Uniquely Riverland

Since 1971. Here, Emily Williamson speaks with Sharon Nitschke of the RVIC about The Riverland Vine Improvement Committee (RVIC) is a not-for-profit organisation that has specialised in supplying vine information to the Australian wine industry the organisation and the region in which it works.

The RVIC is one of Australia’s leading suppliers of vine information, with a particular focus on quality cutting production of rootstock and Vinifera. In addition to viticultural assessments and trials, the organisation has also expanded into the winemaking industry. Since 2005, the RVIC has been producing wine from 21 grape varieties, with each vintage being distributed to industry personnel to provide comment and feedback.

According to Sharon Nitschke, these winemaking trials proved to be incredibly successful and were the launchpad for the Cirami Estate label, which was named after a man who generously dedicated his time to the industry.

“(Cirami Estate) is named in honour of Mr Richard Cirami, who was a member of the RVIC for 20 years in the early days. He was a pioneer in clonal research and was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for his service to viticulture. It seemed a fitting tribute to a man who made such a valuable contribution to the grapevine industry.”

The wine produced by the RVIC has since enjoyed incredible success and gained industry acclaim for its varieties. It has also highlighted to the Australian wine industry which grape varieties – such as durif, fiano, lagrein, montepulciano, saperavi and vermentino – would thrive in the Riverland region.

“All of these varieties performed well in the hot, dry conditions of the Riverland and have consistently produced good-quality fruit for the winery,” says Nitschke.

PREMIUM VINIFERA

The ‘Cirami’ block is the RVIC’s premium Vinifera-source block and was first planted in 1995. The property now has more than 40 hectares (150 cultivars) of producing vines, of which approximately 30 hectares are used for the planting of mainstream grape varieties.

“The primary purpose of this block is to produce high-quality scion material suitable for grafting. This is achieved by applying specialised management practices that best promote quality cane growth. The ‘Cirami’ block has the capacity to produce in excess of two million cuttings annually.”

The RVIC has a strong focus on alternative grape varieties and allocated the last ten hectares for small plantings to encourage diversity. Since the first alternative varieties were planted in 2000, the number has grown to an incredible 70.

Nitschke says creating diversity in the varieties available is important for two reasons.

“The object of creating this diverse range is to firstly provide a readily available cutting source to supply the industry with vine material for propagation. The second reason is to evaluate varieties and identify those suited to the hot Riverland conditions. Small lot winemaking was (therefore) introduced in 2005 to assist with the evaluation of potential new varieties.”

SUPPLYING THE NATION

“Over the past 30 years, the RVIC has strived to ensure that consistently high-quality products are delivered to its customers. The focus on quality has seen the nursery develop a trusted reputation throughout most of Australia for its product,” says Nitschke.

Thirty hectares of rootstock-source vines are also supplying Australian nurseries with their grafting requirements.

“On the 30 hectares there are 22 different varieties of rootstock planted. These vines are purpose-grown with optimum irrigation and nutrition to produce high-quality cuttings suitable for bench grafting. This property can produce more than four million first-grade cuttings each year.”

The RVIC is now looking forward and hoping to plant new grape varieties, which will originate from the arid regions of Spain, Portugal and Italy. The organisation is excited about the new challenges to come and cannot wait to provide its consumers with different and exciting wine choices.