When wine and wetlands mix

By Nick Carne

If you’re keen to see how South Australia’s best-known wetland responds over time to one of the State’s wettest ever winters, you’re not alone.

Neither Wetland and Conservation Manager Christophe Tourenq nor his ranger Tim Field was working at Banrock Station during the Riverland’s last flood back in 2010-11, so they’ve got a professional interest – not to mention some work to do.

“This flood will bring some nutrients and after that we will have an explosion of flowers, frogs and fish,” Christophe says.

“Already you can see the fauna reacting to what is happening. The background noise; the frogs are going ballistic. The thousand bell frog is one of our rarest frogs and you can hear it from up on the cellar door deck. And the birds too. We have some Ibis getting a little bit excited about the prospect of even more water.”

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Banrock’s Wetland and Conservation Manager Christophe Tourenq (right) and ranger Tim Field (Photo: ABC)

It doesn’t take long for the landscape to completely transform and that is a large part of what makes Banrock Station one of South Australia’s most popular tourist destinations, attracting up to 100,000 visitors a year. This includes cruise ship passengers making a side trip from Adelaide and school students who get involved with planting and onsite educational programs.

The wetlands and neighbouring Wine and Wetland Visitor Centre has won many awards, and this year they added to that list with success in the Innovative Wine Tourism Experience category in South Australia’s inaugural Best of Wine Tourism Awards.

The awards were held as part of Adelaide’s membership of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network, with Banrock Station competing in the international finals in Portugal last month against national winners from eight other countries.

The Banrock Estate cellar door is part of the Visitor Centre, and offers the opportunity to wine and dine on the deck overlooking the vineyards and then the wetland. Before or after you can choose from three self-guided trails covering eight kilometres in total and including 800 metres of elevated boardwalks, story centres, information huts and bird-viewing hides.

Many people are aware of Banrock Station’s natural wonders – it is home to 171 species of birds, 47 species of reptiles, 13 species of mammals, nine species of fish, eight species of amphibians and 284 species of plants, some of which are endangered – but perhaps don’t fully appreciate its global significance.

The 1375 hectare wetland is a designated site of importance under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands, and is considered a model for showcasing the advantages of combining private enterprise with environmental management and wetland conservation.

All the credit for that goes to what is now Accolade Wines, one of Australia’s leading wine companies with a portfolio that also includes Hardys, Leasingham and Tintara as well as Banrock Estate.

Back in 1993, the company bought what was largely an old sheep and cattle grazing property at Kingston on Murray and set about not only rehabilitating the wetland area but also returning it to its natural cycles.

Profits are used to support other environmental initiatives worldwide, with to date more than $6 million invested more than 130 projects in 13 countries. A current commitment is $750,000 over four years for a research project led by WWF-Australia to protect the Great Barrier Reef and its marine turtles.

The prestigious Great Wine Capitals Global Network brings together cities linked to internationally renowned wine regions. Adelaide / South Australia officially became a member on 1 July, after being unanimously elected by the eight other members: Bilbao / Rioja (Spain), Bordeaux (France), Cape Town (South Africa), Mainz-Rheinhessen (Germany), Mendoza (Argentina), Porto (Portugal), San Francisco / Napa Valley (USA) and Valparaìso / Casablanca Valley (Chile).

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