The next crop


Barossa's viticultural future appears bright, and enduringly evergreen

words by
ruby stobart // the barossa cellar
>> Back row: Trent Burge, Jack Scholz, Bronson Kies, Callum Powell, Brad Manuel, Tom Bartholomaeus, Haydon Ahrens, Ben Miles, Tyran Haase, Sean Heidenreich, Sean Schrapel, Jake Rosenzweig, Adrian Rohrlach, Matt Neldner. Front row: Nicki Robins (BGWA – Next Crop coordinator), Erin Turner, Tyla Schulz, Kate Tracy, Paul Thomas, Steve Baraglia, Sophie Melton, Adam Pietsch, Conrad Pohlinger, Kate Koch, Dani Gaggl. Absent: Ben Schiller, Paul Rohrlach.

Barossa’s viticultural future is being secured thanks to a dynamic programme run by Barossa Grape & Wine Association called “Next Crop”.

The current cohort of 26 young people, all of whom are actively engaged in wine grape growing are being coached through the region’s third “Next Crop” leadership programme. 

By January, 2022 they will join 45 alumni who have already completed the programme.

Barossa Grape & Wine Association’s “Next Crop” programme, launched in 2011, was the first of its kind in Australia.

Wine Australia has now taken the programme nationwide with significant, biennial funding. 

The current average age of a Barossa grape grower is around 60, so this project presents an opportunity for the younger generation, Barossa’s “Next Crop”, to step up and bring a range of updated skills into our family vineyard businesses.

One module of the programme requires the development of group projects that will benefit the region. 

It also needs to deliver on the group’s mission: “As the Next Crop 2021, we will engage and collaborate with community and industry leaders. We will create clear goals to promote brand Barossa.”

The project topics are as creative as they are diverse, ranging from: How to use marketing to encourage young people into viticulture, to using technology to map variability in yield relative to irrigation. 

However, Next Croppers, Matt Neldner, Kate Tracy, Adrian Rohrlach, Paul Rohrlach, Tom Bartholomaeus , Callum Powell , Adam Pietsch, and Steve Baraglia have set their focus on improving awareness around sustainability.

Kate Tracy says of their group’s project: “We wanted to focus on the environmental side, as we are all passionate about our role as custodians and ensuring Barossa’s viticultural future.“

“While many Barossa growers do operate sustainably, we’re not at 100%.

“So there is still a need to raise awareness.

“Improving long-term soil health, as well as raising awareness of the benefits of mulching, and composting are at the top of our agenda,” says Ms Tracy.

The group is proposing to gain a deep understanding of sustainable perspectives and practices through a combination of out-in-the-field meetings and surveys.   

However, gaining perspectives from within the community hasn’t been the only benefit. 

Ms Tracy says: “Collaborating as a team within Next Crop has taken each of us out of our own little sub-regional Barossa bubbles. 

“It has really shown us the value that comes from sharing.”

A “buried undies case study” is also scheduled. 

The team plan on burying some pristine undies in a range of soils, each spot varying in their sustainability practices. 

On the designated  “dig up your undies’ day” the group will observe and document the impact of the various practices, on what will be the not-so-pristine jocks. 

Team member, Steve Baraglia notes: “We plan to hold an event in January, 2022, where we can share the results from our surveys, feature a sustainability expert as guest speaker, and our buried jocks’ case study. 

“We also hope to conduct a wine tasting to compare wines made from straw mulched vines vs unmulched vines.

“It will be great to get people together to share ideas, and provide an opportunity to think differently,” says Baraglia.

Thinking differently is where the 2021 Next Group is excelling.

As they all progress through the programme, their ideas demonstrate their growth as current and future regional thought leaders. 

And while a few pairs of underwear may be sacrificed for Barossa’s greater good, our viticultural future is definitely in forward-thinking hands.

Ruby Stobart

The Barossa Cellar

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