Tariffs imposed on the Chinese wine market, rising transport costs and the resulting over-inventory have created a difficult couple of years for the Riverland wine industry.
Reduced tourism and cellar door sales brought on by flooding compounded those issues at the beginning of the year.
To mark a hopeful turning point, Riverland Wine has launched the Riverland Wine Exhibition as a tribute to the resilience and successes of winemakers despite the odds having been stacked against them.
On display at the National Wine Gallery, the exhibition presents large vibrant photographs and the associated stories of people from all areas and levels of the industry.
Riverland Wine Executive Officer Lyndall Rowe said the exhibition is part of their Riverland Uprising program, which was begun in 2022 to promote and provide opportunities for small winemakers to develop and expand into export markets.
Rowe said the photographs taken by Matt Wilson for that pilot program really stuck with people so they brought Wilson back at the beginning of the year to capture more photographs and extend the series for display.
“The exhibition is really focusing on the people of the Riverland who are involved with the wine industry,” Rowe says.
Photographs of multigenerational wine families, industry innovators and wine-adjacent personalities in unique settings make up the bulk of the exhibition.
“We have families who have worked the land for decades, the Waikerie Football Club President, who manages a vineyard, to tourism providers who are doing everything they can to share their love for this unique region, all sharing their stories,” Rowe said.
“The photographs are taken in a light-hearted way, but deliver the important message that we’re here, we’re moving forward, resilient and having a crack.”
Inventory overstocking is an ongoing concern among Riverland winemakers as changing tastes, reduced exports and the Chinese tariffs effect the industry.
Tanks are still full of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from previous vintages, leaving no room for upcoming vintages and forcing winemakers to leave grapes to wither on the vine.
“The wine is getting older and the market demand is for young wine. After a year or two it’s considered to be too old for market,” Rowe said.
Photographs of tanks of red wine being emptied onto the ground show the reality of what this means for the region’s winemakers.
Other photographs show SARDI researchers experimenting with stalling crops at their Riverland vineyards in order to save on fertilizer and irrigation during over-stocked seasons.
Riverland Wines and Primary Industries and Regional Development have partnered to develop a 10-year blueprint to support the longevity of the regions wine industry.
The free exhibition runs until Thursday, 1 June, and a special collection of wines from the Riverland will be on display throughout the month and available for tasting and purchase at the National Wine Centre.
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