“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)





15 January 2009



Phylloxera Strikes Yarra Valley
Confusion About Its Extent

“Love It All” said the blithe letterhead. “Wine Yarra Valley”.

And then the killer line: “Phylloxera find in the Yarra Valley”.

Find? FIND? You'd think they're talking about a gold strike.

This is like saying "Ash Wednesday fire starts. But don't worry. We'll get it out by ourselves".

This undated press release oozed out of Victoria’s favourite vignoble before Christmas.

When a full national alert was immediately due, the release seemed to go widely unnoticed

This writer was not on the mailing list, neither did its writer supply a name.

The statement was issued to somebody by somebody in the Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association.

Its cool, unhassled air is phenomenal for its bland understatement.

The release reported a new outbreak of Phylloxera, “yet to be confirmed by the DPI”, with no explanation of who the DPI is.

“This outbreak is on the edge of the current PIZ” it said, “and will therefore require the PIZ to be extended.”

Maybe somebody at the DPI knows what a PIZ is.

Now it appears that the Yarra has a lot more of the dreaded vine-killing louse, and the silence is stifling.

Several new outbreaks, in other parts of the Valley, have since been added to the list, and the PIZ looks like getting a lot bigger.

The implications for South Australia and its irreplaceable stock of priceless ancient vineyards -- so far Phylloxera-free -- is terrifying, given the fact that thousands of Victorian cars will drive through the vineyard regions following Lance Armstrong and the Tour Down Under over the next week.

Whoever sanctioned the calm understatement of the initial release should be rewarded for their phenomenal cool. Or locked in the stocks in the main street of Tanunda, Clare, or Mclaren Vale until we discover precisely how bad this horror is, and how far it has really gone.

“The YVWGA said that it is possible that further Phylloxera may be found in other vineyards, however it is not expected to spread rapidly within an affected vineyard and the protocols, if practiced strictly, will minimise the chance of it spreading to other vineyards.”


“Affected vineyards can be replanted on Phylloxera-resistant rootstocks just as the entire wine grape growing industry in France, Italy, Spain, USA, South Africa, Argentina etc did after the outbreak of Phylloxera in their vineyards in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Affected vineyards will experience some financial disruption.”

No kidding.

The Australian wine industry is currently holding its breath waiting for all the cold hard facts from the Yarra.

The implications are utterly horrifying.

Over the years, viable Phylloxera has been found in the sumps of Melbourne car wash kiosks. Viable Phylloxera has been captured in wind socks towed by high-altitude aircraft over Europe.

The drought apart, South Australia just prays that at least until the bicycle races are over, and tighter quarantine regulations can be imposed, there won’t be a drop of rain.

Victorian cars with muddy bottoms are not what this state needs just now.

Nor tourists from the Yarra with dirty shoes.

Neither is any vehicle from Fosters, whose vineyards seem to be the main culprits.

Fosters continually moves agricultural vehicles from one vineyard to another, and from one region to the next.

And they’re not alone.

The protocols, it seems, have not been practiced too strictly.

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