“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)





20 January 2009



London's Decanter First Journal To Report Ocker Vine Pox
Still Nothing In South Australian Press


For a moment there, DRINKSTER thought it was the only journal in the world to report the phylloxera scandal in Victoria's Yarra Valley.

But yesterday, 19th January, Guy Seddon got a bit out from beneath the fusty old skirts of the London tome, Decanter. (Whatever happened to good old days of the Dekka? – see THUS SPRACH THE LORD)

Seddon quoted Victoria's Department of Primary Industries thus: “... a detection of the grapevine pest phylloxera has been made in an existing control area in the Yarra Valley, north east of Melbourne ...

“The Phylloxera and Grape Industry Board of South Australia is the only body of its type in the world established specifically to deal with phylloxera. It publishes information on recognising phylloxera and warns that detections tend to be made up to several years after the initial occurrence of the infestation.

“Grape growers in other regions, especially those who have had regular contact with the Yarra Valley or with high volumes of wine tourism, have been advised to be particularly vigilant in looking for signs of phylloxera.”

Thankyou, Mother London!

Then, a faithful DRANKSTER sent us a link to Decanter from December 11th, beneath the head “Phylloxera threatens 70% of Australia's Yarra Valley”.

This story placed the outbreak smack in the middle of a Foster's-owned 32ha vineyard in the Coldstream area.

“ ‘We've got a removal and destruction plan ready to go’, said Foster's spokesman Troy Hey. ‘It's just waiting on the Department of Primary Industries to go ahead’.”

Decanter said it would take several months to find out whether the pest has spread and vineyards within the control area will not be able to move plant material or machinery out of the area, and pointed out the district had already lost an estimated 40% of its grape production to severe October frosts.

“Michael Matthews, Chairman of the Victorian Wine Industry Association, said the Department of Primary Industry needs to do more to stop the phylloxera from spreading”, the story continued.

“There's a protocol where the DPI is supposed to go through all the wine regions and declare them free of phylloxera”, Matthews told Decanter. “Only half of this has been done”.

Then, another addicted DRANKSTER send us a copy of Jeni Port, in The Age, Melbourne, reporting “The insect was found last Friday and officially identified yesterday by officials from the Department of Primary Industry in a small section of eight-year-old merlot vines in the 32-hectare Beavis Vineyard, at Coldstream".

The vines had been suffering from poor vigour.

“The vineyard is owned by Australia's largest wine producer, Foster's, and is across the road from another Foster's-owned vineyard, St Hubert's. The good news for Foster's is that its quick detection may mean the aphid has not spread to further vineyards.

“Troy Hey, from Foster's, said Merlot grape varieties had been the worst affected and that the winery had been quarantined. Vines from the affected area would be destroyed, Mr Hey said. He also said that the find would not affect wine prices for at least the next two years.

“The bad news is that phylloxera can exist undetected underground for years before it strikes.

“Just how phylloxera arrived on the Valley's doorstep is unknown, although the likely culprit is well-known - man. The aphid moves from infected regions (Victoria has four) into new areas by hitching a ride in mud on car tyres, shoes, boots, and in harvesting and vineyard equipment. It can also move around on the roots of rootlings (baby vines), which was the alleged cause of the last recorded phylloxera outbreak at Whitlands in 1991.

By 1995, the entire King Valley was a phylloxera zone, joining long-time phylloxera areas such as Nagambie, Mooroopna and the North-East.

“The Department of Primary Industry has quarantined Beavis Vineyard and will test neighbouring vineyards within a five-kilometre radius in the coming week. It stresses that phylloxera is not a public health issue although it is certainly a financial issue for wine producers.

Port quoted Guill de Pury, owner of the Yeringberg vineyard (est 1863), which has some of the Yarra’s oldest vines. His vineyard is not planted to the rootstock, making it potentially easy prey to the aphid.

“It's been a phylloxera-free area forever”, de Pury told her. “This comes as a bit of a shock.”

In conclusion, Michael Matthews, president of the Yarra Valley Wine Growers Association, told Port that he's remaining optimistic, but added that the phylloxera find is a wake-up call.

“There is a need to instil in everyone in the industry the need to protect themselves against this sort of outbreak”, he said.

“All good”, DRINKSTER told herself lovingly. “Pity no South Australian paper has had the balls to spread the warning, with all those tens of thousands of Victorians coming over here for the Adelaide bicycle races with Lance Armstrong and everything.”

But then we looked at the date.

That Jeni Port article was from December 6th, 2006.


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