Vinehealth Australia is pleased to announce the appointment of viticulturist Warren Birchmore as its new Technical Assistant.

Previously Technical Viticulturist and Systems Manager at Accolade Wines in McLaren Vale, Warren grew up in Langhorne Creek and has a Bachelor of Science (Analytical Atmospheric Chemistry) from Flinders University and a Viticulture degree from Charles Sturt.

“My family was a lucerne hay, cereal hay, and fat lamb producer, so really nothing to do with vineyards,” Warren said.

“But when we moved from Langhorne Creek down to The Gap, which is about halfway between Naracoorte, Bordertown, Frances and Padthaway, on my first night down there, there was a knock on the door from the vineyard supervisor at BRL Hardy, and he asked me to come out and do some vintage work. I stayed with the company, which eventually became Accolade Wines, for 28 years, until July this year.”

In that first job, Warren was doing a bit of everything from pruning to vineyard operations. He was eventually promoted to Viticultural Technical Officer at Leasingham Wines in Clare, managing 65 growers and 6,500 tonnes of grapes.

This led to a Viticultural Projects Officer role based in BRL Hardy head office at Reynella. “My managers were Alex Sas and Brenton Baker and both Alex and Brenton played a pivotal role in guiding and honing my viticultural skills, and knowledge in systems support for the team and technical expertise.”

Warren was appointed Technical Viticulturist and Systems Manager in 2020, which covered a broad variety of technical and systems responsibilities, including internal and external trials, maintaining the spray policy, and managing the food safety program.

Following a restructure of Accolade Wines in July 2023, Warren was drawn to the position of Technical Assistant at Vinehealth Australia due to his strong interest in systems, policies, research and technology.

“In a former role at Accolade, I was involved as a certification controller for importing grapes from an interstate Phylloxera Exclusion Zone into South Australia, so that gave me a taste of managing biosecurity systems,” Warren said.

“I was involved with fruit inspection, policies, checklists, procedures, and trying to simplify some of these quite complex procedures into flowcharts to make it easier for the workers who had to follow the systems – and might be doing this at 3 o’clock in the morning.

“I think I can apply those skills to Vinehealth Australia. There are some very complex documents, procedures and practices relating to biosecurity. Working on how can we simplify these into easier steps for people to implement on the ground is a challenge I’m looking forward to.

“Often, bite-size tools, tips and techniques are best for everyday people. In most cases, growers don’t need or want a 20-page document that’s written in technical language and takes three hours to read. They need something that’s easier to understand, with key information. Hopefully my experience at Accolade will assist in this area.”

One of Warren’s first jobs at Vinehealth is finalising the new South Australian Phylloxera Outbreak Plan and thereafter working with government and industry to test it. In addition, Warren is getting up to speed with Vinehealth’s involvement in the areas of fruit fly, virus and phylloxera.

“My role will encompass all the key pests and diseases that we need to manage or keep out of vineyards. There’s quite a variety, and things change quickly, which will keep me on my toes” Warren said.

“I want to help to ensure vineyards in South Australia are healthy and productive, and that growers feel empowered to take steps to protect their vines from pest and disease threats.”

Vinehealth Australia Technical Assistant Warren Birchmore.