Margaret River Wine Producers Unite for Best Results | Mandurah Courier

After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, border closures, labor shortages, export and production impacts, and annual climate change challenges, the wine industry in Margaret River is stronger than ever.

Success, according to local experts, comes down to a collaborative approach from all corners of the industry.

We had our work cut out for us seeking new export markets and overcoming border restrictions to keep our winery running smoothly.

Jeff Burch, Howard Park Wines

“The past 12 months have been eventful for our industry as a whole,” said Jeff Burch, owner and winemaker of Howard Park Wines.

Wine exports are down with the $1 billion drop in Chinese tariffs imposed at the start of 2020, and the industry is experiencing stock-outs after a smaller-than-average vintage in 2021 – all amid of a global pandemic.

“We’ve had our work cut out to seek out new export markets and circumvent border restrictions to ensure our winery runs smoothly.”

Clairault Streicker Company winemaker Chris Gillmore acknowledged that it has been a difficult time for the entire region.

“With COVID-19 cases weighing on the state and fierce competition for personnel and resources, collaboration across all aspects of the industry has been a key savior in difficult times,” Mr. Gillmore at Mail.

“Communication, teamwork and well-laid plans between the vineyard, winery and suppliers helped to raise the bar and tighten the relationship to get the job done.”

Despite these challenges, wineries have made steady progress with the 2022 vintage, with white grapes being harvested and a short pause expected before the reds are ready.

“From what we can tell, it’s going to be a great vintage,” Burch said. “The consensus so far is that although the yield has been below average, the quality of the fruit we are seeing gives us great hope that this vintage will result in exceptional wines from the Margaret River and Deep South regions. .

“The weather has been very good for us with lots of sunshine. The team worked hard to maintain the canopies to protect the fruit from sunburn.

“We had an abundance of blooms which thankfully prevented birds from damaging the precious fruit. So far the fruit is clean, ripe and retaining its crisp acidity. Yields are below average due to the cold weather. in October at the time of flowering, but that’s life in the winery!”

Chris Gilmore, Vineyard Manager of Domaine Clairault-Streicker. Photo: Taelor Pelusey

Mr Gillmore, who last year received the Margaret River Wine Association’s Excellence in Wine Award, said this year’s reds showed great promise.

“With sustained and steady berry metabolism, the upcoming red varieties will hopefully result in great seed maturity, full-spectrum varietal flavor at lower balms, and good acid retention. The red grape varieties look very promising.

Jen Burrows, Commercial Director of South West Labor Solutions, is on the front lines of the region’s continuing labor shortages. She has seen firsthand the effects of border restrictions and the shutdown of the local tourist industry, leading to a sharp drop in backpacker numbers, traditionally used to bolster staffing demands in the regions.

‘We have had a large group of foreign workers again this year where backpacker work has dropped off,’ Ms Burrows said this week.

“We eventually brought almost 140 seasonal workers to the area, and of course that included their two weeks of quarantine.”

Amanda Whiteland, Managing Director of the Margaret River Wine Association. Photo: Nicky Lefebvre

“We’ve had great support from our clients who have had to adjust to these extra layers of paperwork – they know that without these people this job simply wouldn’t have gotten done.”

Ms Burrows said the seasonal worker scheme had provided teams – including the now familiar Tongan and East Timorese workers – in the areas for many years.

“You can’t buy the productivity that these people provide, and then there’s the amount of money generated within the communities in which they live and work,” she said.

“Yes, they send their earnings home, but they also eat and shop, see dentists and doctors, and use local services while there.”

With WA’s border closures limiting the backpacker population to most Australian travellers, Ms Burrows said there was more need to hold back foreign workers while they waited for the fruit to ripen.

During picking breaks in the Margaret River wine region, workers have moved to Pemberton and surrounding areas where they can continue their employment among the avocado and apple trees.

The local <a class=wine industry is supported by a large number of foreign workers from countries such as Tonga and Timor Leste. Picture. SW working solutions.” title=”The local wine industry is supported by a large number of foreign workers from countries such as Tonga and Timor Leste. Picture. SW working solutions.” width=”1944″ height=”1296″ itemprop=”image”/>

The local wine industry is supported by a large number of foreign workers from countries such as Tonga and Timor Leste. Picture. SW working solutions.

While working in the country towns of Western Australia, international guests often find a way to integrate into local life.

“It’s tough, this job,” Ms Burrows explained.

“These people are leaving their families and traveling here to work extremely hard, and if we hadn’t had them here, I don’t know where we would have gone as an industry.

“We don’t expect to see that return to the overseas backpacker population for a few years, so our seasonal worker program is so important.

“Teams get a lot of support from locals who welcome them into their communities. They have joined sports teams, volunteer where they can and participate in events.

“We had a team in Augusta that just moved to Pemberton, and from all reports the church congregation will miss singing in church every Sunday.”

Amanda Whiteland, chief executive of the Margaret River Wine Association, said for many wineries the biggest concern is the unknown, with critical months ahead as COVID-19 circulates through the community.

“With the Western Australia border kept closed for more than a month longer than expected, this meant that some wine merchants and cellar workers who planned to work the 2022 Margaret River vintage were unable to enter the State. on time,” Ms Whiteland said.

“There are also labor shortages in the vineyards, but the industry is resilient and finding ways to manage and many employees from other departments, friends and family are helping with the hand picking across the region. .”

This Collaboration story, key to success in turbulent times for WA wine, first appeared on Augusta-Margaret River Mail.

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