2018 Fellow – Richard Smart


Richard Smart Acceptance Speech ASVO Awards Dinner

I, Richard Smart am honoured by this award from my home country Professional Society the ASVO, and I am very sorry not to be with you tonight. I have asked former Roseworthy colleagues and ASVO Fellows Patrick Iland and Peter Dry to respond on my behalf.

I am especially pleased to join the late Drs Peter May and Bryan Coombe as Fellows, as both were friends and viticultural science colleagues, and important mentors to myself.

When I was a 19-year old impending graduate in Agricultural Science at Sydney University, I was asked by my employer NSW Department of Agriculture to choose a career direction. Research or Extension? Pasture agronomy or wine grapes? My choice was influenced by another early mentor the late Graham Gregory, who advised “If you enter the wine business you will meet the most wonderful people, travel a lot and see beautiful places”. How true that was to become, thank you Greg!

I recall well a conversation with Mark Babidge at Roseworthy around 1979, when he was an Industry speaker to our students. I had recently returned from speaking at the American Society of Enology and Viticulture meetings in California, and discussed with Mark the  technical support the American Society gives to the Californian grape and wine industry. We agreed that the Australian wine industry would also benefit from such a professional society. Mark and colleagues went on to form the ASVO, and Mark was the second President. And we are all aware of how the ASVO has helped shape the Australian grape and wine sector. Together with colleagues I formed the New Zealand Society for Viticulture and Oenology in 1987.

My career has been much involved with the application of science to the Australian grape and wine sector, and the ASVO. I was an organizer and speaker for the first Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference at Albury, and a frequent speaker thereafter, and at other ASVO and industry seminars. I was a member of the inaugural Editorial Board of AJGWR, and contributor to two volumes of the “Viticulture” text book.

Consulting and speaking invitations have led to me visiting over 30 countries, and many of the world’s wine regions. During my fifty two-year career I have written much about grapes and wine, most of it scientific and technical, and mostly in Australian industry trade journals. I am grateful that my book “Sunlight into Wine” is regarded as the international reference work for canopy management and has won an OIV prize : it is dedicated to Nelson Shaulis, my Professor at Cornell. My contributions as Viticulture Editor to four volumes of the Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson have also given much satisfaction, it is described as the “Worlds greatest wine book in the English language”.

While canopy management remains a personal passion the commercial opportunities to improve vineyard yield and quality remain largely unrecognised. My New Zealand client Delegat manage  likely the world’s largest Scott Henry vineyards of 2,400 ha in NZ and Australia, and are totally convinced of the commercial benefits. I was one of the first to warn of impacts of climate change on the world of wine. This remains a current interest, along with the grapevine trunk disease epidemic, being spread globally as it is by nurserymen. Both issues are insidious and slow to develop, and so are generally unrecognised and ignored at a time when action should be taken.

I repeat, I am so grateful for this award, and sorry not to be with you tonight.