Peter Dry wins Maurice O’Shea Award

Viticultural researcher and educator Peter Dry has won the 2014 Maurice O’Shea Award for service to the Australian wine industry, sponsored by McWilliam’s Wines.

Dry was one of my lecturers in viticulture at Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1980-81. I always found him to be an outstanding communicator, and felt I learned a great deal from Dry, as well as his fellow viticulture lecturer Richard Smart.

His career has progressed a great deal from those early days, and while Smart became a globetrotting viti consultant with private clients in many countries, Dry focused more closely on research with particular application within Australia. 

His remarkable career has spanned more than 40 years as a viticulturist, teacher, researcher, editor and writer.

McWilliam’s CEO Rob Blackwell said the award is fitting recognition for a long and illustrious career. “Peter’s contribution to the wine industry, through his research, teaching positions and industry roles has been significant. There are few winemakers and viticulturists who have not been touched in some way by his work.”

I make no apology in quoting the following paragraphs directly from the McWilliam’s press release.

Dry began his career in 1970 when he took up a research officer position in Loxton with the South Australian Department of Agriculture. After five years, he moved to Roseworthy college as a lecturer, not just in viticulture, but in biology, plant pathology, microbiology and sensory evaluation.

It was at Roseworthy in the early 1980s that Dry and Smart developed the first climatic classification for Australian viticultural regions. They also recommended a widening of the range of grape varieties being planted in Australia across the various regions. The success of a number of Italian and Spanish grape varietals in Australia can be credited to Dry and Smart’s work in this area.

When Roseworthy merged with the University of Adelaide in 1990, Dry’s work began to focus more on research.

It was during the 1990s that he worked with Dr Brian Loveys from CSIRO, conducting the research that led to the development of partial rootzone drying (PRD). This revolutionary irrigation technique allowed grapes, as well as other crops, to be grown using half the amount of water previously required.

For this work, Dry and Loveys have been recognised with a list of awards and accolades. Dry was awarded a PhD from the University of Adelaide for this research, and the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering recognised PRD as one of the 100 most important technological innovations of the 20th Century in Australia.

Dry retired from the University of Adelaide in 2008, but not from his work for the grape and wine industry. He has continued to work as a viticultural consultant with the Australian Wine Research Institute, presenting at countless seminars and workshops and continuing to produce publications.

He has authored more than 270 publications, as well editing some of the most well-known books on viticulture in Australia.

In 2012, Dry was inducted as only the sixth Fellow of the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology, recognising his long career in teaching and research.

The award was presented on October 1 at a black-tie function in Adelaide. 

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