Sparkling innovation in the vineyards
05 May 2021
With over 200 years of viticulture and winemaking, Australia’s winemaking community is open to ideas old and new, perfecting traditional techniques and inventing their own ways of doing things.
Australia is recognised as a world leader in many aspects of grape growing and winemaking research and technology. Its innovations haven’t just benefitted Australian wine but the world of wine as a whole.
Free trade agreements create stronger economic, business and people-to-people relationships. Closer international collaboration, including in innovation, research and development, is important for the wine industry in both the UK and Australia.
Australian wine practices at work in the UK
Ben Kantsler is Viticulturist at Nyetimber in the south of England, with 11 vineyards stretching from Canterbury to Winchester.
Originally from Western Australia, Ben has nearly 20 years’ experience growing grapes in the northern and southern hemispheres, having managed vineyards in Australia, France and England.
‘In my field, we use precision viticulture targeting specific areas of the vines for continuous improvement,’ says Kantsler. ‘Australia was considered one of the early innovators of precision viticulture, which is now used worldwide including across Europe and in the UK. Australia continues to develop innovations in agricultural technology and equipment and these benefit growers in other markets like the UK.’
‘As an example, compared to the UK and France, Australia is short on water and has older, less nutrient-rich soils. This has driven Australian farmers to become ultra-efficient in getting the most from their land,’ adds Kantsler.
‘A classic example is the no-till approach to farming, which has been common across Australia, especially Western Australia, for over 20 years. No-till methods are now being used in the UK to help mitigate further soil erosion, as they also reduce inputs, improve soil structure and improve overall sustainability with respect to climate change.’
‘The UK wine industry is a very exciting place currently. Being relatively young when compared to other wine-growing countries, we can benefit greatly from more established wine nations such as Australia,’ says Kantsler.
‘We all strive for improvements in quality and efficiencies and international collaboration helps to speed this up. In our industry we only get one chance at growing grapes and making wine each year so collaborations with Australia allows us receive and provide ongoing feedback, taking advantage of growing seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres.’
Cutting-edge research into sparkling wine
In 2016, Nyetimber successfully partnered with the Australian Wine Research Institute, based in Adelaide, South Australia, on research into the role of specific yeasts in the production of sparkling wine.
‘Both of Nyetimber’s winemakers and myself studied at University of Adelaide, and it is great we can maintain these ties and assist in research projects.’
Tasmania is arguably the leading sparkling wine region in Australia. The island produces pristine cool-climate fruit that goes into first-class sparkling wine which is enjoyed across the globe.
With the growth of sparkling wine sales forecast to continue, the University of Tasmania is investigating novel technologies to hasten the autolysis of yeast and produce higher-quality sparkling wines in a shorter amount of time.
‘While Nyetimber is not involved in this project directly, we are keeping a close eye on this as it has great potential for our business and an example of cutting-edge research that has the potential to really shake up the sparkling wine world,’ says Kantsler.
FTA to support wine trade and collaboration
The UK loves wine and Australian wine in particular: 1 in 5 bottles of wine consumed or sold in the UK is from Australia.
Australian wine exports to the UK will continue with simplified trading arrangements under a bilateral Wine Agreement, which has been rolled over from the EU-Australia agreement.
This agreement supports Australia’s $409 million (2019–20) wine export market. Australia is also pursuing a pathway to zero tariff, zero quota access for goods into the UK, including for wine trade, as part of the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement.
‘Australia and the UK are natural partners in research and innovation on viticulture and sparkling wine making,’ says Kantsler. ‘As nations, Aussies and Brits are innovative and curious – plus we both love a bit of competition and share a goal to be world leading when it comes to our sparkling wines!’.
 Wine Australia (2019) Will sparkling wine’s bubble continue to rise?, accessed 3 May 2021
 University of Tasmania, Better sparkling wine faster, accessed 3 May 2021