Vinehealth Australia Director Alex Sas is a well-known and respected viticulturist, with more than 25 years’ experience in the Australian and New Zealand wine sectors.
Currently Senior R&D Program Manager for Wine Australia, Alex also oversees management of a vineyard in McLaren Vale. His previous experience includes Chief Viticulturist at Constellation/Accolade Wines, and Viticulturist with BRL Hardy and The Australian Wine Research Institute/CSIRO.
Alex also brings considerable biosecurity experience to the Vinehealth Australia Board table, having coordinated a large wine company’s response to the Yarra Valley phylloxera outbreak in 2006.
“When phylloxera was discovered in the Yarra Valley, I worked for a winery which contracted grapes from about 30 growers in the region. We also owned three vineyards across the region,” Alex said.
“I was responsible for coordinating our response to the outbreak. The discovery of phylloxera in the region totally disrupted our operations and daily dealings with our growers but acted as a wakeup call to the business regarding the adoption of best practice risk management.
“I’m very aware of the pain that the establishment of a quarantine zone can cause within a community.”
Prior to this, in 2001 Alex was part of a wine industry taskforce that assessed the threat of the discovery of grapevine leaf rust in the Northern Territory.
In his role with Vinehealth Australia, Alex wants to see an improvement in the adoption of best practice biosecurity management by all those involved in the wine industry.
“I have always believed that a strong biosecurity focus is critical to protecting Australia’s agricultural sector, probably heightened by my travel to countries which don’t enjoy Australia’s relatively pest-free status,” Alex said.
“I hope that I can use the network that I have developed over the past 25 years to improve the adoption of practices that reduce the threat to Australia’s wine industry.
“The biggest challenge we face is the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude that Australians are famous for. While most growers are aware of the potential threat to their livelihoods of a biosecurity outbreak, not enough are taking steps to minimise their risk.
“The resources and tool kits available through Vinehealth are world-class. We just need to get more growers and contractors using them.”
Alex is excited by new technologies to detect pests and diseases in real time. “These technologies are on our doorstep and should allow more thorough monitoring for biosecurity threats, which is great news for vineyard owners,” he said.
Alex is an experienced Director having served on the Board of the Willunga Basin Water Company Pty Ltd and, until recently, was a member of the Executive Committee of the South Australian Wine Industry Association.