Australia and especially the Barossa are home to many old vineyards planted on their own roots that originated from cuttings brought to Australia from ‘pre-Phylloxera’ Europe. These old vineyards carry genetic benefits of many generations of European selection, most of which were lost after the spread of Phylloxera through Europe in the latter half of the 19th century. To preserve this genetic resource in the Barossa, and to continually develop new clones, Barossa Vine Improvement has over many years been involved in making selections from these old vines – particularly for Shiraz and Riesling. These old-vine selections are often referred to as ‘Heritage’ clones.
Over many years, these old vineyards have been exposed to numerous influences of their surrounding environment, which can lead to subtle and varied expressional changes among individual vines. The selection process from pedigree old-vine vineyards begins with visual assessment of individual vines for leaf health, vine balance, trueness to type and bunch composition. Cuttings taken from these individual vines remain genetically identical to their origins, and carry unique genetic and expressional traits to new vineyards established from those cuttings.
To a large extent, heritage clonal selection is about taking these individual vines on a generational journey through to small trial plantings, assessing and comparing their performance along the way, and then deciding which ones are most worthy of continuing that journey to new vineyards. Apart from key selection criteria such as yield and wine quality, another important part of this journey is to ensure these individuals haven’t succumbed to disease such as viruses, which is ascertained through sensitive laboratory testing. Clonal selection is therefore a long term and ongoing process, but is a cornerstone to the wine industry’s future.
Heritage clones offer grape growers and winemakers high quality unique genetic material originating from old vines with known health and quality characteristics, which in turn offers greater diversity, sustainability and character to our future vineyards and wines.
In 2013, Barossa Vine Improvement made available eight unique heritage clones of Shiraz, known as the SARDI Heritage Shiraz clones collection. A dossier on these clones can be downloaded directly from this website, or can be obtained by contacting the office.
Barossa Vine Improvement is also developing some heritage Riesling clones derived from old-vine vineyards in the Barossa, however these won’t be commercially available for several years. A preliminary dossier on these clones is available from this website.
Barossa Vine Improvement is also looking to develop heritage clones of other varieties such as Grenache, Mataro and Cabernet Sauvignon as part of its long term strategy.