Last week, more than 150 Cabernet Sauvignon experts and aficionados met for the two-day 2024 Australian Cabernet Symposium (ACS) to discuss the theme of ‘supporting Cabernet Sauvignon into the future’.

While the ACS is usually hosted by Coonawarra Grape and Wine Incorporated (CGWI), this year’s instalment of the triennial conference was jointly hosted with Wines of Western Australia (WoWA), recognising Australia’s two premier Cabernet Sauvignon producing regions of Coonawarra and Margaret River.

ACS Committee Chair, Dr Catherine Kidman, said she was impressed by the number of delegates that attended the event.

“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.

The first day of the symposium, Thursday 1 February, was jointly held across WA and South Australia, with live presentations simulcast from either Margaret River HEART, Parker Coonawarra Estate, or via digital recording. Attendees heard from presenters such as international keynote speakers Rodrigo Laytte and Phil Brodie, drinks writer and author Katie Spain, and WoWA CEO Larry Jorgensen. There were also masterclasses and interactive Q&As on the day.

“It was a real honour and treat to listen to esteemed winemakers and international experts including Phil Brodie from Te Mata and Trevor Durling from Beaulieu Vineyards, and then taste their wines in the glass. Finally, it was great to see the cross-generational networking from wine and viticulture students to icons of the industry across the two days. It was clear that Cabernet Sauvignon will continue to have a strong and relevant role in the world of premium wine and that the future is bright,” Kidman said.

The second day was held at Penley Estate, where 60 delegates learned about the innovative agricultural technology utilised at the Coonawarra vineyard. Nine devices were demonstrated, including an AirborneLogic drone used for farm mapping, Athena IR-Tech Transp-IR infrared sensors which advise growers when to irrigate, and a driverless GOTrack Auto Drive tractor.

The Penley Agtech Field Walk was hosted by Hans Loder, Penley Estate’s Viticulturist and Vineyard Manager and recipient of the Nuffield Scholarship.

“Production of premium Cabernet Sauvignon can be demanding of growers, be it timely responses to seasonal conditions, finding efficiency to counter increasing costs of production, overcoming labour shortages or substantiating environment, social, and governance credentials. The challenges are clear, but understanding how to leverage agtech to address them can be less apparent. The Penley Estate Agtech Field Walk provided delegates an opportunity to consider the process of agtech adoption, from identifying the challenges, honing in on relevant tech and then talking to providers about solutions. Judging by the energy on the day, it is clear that agtech has a role to play in supporting Cabernet Sauvignon into the future,” he said.

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