One of the keynote speakers at the Plant Biosecurity Research Symposium was Ben Harris, Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) Regional Viticulture Manager, based at Wynns Coonawarra Estate.

Ben says biosecurity is critical to the sustainability of the Australian wine sector and to TWE. “We recognise that, as a large player, we have a responsibility to set the example,” he says.

TWE is one of the world’s largest wine companies with vineyards and winery operations in Australia, New Zealand, the US, France and Italy.

Key biosecurity threats for TWE are phylloxera, trunk diseases, grapevine viruses and exotic pests and diseases, including Xylella.

Ben says biosecurity is critical to guarantee grape supply, to enable effective supply chain functions and to protect heritage vines.

“Australia has some of the oldest and most resilient vines on own roots in the world, mainly due to the majority of Australia being phylloxera free,” he says.

“This is important because the genetics from these Australian heritage vineyards are what we call pre-clonal. And the majority of the global pre-clonal genetics have been lost due to old vineyards being replanted to commercial clones.”

Ben says these old vines are critical for Australia’s viticultural future and must be protected. “They still produce great fruit, and they are resilient – a lot of these vineyards are dry grown, are 100 plus years old, and have been able to survive and thrive,” he says.

“There is an opportunity to continue to use these pre-clonal genetics for breeding sustainability, climate mitigation and quality traits into our vines. High quality, resilient vineyards are required to future-proof our fruit supply and will play an important role in our ability to adapt to climate change.”

Examples of TWE Heritage Vineyards includePenfolds Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon, originally planted in 1880, and Kalimna 3C Shiraz, originally planted in 1948, which are the backbone of the Penfolds’ global brand story. Ben says this material is now planted extensively throughout Australia.

And the Wynns Johnson’s Vineyard, originally planted in 1954, is the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Coonawarra and is being used to propagate material for superior drought tolerance.

TWE is committed to biosecurity practices to ensure the sustainability of its entire supply chain. “The health of our vineyards is key in ensuring the full quality and performance potential is achieved,” Ben says.

“Biosecurity enables us to perform at our best – not just in relation to fruit and wine quality, but also financially. The cost of prevention is significantly less than the cost of containment. And many Australian wine businesses have multi regional business models where they source fruit across different regions, and they need to be able to efficiently move fruit between regions for processing. Biosecurity enables this.

“The health and performance of our vineyards directly influences the Australian wine community and the local communities in which we live and work.”

Biosecurity focus areas at TWE include:

  • Education and awareness
  • People and equipment movements
  • Best practice standards
  • Industry collaboration

Biosecurity projects at TWE include:

  • Phylloxera incursion simulation with Vinehealth Australia
  • Electronic sign-in (at all Australian and New Zealand vineyard and winery sites)
  • Coonawarra Rootstock Trial (joint project with Vinehealth Australia and Coonawarra Vignerons)
  • Best practice standards for grapevine virus management
  • Online biosecurity training for all TWE employees
Treasury Wine Estates Regional Viticulture Manager Ben Harris.