by PHILIP WHITE
This last week, DRINKSTER's been up to its gullet trying to digest the terrible mess which industry and government have together made of South Australia's previously brilliant Phylloxera laws, and the Board which properly and successfully policed them for a century. It's now quite obvious that various vested interests are quietly softening the regulations to suit their desperate new parsimony. As Dudley Brown remarked on an earlier blog, it's as if the Phylloxera louse has hired its own lobbyist! But good sense must prevail here: we're not only gonna win this, but now we expect resignations.
Here's a transcription of a discussion which went to air on Adelaide's local ABC891 with announcer Ian Henschke, followed by some further explanations and disgust. It's real long, but it has to be. Chew it up, and get ready to storm the ramparts if they don't reverse the decision. We can win this. Sharpen up the axes.
IAN HENSCHKE: One of the things you wouldn’t want to discover in South Australia is Phylloxera, because it hasn’t been here. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a disease of grape vines, and er well, it could cause hundreds of millions of dollars of damage according to Philip White the wine writer. Philip White, why are we worried about it now, seeing that we’ve been free of it for the best part of a century or more?
HENSCHKE: Well Louisa Rose on behalf of the South Australian Wine Industry Council, you’d represent quite a lot of growers, and a large section of the industry. Do you think then that we should be as strict as ever on this particular, well, creature, this this microbe that could effectively give the State a massive walloping economically?
It was recognized very early, very early in South Australia history that we didn’t have Phylloxera while it while it had come into other states, such as Victoria and New South Wales, so, for over a hundred years, you know, as the industry, and with a lot of government support we’ve been absolutely fighting this, this little aphid, and it is, it’s an aphid as Matt said, so, so you know to keep it out of the of the state.
Current members of the Phylloxera and Grape Industry Board of South Australia:
Robin Nettelbeck, Chairman
(1) “Around Australia phylloxera is clearly being mobilised. Previously confined to North Eastern Victoria Phylloxera is on the march ... Phylloxera was first detected in Australia in 1877, in Geelong, and was responsible for the near destruction of the Victorian wine industry in the 1880s. Until fairly recently it was confined to small areas in central Victoria (Nagambie, Upton, Mooroopna) and northeast Victoria (Rutherglen, King Valley), in southeast New South Wales (Corowa) and in Camden and Cumberland near Sydney. However, there have been several detections in central Victoria in the past 10 years (Buckland Valley 2003, Ovens Valley 2003, Murchison 2006, Yarra Valley 2006, Mansfield 2010).” James Hook
“We applaud Victoria’s efforts to survey its wine regions for phylloxera but we cannot accept the claims that these new interstate areas are phylloxera free ... As noted Phylloxera is a tricky problem that can take several years to be detected ... The surveys provide a guide only and are not a guarantee. Opening our border to free trade with these regions is not worth the risk with South Australia’s old vines.” Glen Harminson, Angaston Vineyards
(5) The Phylloxera Board is required to have Regional Committees (Phylloxera Act Section 15.1), but they have shut these down. DRINKSTER cannot understand how how they managed this. If these committees still existed, growers wouldn’t have to be learning about threats to their livelihood on this blog, which is still the only journal in the country to be running this treacherous story. This battle will be won only when healthy communication via regional committees is re-established, and the South Australian regulations dependably and fiercely protect this state from imported grapes, machinery and other phylloxera risk vectors. (Remember 2009 when it all got swept under the carpet).
(6) While the precision of aerial surveillance is admirable, it obviously cannot detect Phylloxera in vineyards grafted to Phylloxera-resistant rootstock – vineyards of the type developed on a vast scale by the big wineries who can afford such luxury and compromised flavour, and whom are the most likely to be shipping whole fruit and plant material across borders. Vineyards in very good country adjacent to places where Phylloxera is extant are obvious choices for rootstock viticulture. Aerial surveillance can only detect Phylloxera once it has infected vineyards on their own roots. Once that’s happened, the grower has no choice but to uproot the vineyard and replant it with grafted rootstocks which must be bought from a big nursery. The Phylloxera never goes away.
Kym Ludvigsen, right, picks up his Distinguished Services Award from Wines of Victoria ... his 2010 piece below, published in the Australian and New Zealand Grapegrower and Winemaker may be a clue to why they admire him!