Symposium unites Margaret River and Coonawarra in cabernet development

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Research scientist Richard Fennessy alongside Wines of WA chief executive Larry Jorgensen at the Margaret River Heart.
Camera IconResearch scientist Richard Fennessy alongside Wines of WA chief executive Larry Jorgensen at the Margaret River Heart. Credit: Shots by Ovis

Margaret River vignerons have celebrated a collaboration with South Australia’s Coonawarra region focused on growing the country’s prized cabernet sauvignon.

It was the first time Margaret River producers teamed with their South Australian counterparts in a symposium co-organised by Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development wine research scientist Richard Fennessy.

Mr Fennessy said the Margaret River forum, held at the Heart, boasted a good turnout despite many winemakers’ involvement in this year’s early vintage.

“Attendees were presented with firsthand insights into how other global renowned regions are adapting to climate change and what techniques and technologies can aid in addressing some of these challenges,” he said.

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“It shows that Margaret River cabernet producers are eager to develop and enhance the quality of this important variety, especially in the context of a changing climate and the evolution of consumer preferences.”

The symposium also heard from Bordeaux-based consultant Rodrigo Laytte who was in town to share his insights on his work in regions including the Napa Valley, Chile as well as Bordeaux.

And celebrated Cullen Wines matriarch Vanya Cullen told her family’s story with incorporating organic and biodynamic farming principles into their vineyard as well as the journey towards achieving carbon-neutral status.

“I was also able to share my research on the performance of cabernet clones at a Margaret River trial site with local producers and those attending in Coonawarra with a unique simulcast wine tasting between the two audiences,” Mr Fennessy said.

“Overall this event aimed to strengthen the quality and reputation of Australian cabernet at a regional and national level.”

Wine of WA chief executive Larry Jorgensen and drinks writer and author Katie Spain oversaw proceedings held in concert with attendees in Coonawarra, which included a cross-border Q&A session after the presentations from experts.

Mr Jorgensen told the Times more than 150 cabernet experts attended the symposium which offered the theme “Supporting Cabernet Sauvignon into the Future”.

“Topics discussed traversed the value chain from growing to selling with presentations from cutting-edge researchers and top producers from around the world including WA,” he said.

“The symposium confirmed that WA competes with the best cabernet regions in the world, but also that we must continuously improve every aspect of production and marketing to remain with this group.”

Symposium committee chair Dr Catherine Kidman said the event exceeded expectations and had a great turnout of delegates.

“It was a fantastic sight to see the networking and collaboration of like-minded cabernet lovers in the room and across the two days of the symposium, not only from Coonawarra and Margaret River, but from the likes of McLaren Vale, Barossa, Adelaide Hills, Geelong and the Yarra Valley,” she said.

“We were particularly impressed with the calibre of presentations that ranged from ground-breaking research and innovative winery processes to reflections on how best to grow and make cabernet.”

Dr Kidman thanked speakers for their time and expertise, which she called “a real honour”.

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