With roots tracing back to 1942, the South Australia Vine Improvement Association (SAVIA) has been quietly managing a fundamental industry resource for around 80 years.

SAVIA Executive Officer Chris Bennett provided an update on SAVIA history and progress at the Vinehealth Australia Board meeting in June, held in the Barossa.

Formal interest in vine improvement began in 1942 with grapevine plantings at Nuriootpa, but it was through the 1960s and 1970s that the establishment of source blocks and the selection of clones gathered pace. This vine improvement activity was driven by passionate industry representatives including Max Loder, Harry Tulloch, Richard Cirami, Tony Chapman and Richard Hamilton who with others, helped to establish six regional vine improvement groups in the Riverland, Barossa, Adelaide Hills, Clare Valley, Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale.

“And we’re now part of a national network of vine improvement associations, societies and groups, along with nurseries, all working to supply and manage grapevine material for the Australian wine industry,” Chris said.

“Our key aim is to ensure that the propagation material – the material that goes into the vineyards – is the highest quality possible.”

SAVIA’s role is ownership and management of South Australia’s germplasm collection, as wellproviding sector leadership and advocacy in the vine improvement space.

“We also negotiate and manage importation and access to new cultivars for ourselves and clients, and we’re very active in the drive for development and implementation of industry propagation standards,” Chris said.

Chris said major risks and key management challenges for the propagation industry included viruses and their vectors, trunk diseases, source block age and management of source blocks.

“Wine Australia has recently recognised the fundamental importance of high health planting material and has commissioned Nick Dry to coordinate the development of formal Standards for the pre-propagation stages and head up the coordination of Australia’s grapevine collection. This is a huge project and great news for the industry,” Chris said.

“This will ultimately lead to higher quality material being supplied, and more reliably.”

SAVIA supplies both scion varieties and rootstocks to industry and is a key custodian and supplier of:

  • 143 vinifera cultivars and clones
  • 22 rootstocks, through the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee

In 2021, SAVIA and its regional members supplied the grape and wine industry with:

  • 1,295,448 vinifera cuttings
  • 1,826,000 rootstocks

Read more about SAVIA here.

Chris Bennett from SAVIA.