Science being discarded in the TKR/WA scrummage

Science talks

I’ve had a chat with a scientist this past week. They feel scientists are being left out of the scrummage between TKR and Wine Australia (WA) over the $5.3 million grant that WA has committed to researching shiraz terroir. They think the scientific point of view has not been represented.

As so often happens with TKR correspondence, the sender prefers to remain anonymous. I’m happy to go along with such requests, as I prefer to develop long-term relationships built on trust, rather than blow it all on one story. Here’s one statement out of the exchange that I think sums up the science argument:

“To me, the point of studying terroir is to better understand the biophysical attributes of vineyards and their impact on the sensory attributes of wines so that we can better, and with more certainty, produce the wines that we want to produce and which our customers want to buy.”   

I asked: Where does terroir come into play? What is your end game? To prove that this plot is good for growing this, that or the other variety? Why don’t you gather a few local winemakers together and ask? They will tell you. It doesn’t need millions of dollars spent on research to confirm what is known.

That isn’t the point – which is why I wanted to comment on your article. Suppose, for example (and I am being purely hypothetical here), that through this R+D project, we show that the level of zinc nutrition supplied to the vines impacts on the concentrations of desirable aromatics in the wine, then by managing zinc nutrition, we can control style (in this case with respect to the aromatics) through actions in the vineyard; i.e., we understand terroir (the effect of soil zinc status), the elements of it which are manageable (zinc fertiliser), and so enhance the chance that we produce what we want to produce rather than relying on accidents of fate – which is predominantly what happens at present.”

I understand the science viewpoint, and again say I’m not opposed to research. Though in this hypothetical case, would managing zinc nutrition not be buggering around with the terroir?

Again, I believe the claim by WA and its board that this research will lead to a price increase across all levels of Australian wine around the world is total and complete rubbish.

If deputy chair Brian Croser would like to step down from his pedestal and explain how managing zinc nutrition or any other aspect of shiraz terroir research will lift the price of Australian wine across the board globally TKR is happy to publish his words.

A comment from Adam Easterbrook:

“Surely more wine is sold in restaurants that don’t have sommeliers. Sommeliers are present in quite a small number of restaurants. Perhaps WA [Wine Australia] should be spending money educating wine buyers overseas if they wish to promote the sale of Australian wine.”

WA is keen on influencing what it terms “the influencers”, such as wine buyers, wine writers and sommeliers. To this end it spends a considerable amount of money bringing influencers from overseas to visit regions. It does the same for domestic-based retailers, wine writers and sommeliers. It is a gamble. Some will be worth the expense, others not.

A recent guest from Canada was Mr Kurtis Kolt. The link below is to an article he wrote that was forwarded to me by a well-known Australian wine writer, with the comment, “Australia pays to bring these people here?” I urge you to read the article first.

To me it’s an article that screams, “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME”. It’s poor journalism and doesn’t show the basic manners of appreciation for what WA did for Kolt. Many Australian wine writers, and some from overseas, commented on Kolt’s article but only three were willing to be quoted.

Ken Gargett: “We can’t get guarantees as to what they’ll write and we all know that it is not hard to find yourself on a trip and realise the stories you thought might flow just won’t work, but hard to believe he can’t find stuff here.”

Mike Bennie: “As a trained journalist I would have thought rigor to the task would have been implicit, rather than to be complained about. This is our task at hand, the learning and exploration of wine. I’m more concerned by the approach of a journalist to the opportunity than I am by the Wine Australia scheduling. Wine Australia are providing a coherent opportunity in a vast country, which should be applauded and not derided. We all enjoy free time for exploration, and best practice is to schedule time around itineraries to make the most of research, on one’s own terms, to fill in the blanks – this is better practice.”

Robert Joseph, in Kolt’s defence:

English is not his first language.

The words are really an accompaniment to his pics (he’s a professional photographer), which can be good – though not noticeably on this occasion.

He’s actually no worse than plenty of native speakers who can’t take a snap.

Of course I will say TKR is chocka with good articles in each section. But do make a point of going to the international section and reading the comparison of US and Australian exports.

Good karma.


1 thought on “Science being discarded in the TKR/WA scrummage”

  1. In the 70s in France I was shopping for wine in a supermarket. I came across bottles of red with stars embossed on the glass. On enquiring as to what these stars meant I was told that they indicated the wine was of a chemical composition rather than a grape from a region etc. Artificial wine. Surely that is taking science to the ultimate end in wine making and is completely unrelated to terroir. Of course adding zinc to alter the characteristics of the grape is buggerising about with the terroir.

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