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Foster's fights against phylloxera outbreak

Published:  23 July, 2008

By Max Allen

Following the discovery of phylloxera in a Fosters-owned vineyard in the middle of Victoria's Yarra Valley in December, the state government's Department of Primary Industry (DPI) has extensively surveyed all vineyards within a 5km radius of the site and found no more signs of the vine aphid.

The vast majority - about 80 per cent - of vines in the Yarra Valley are on their own roots, and are therefore potentially exposed to phylloxera infestation.

Fosters spokesman Troy Hey said that the 7ha of infested vines in the 30ha vineyard where phylloxera was found have been isolated, and are scheduled to be uprooted and destroyed. The vineyard will be replanted on phylloxera-resistant rootstocks,' he said.

There are, though, still immediate problems for the other vineyards and wineries located within the 5km Phylloxera Infestation Zone (PIZ) declared by the DPI.

The movement of grapes, equipment and machinery out of a PIZ is banned, and movement into the zone is severely restricted. And the Yarra Valley PIZ encompasses some of the region's best-known and commercially most important wineries, including Yering Station, Oakridge and Mot et Chandon's Green Point. Each winery will now have to invest heavily in infrastructure such as separate picking bins and bin-washing equipment - an investment that Oakridge winemaker Dave Bicknell estimates will cost an extra AUS$250,000 (100,000).

The strict protocols covering a PIZ have also had an impact on the upcoming mid-February Grape Grazing festival, the region's major annual food and wine tourist event, which sees 20,000 punters travelling from winery to winery over a weekend. Faced with the near-impossibility of keeping people out of their vineyards - and thereby increasing the risk of phylloxera hitching a ride - some participants, including one of the most popular, Yering Station, have pulled out of the event.