), and

3 It's a nice place to have your offices.

They overlook the fact that the East End is rapidly becoming a violent drug-crazed mirror of the old Hindley Street, where a good deal of the working community are the enthusiastic users of a constant wave of powder drugs; and they don't realise that the very reason that 1.3 million people visit the Botanic Gardens each year is that there are no industrial headquarters, office blocks, car parks, conference centres, or monorails in sight.

Don't laugh - a monorail was seriously suggested, to siphon customers from Rundle Street across the Botanic Garden, which is a dry zone, to the Wine Centre. This was seen as a possible solution to the car parking problem in the Garden. Nobody listened to the traders' complaint about the loss of business in Rundle Street, because there's no real parking there, either. Anyway, show me a monorail and I'll show you a Premier who's just lost power.

The initial concept for a straightforward, self-funding facility for wine enthusiasts was sufficiently attractive to lure a horde of self-interested political amateurs and industry mandarins, whose clumsy and transparent manoeuvres in pursuit of taxpayers' funds and sacred inner city parkland, abuse not just the clarity of the first proposal, but snigger in the face of the uncommonly tasteful and discerning community of Adelaide.

After five years of squandered expense and volunteered energy, this centre is further from its origins than credibility extends.

The citizens of Adelaide now face the construction of an industrial headquarters in their extremely popular Botanic Garden. This $40 million-plus tax-payer-funded Xanadu will have little purpose beyond housing the bureaucrats who will be responsible for the next taxpayer-funded Vine-pull Scheme.

There has been no consultation with the neighbours, none with the community at large, nor anything vaguely resembling consultation with the wine industry proper. The old buildings wisely rejected by the wine industry will now house the unfairly misplaced botanic scientists whose perfectly suitable, unobtrusive buildings and laboratories will be demolished to make way for the imposing new wine industry headquarters.

Those who intend moving into this facility, like Wine and Brandy Corporation Manager, Sam Tolley, refer to it as their "new offices". Winemakers Federation of Australia Chairman, Brian Croser, admits privately that the centre, as imagined by him, does not "necessarily have to be in the Botanic Garden". Margaret Lehmann went on the record on ABC radio earlier this year saying that she was not convinced that the Botanic Gardens site was appropriate. A fortnight later she was the Marketing Director of the same damned thing.

And driving force Ian Sutton, Chief Executive of the WFA, Wine Australia Pty. Ltd., Australian Wine Foundation and the Australian Wine and Brandy Producers' Association, says "My job's not to consult the wine industry -- my job is to represent the wine industry".

Now that Glenthorne Farm, a perfectly suitable alternative site for a self-funding centre has been found and purchased on the old CSIRO research site at the top of Flagstaff Hill, those who would raid the public purse, not to mention the Botanic Garden, have become more secretive and even more determined in their nefarious pursuit.

GLENTHORNE FARM
I have a sick dream. It's punishment for having the idea of the wine centre in the first place.


In it, Brian Croser, Ian Sutton, Ann Ruston, Margaret Lehmann and Sam Tolley all go to Alice Springs, where they build their glittering shangri-la in the bed of the Todd River.

For there, indeed, lies a perfect example of the target market of all those cheap plonks made in our devastated Mallee, or imported from Argentina, Moldova, Italy, Spain and Chile.

What began with the gun is being finished by complacency, and the great Australian Wine Industry profits every inch of the way.

SEPPELTSFIELD FALLS RANDALL'S WAY

WARREN RANDALL

Vales Wildcat Relieves Hacca Of Her After Dinner Headaches
Randall And Co Make Daring Barossa Raid
by PHILIP WHITE

For a sum yet to be disclosed, McLaren Vale grapegrower Warren Randall has bought Janet Holmes á Court’s share of Seppeltsfield, the pride of the Barossa Valley.

After a rather confused series of transactions, Fosters, in 2007, sold Seppeltsfield the brand, the buildings, the Para grenache vineyard, and nine million litres of fortified wine to The Seppeltsfield Estate Trust, whose unitholders included the shareholders of Kilikanoon, the Clare wine brand considered by many to be punching above its weight, and Mrs. Holmes á Court, whose precise business acumen made her seem an unlikely partner. Nathan Waks became Managing Director and Bruce Baudinet Chairman.

Joseph Ernst Seppelt migrated to Australia from Silesia in 1849. The first vintage was in a family dairy, but by 1867, the first of the majestic winery buildings was under construction. Seppelts began laying down their Para port for long-term storage in 1878, and now release a fabulous century-old wine each year.

The vast heritage-listed bluestone complex costs over $400,000 per year to maintain.

Warren Randall and his backers from the Andrew Garrett days, Warren Ward and Andrew Fletcher, are the largest private owners of vineyards at McLaren Vale, owning at least 20% of the district’s vineyards. Randall habitually buys vineyards which become available, provided they have full water licenses. His company is contentiously planning a subdivision of the old Tatachilla Winery in McLaren Vale’s main street; while his vineyards are reasonably responsibly managed environmentally, Randall is not famed for his conservation record.

He was sparkling winemaker at Seppelts Great Western in the 1980s, and then worked with Andrew Garrett, under whose ownership the great old Romalo Cellars opposite Penfolds Grange burned down in the ’nineties. With Garrett colleagues Ward and Fletcher, Randall bought Tinlin’s, the bulk wine retailer, in 1993.

This Seppeltsfield move can be seen as McLaren Vale’s first major push into Barossa territory since Hardy’s bought the Barossa Co-op, and built the controversial Barossa Valley Estate opposite the Seppelt family’s Greco-Roman mausoleum at Seppeltsfield.

There has been intense, almost unseemly vineyard establishment around Seppeltsfield, Marananga and Greenock Creek since Michael and Annabelle Waugh’s Greenock Creek wines began to attract the adulation of Robert Parker Jr. in the ’nineties. Newcomers include Two Hands, Torbreck and Hardy’s/Constellation. Greenock Creek probably has more perfect scores, or very high nineties, from Parker than any other Australian winery. Its vineyards border Seppeltsfield on the north boundary.

The Waughs have almost completed their removal of the industrial pig and chicken farm that dominated the creek immediately north of Seppeltsfield. They bought it last year, and have removed tens of thousands of tonnes of iron and concrete from the site, cleared and rejuvenated the creekline, and will soon establish new vineyards there, opening up a whole new vista for visitors to the historic valley.

Through this acquisition of the famous Para Vineyard at Seppeltsfield, the move also puts Randall in control of a huge volume of old vine grenache, which is on the ascendant as a premium fine wine style, particularly in McLaren Vale, where brands like d’Arenberg and Yangarra are booming.

21 July 2009

JIMI HENDRIX DROWNED IN RED WINE

Purple Haze All Around My Brain 
Aussie Doc Backs Murder Claims
Bob Brown The Green There Too
 by PHILIP WHITE


Jimi Hendrix drowned in red wine.

Tappy Wright, 65, a roadie who worked for Hendrix, has just released a memoir, Rock Roadie, in which he claims Hendrix, 27, was murdered by his manager, Mike Jeffery on September 18, 1970.

The book alleges that the almost-bankrupt Jeffery told Wright that Hendrix was “worth more to him dead than alive”, took out a $2 million life insurance policy, then arranged with Hendrix’s junkie girlfriend, Monika Danneman, and some hired hands to sedate Hendrix and force red wine down his throat until he drowned.

Hendrix had been considering changing managers. The book claims Jeffery, an ex-secret serviceman with close underworld connections, confessed the murder to Wright a month before he was killed in a plane crash.

Dannemann, whose drug consumption almost equalled that of Hendrix, committed suicide in 1996.

John Bannister, now 67, the Australian doctor on call at St Mary Abbots Hospital the morning Hendrix was admitted, came back to Australia two years later, and practised as an orthopaedic surgeon until he was deregistered for fraudulent conduct in 1992.

Since the publication of Rock Roadie, Bannister, who lives in Sydney, told The Times of London that the murder theory is “plausible”.

Bannister had no idea who his dead patient was.

“Somebody said to me ‘You know who that was?” Bannister said. “That was Jimi Hendrix’ and, of course, I said, ‘Who’s Jimi Hendrix?’.

“He was very long”, he remembers. “He was hanging over the table we had him on by about ten inches.



“When you are in casualty, one always tries very hard to resuscitate people. There’s always a hope. We worked very hard for about half an hour but there was no response at all. It really was an exercise in futility,” he said.

Bannister said that Hendrix was quite literally full of red wine.

“The amount of wine that was over him was just extraordinary. Not only was it saturated right through his hair and shirt but his lungs and stomach were absolutely full of wine. I have never seen so much wine. We had a sucker that you put down into his trachea, the entrance to his lungs and to the whole of the back of his throat.

“We kept sucking him out and it kept surging and surging. He had already vomited up masses of red wine and I would have thought there was half a bottle of wine in his hair.”

“It was just extraordinary. He had really drowned in a massive amount of red wine.”

In his retirement speech from the Australian parliament on 5th June 2012, Senator Bob Brown, former leader of the Australian Greens, confirmed that he was another Australian intern on duty in casualty that night.  He said Hendrix had been dead for some hours when he saw him, and that Bannister signed the death certificate. 

Rock Roadie seems destined to sit alongside Phil Kaufman's Road Mangler Deluxe as a piquant tell-all loaded with early seventies rock lore. Kaufman, who produced a recording for Charles Manson, amongst other things, was the roadie who backed his old hearse into the California morgue, stole the body of Gram Parsons, took it up to Joshua Tree and burned it.


15 July 2009

PHYLLOXERA COPS: RIPPING UP RULEBOOK?

THE HENSCHKE FAMILY'S HILL OF GRACE VINEYARD; A PRIME EXAMPLE OF THE HISTORIC VINES AUSTRALIA WILL LOSE WHEN PHYLLOXERA COMES TO SOUTH AUSTRALIA - CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO VISIT PHOTOGRAPHER MILTON WORDLEY'S WEBSITE

Bug Boards Buggered In Clear Language Stakes
Conspiracy Or Confederacy Of Dunces?

by PHILIP WHITE

In May, I wrote the following story in The Independent Weekly:

As you enter the national Wine Centre from the Botanic Gardens, you’ll find signs on its big automatic glass doors saying “Be careful when entering building”.

This must be a warning about the sniffing machine inside. I pushed the cabernet button, and out squirted a stink that brought bad coffee and woodsap to mind. To counteract this, our National Wine Centre seems now to be staffed largely by shiny bright young Indians, all chatting crisply to each other by walkie-talkie. Shut your eyes, and you can be on a sort of sub-continental space shuttle.

I’d been invited to address the Wine Press Club about the 2009 vintage.

But first up was Stephen Strachan, Chief Executive of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia. To paraphrase him, perhaps too crudely, Strachan suggested that in spite of the heatwave, the crop of 2009 was about the same size as 2008, meaning there’s still the little matter of Australia needing to cut its vineyard by twenty per cent.

Stuart McNab, Executive General Manager, Viticulture and Grape Resources, Fosters, was next. He spoke about the quality being better than many thought it would be, about Victoria’s smoke taint being nowhere near as bad as many claimed, and agreed about the tonnages, suggesting there was still the little matter of Australia needing to cut its vineyard by, well, about twenty per cent.

I agreed about the quantity and the quality, and the smoke and the heat, but said there was already a foolproof plan in place which would inevitably reduce Australia’s vineyard by at least twenty per cent. This, I explained, was the nasty little matter of the Vine Industry Nursery Assocation, the body representing the nurseries who propagate and sell vines, secretly lobbying to pull most of the sharp teeth out of the anti-phylloxera regulations so that vine material can be shipped around Australia without heat treatment. Heat treatment involves sanitising baby vines with hot water to kill phylloxera. There’s a three per cent loss incurred in this procedure, which the nurserymen would prefer to avoid.

The big grape buyers, like Fosters, Pernod-Ricard-Jacob’s Creek-Orlando, Constellation, Australian Vintage (formerly known as McGuigan) and Yellowtail, all exert huge pressure on nurseries and vignerons to grow new varieties to supply a thirsty but bored market with new flavours, which means new varieties. Relaxing the anti-phylloxera laws would facilitate much faster access to these new varieties.

There’s also the little matter of the enormous profits the vine nurserymen stand to make when phylloxera spreads, as they would then be mobbed with orders for vines grafted to phylloxera-resistant rootstock to replace the vineyards killed by the relentless phylloxera.

Wayne Farqhuar, vice chairman and member of the management committee of the Vine Industry Nursery Association, recently revealed his concerns that this relaxation of the laws would lead to the spread of phylloxera. Farquhar is a Barossa nurseryman AND an owner of an old vineyard. Old vineyards, the sorts of ancient treasures that South Australia has many of, and the rest of the world bugger all, are what makes South Australian wines special. This is what he wrote to an elite group of key players and viticulturers on May 8th:

“I would like to comment on the abysmal draft protocols put forward by Vine Industry Nursery Association as listed in the document attached (Protocols movement of vine material Phylloxera Exclusion Zone to Phylloxera Exclusion Zone). These protocols make no sense as the nurseries are required to do no treatments at all, and will completely undermine the current border security which will surely lead to Phylloxera continuing to spread throughout Australia and ultimately undermine the only marketable thing Australia has going for it that is OLD VINES.”

PRICELESS OLD VINEYARDS OF PRE-PHYLLOXERA CLONES, LIKE GREENOCK CREEK'S WORLD-FAMOUS ROENNFELDT ROAD, ABOVE, WILL BE THE FIRST TO GO WHEN PHYLLOXER CROSSES THE BORDER - photo: LEO DAVIS

On May 26th, Paul Wright, Chairman of the Vine Industry Nursery Association, advised Farquhar that he was fired, for “bringing the association into disrepute and damaging its ability to carry out its objectives”.

Prue Henschke, an ardent anti-phylloxera campaigner, told me that “when it becomes possible to move vines, from one jurisdiction to another, in the hope that the supplying nursery has kept within the law, we are at great risk of spreading this deadly pest. The whole process must be improved, and speeded up, but the regulations need also to be tighter, and there is no single existing body which can be relied upon to facilitate these seemingly contradictory changes.”

Dudley Brown, chairman of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine And Tourism Association put it more succinctly.

“It’s one thing to make a faster car”, he said. “But it’ll need better brakes.”

As I left the National Wine Centre, and its happy background chatter of Bollywood English on the walkie-talkies, I encountered more signs on the inside of those big glass doors. Yep, same message: “Be careful when entering building”. So I stepped out into that beautiful garden, very, very carefully.

In response to this publication, Paul Wright, Chairman of the Vine Industry Nursery Association wrote a letter to Daily Wine News, which was published there on 16th June 2009:

“The Vine Industry Nursery Association is an invited participant to the National Vine Health Steering Committee, an advisory body to the Federal Government on biosecurity matters. The National Phylloxera Management Protocol has been developed by National Vine Health Steering Committee to prevent the spread of phylloxera. The National Vine Health Steering Committee recognises that with the growth in viticulture-based industries across Australia there comes an increased risk of phylloxera infestation through the movement of grapevines and grapevine material or associated contaminated items. The national protocol will raise awareness of the risks and provide those in the industry with consistent guidelines for their risk prevention or management.

“Companies with interstate connections will welcome the national protocol and an end to ‘border confusion’.

“The national protocol does not replace existing State Government legislation and it is important that the relevant detail of legislative and regulatory requirement are obtained from the department of Agriculture or Primary Industries in each state, or the Phylloxera and Grape Industry Board of South Australia.

“The Technical Reference Group of the National Vine Health Steering Committee has reviewed the national protocols and has suggested some draft amendments. As part of their industry consultative process, some draft amendments relevant to vine nurseries were passed to the Vine Industry Nursery Association representative for comment by Vine Industry Nursery Association members. Issues were raised by Vine Industry Nursery Association members. On 20 May 2009 the Vine Industry Nursery Association representative reported back to the National Vine Health Steering Committee that Vine Industry Nursery Association could not endorse the draft amendments and that they should be returned to the Technical Reference Group for further review.

“Recently there has been published some editorial in e-news media, presenting this matter in an entirely different and incorrect way. The wine journalist, Philip White of Independent Weekly, was apparently misinformed. The resultant article was sensationalist, inaccurate and damaging to genuine debate on biosecurity. It is disappointing that this journalist did not verify the accuracy of what he published.

“Vine Industry Nursery Association is a responsible member of the viticulture community. Vine Industry Nursery Association would never propose a change to the phylloxera protocols that could increase the risk of a phylloxera incursion into non-infected regions.

“For further information about Vine Industry Nursery Association or phylloxera protocols, contact Paul Wright on plwright@vinewright.com.au .”

To determine the accuracy of my story, I had gone straight to the top, to Alan Nankivell, the Chief Executive Officer of the Phylloxera And Grape Industry Board Of South Australia. I asked him to supply me copies of the existing protocols and the draft of the proposed new ones. On Wednesday 13th May he responded thus:

Dear Mr White,

The current endorsed National Phylloxera Management Protocols are located at http://www.gwrdc.com.au/rtopics.asp?ID=25

Unfortunately I have no authority to release the draft protocols to you, as I am not a member of the National Vine Health Steering Committee and the National Vine Health Steering Committee are yet to discuss them.

Yours faithfully,

Alan Nankivell

Mr. Nankivell had sent me this e-mail on 13th May at 6:28PM. But at 4:54PM on the same afternoon, he’d sent the very draft protocols I’d requested to a list of concerned winemakers in McLaren Vale, who had been alerted to the proposed changes by Drew and Rae Noon. In an attached letter, Mr. Nankivell wrote the following response to these people:

Thank you for your correspondence expressing concerns about the Draft changes to the National Phylloxera Management Protocols.

As I understand it, the National Vine Health Steering Committee was requested by Vine Industry Nursery Association at its meeting held on 17th May 2007 to have the National Protocols revisited to consider the movement of material [from] Phylloxera Exclusion Zone [to] Phylloxera Exclusion Zone. According to the Vine Industry Nursery Association document circulated with the National Vine Health Steering Committee papers, dated the 2nd May 2007 “Re: Vine Industry Nursery Association Proposal to vary the movement of Vine Plant Material into NSW” where the issues for the Nursery industry were highlighted due to the changes in New South Wales’ Phylloxera Exclusion Zone status.

The National Vine Health Steering Committee requested that the National Phylloxera Technical Reference Group note the request by Vine Industry Nursery Association when it reviewed the National Protocols subsequent to the 17th May 2007 meeting. The draft protocol was put to the National Vine Health Steering Committee in November 2008 for consideration, however discussion was deferred at the request of the Vine Industry Nursery Association representative at that meeting so further discussion could take place within Vine Industry Nursery Association. It is my understanding that Vine Industry Nursery Association is seeking comment from its membership.

Discussion

When Mr Wright claimed that “Vine Industry Nursery Association is a responsible member of the viticulture community ... Vine Industry Nursery Association would never propose a change to the phylloxera protocols that could increase the risk of a phylloxera incursion into non-infected regions” he was ignoring the fact that his association had already had the New South Wales law changed, to permit transfer of vine plant material from one place to another without heat treatment. This writer has yet to discover one grapegrower or winemaker who was consulted about this new legislation.

When Mr. Farquhar blew the whistle, the Vine Industry Nursery Association was quietly working to have the same relaxation instituted to allow movement of grapevine planting material from New South Wales and Victoria into South Australia without hot water treatment. Victoria is the home of most of Australia’s Phylloxera. As I have made clear, the draft was already written.

When Mr. Wright said “Companies with interstate connections will welcome the national protocol and an end to ‘border confusion’,” he was, of course quite right, and this isn’t completely to do with the transport of cuttings and rootlings. By dramatically reducing the paperwork, the new regulations could also mean that Fosters, for example, could now more easily bring must and juice directly from, say, the Yarra Valley, which has phylloxera infected zones, to its gigantic Bilyara refinery at Nuriootpa in the Barossa for winemaking, eventually saving untold millions of dollars. Great Western; Karadoc: enormous savings could be made by closing these wineries and trucking must and juice to the Barossa.

Richard Hamilton, a senior employee of Fosters, where he answers to Stuart McNab, is chairman of the National Phylloxera Technical Reference Group. He is also chairman of the Phylloxera And Grape Industry Board of South Australia. So this Fosters man, to whom Mr. Nankivell answers, reviewed the protocols as Chairman of the National Phylloxera Technical Reference Group, as required by the National Vine Health Steering Committee in response to the Vine Industry Nursery Association’s request to have the protocols changed.

Weirdly, as chairman of the Phylloxera And Grape Industry Board of South Australia, Mr. Hamilton now says he wouldn’t admit green vine material into South Australia without hot water treatment, contradicting his own recommendation.

How could this be so? Could it be in page five of the new protocols, where it says “Movement of phylloxera risk vectors (also described as ‘hosts’ within government legislation) across state borders or between defined quarantine zones or phylloxera exclusion zones must comply with the relevant state legislation. State legislation is generally based on the National Protocol.” The italics are theirs!

Some of the fascinating legal possibilities inherent include the notion that they’re drafting regulations nationally, which due to the free trade laws between the states since federation, will eventually outweigh any South Australian legislation anyway. Fosters, for example, could easily be the first major complainant to have the state of South Australia comply to the national protocol in the name of free trade.

Thanks largely to the diligence of the Phylloxera And Grape Industry Board Of South Australia, this state remains Phylloxera-free.

Associate Professor Peter Dry, University of Adelaide, is a member of the board of Phylloxera And Grape Industry Board Of South Australia and is a member of the National Phylloxera Technical Reference Group which endorsed the proposed Vine Industry Nursery Association protocols. He is consultant to several vineyard development and management companies, and associate editor of the Winetitles’ Australian And New Zealand Wine Industry Journal, publisher of the Daily Wine News. His son Nick works at the Yalumba grapevine nursery with Robin Nettlebeck.

Sandy Hathaway, secretary of the National Phylloxera Technical Reference Group, also works for the Phylloxera And Grape Industry Board of South Australia and assisted the Vine Industry Nursery Association draft the proposed protocols.

Robin Nettelbeck is deputy Chairman of the Phylloxera And Grape Industry Board Of South Australia and runs the largest grapevine nursery in Australia for Yalumba.

Bruce Baker is government Manager of Plant Health Compliance and Surveillance at Primary Industry And Resources South Australia. He supported the proposed protocols at the National Vine Health Steering Committee. David Cartwright, Chief Inspector of Plant Standards at Primary Industry And Resources South Australia is on the board of the Phylloxera And grape Industry Board Of South Australia.

So contrary to Mr. Wright’s claim that I am “misinformed, sensationalist, inaccurate, damaging and disappointing” I suggest that I’ve done a lot of diligent investigation of this story, and that if I am in any way misled, this is solely due to the arcane and impenetrable wall of confounding acronyms and duplicatory/conflicting bodies, boards and committees which seem incapable of supplying information of any clarity, and instead rely on impenetrable acronyms, obfuscation and pettifoggery to conceal their ambitions.

This is an unfolding story. But put most simply, it seems members of the Phylloxera And Grape Industry Board Of South Australia are involved in committees that are suggesting changes to the protocols which relax the current requirements, and make green vine material movements, and the shipping of must and juice much easier. I would be very happy if this theory was wrong, and would welcome documentary evidence to prove this. But I’d like to know what due diligence has been undertaken by committee members who have been entrusted with the approval of these changes.

Have the objectives of the Phylloxera And Grape Industry Board Of South Australia changed without any levy payer knowing? Where’s the consultation?

Remember Prue Henschke’s comment in my original article?

“When it becomes possible to move vines, from one jurisdiction to another, in the hope that the supplying nursery has kept within the law, we are at great risk of spreading this deadly pest. The whole process must be improved, and speeded up, but the regulations need also to be tighter, and there is no single existing body which can be relied upon to facilitate these seemingly contradictory changes.”

And the riposte of Dudley Brown, chairman of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine And Tourism Association?

“It’s one thing to make a faster car”, he said. “But it’ll need better brakes.”

Leon Bignell, the vigilant Member for Mawson, which includes the Mclaren Vale wine region, is forming a small parliamentary committee which will meet later this week to attempt to unravel this confounding mess.

DRINKSTER eagerly anticipates the findings and recommendations of this committee.