Government backs programme to future-proof Sauvignon Blanc vines

The Government is investing in a seven-year programme led by Bragato Research Institute to help future-proof the sustainability of New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc grapevines, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

Sauvignon Blanc comprises 87 per cent of the country’s wine exports.

“This new $18.7 million grapevine improvement programme will introduce genetic diversity into our vines, and ensure they continue to thrive in New Zealand conditions,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Anticipated climate change impacts require action now to ensure New Zealand continues to be considered the world’s Sauvignon Blanc capital.

“New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc vines are based on one clone, which presents some risk. Developing improved, commercially-available variants of this grape variety will also act as an industry insurance policy against future risks from pests, disease and changing markets.” Continue reading

LU winery and vineyard aged to perfection

Key players from Lincoln University’s vineyard and winery raised their glasses to half a century of growth at a recent double anniversary symposium.

The celebration, which marked 50 years in operation for the on-campus vineyard and 25 years for the winery, began with a look back at the origins of grape-growing and winking at the university.

Several speakers, including former Lincoln wine tutor and grape grower Graeme Steans, referred to pioneer wine researcher Professor David Jackson’s immense contribution to Lincoln’s viticulture and oenology programmes, and to the industry at large.

Before the 1970s, there were no vineyards in Canterbury and only a small number existed elsewhere in the South Island, but the Lincoln professor’s research proved that wine could be produced in cool southern climates. Continue reading

EIT to host inaugural wine research symposium

It would be great to think that on October 27 – Wednesday next week – our readers will be at the NZIAHS forum on sustainable and profitable farming at Lincoln University.  That is, provided they are able to attend under whatever Covid Alert rules are applying at the time.

And next day, if that’s their taste in happenings of this sort, they could attend the inaugural wine research symposium aimed at presenting recent New Zealand research to industry and helping develop an agenda for future wine industry related research.

This will be hosted by the Eastern Institute of Technology School of Viticulture and Wine Science in Hawke’s Bay on October 28.

The EIT website says:

When: Thursday, 28th October 2021 from 8.45am – 4pm
Where: EIT Hawke’s Bay Campus Lecture Theatre 2 Continue reading

Slowing the sugar rush to yield better grapes

One of the many challenges for grape growers posed by climate change is the accelerated rate at which grapes ripen in warmer climates, which can result in poor colour and aroma development.

In a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers from the University of Adelaide found it is possible to increase the flavour potential of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes by slowing down the ripening process with strategies including crop load manipulation and irrigation management.

Lead author Pietro Previtali, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, said:

“Advanced maturation due to warmer temperatures is a key issue for grape growers in most wine regions worldwide and especially in warm and dry areas such as Australia and California.

“It leads to faster sugar accumulation in grapes, which results in reaching the targeted sugar levels when the concentrations of colour and aroma compounds are below their maximum values.

“Growers therefore have to compromise between harvesting when sugar is ready but the desired flavours are missing, and prolonging grape maturation until an optimal composition of colour, mouthfeel and aroma compounds is achieved.

“The problem with prolonging maturation is grapes undergo shrivelling and yields are reduced with a negative consequence on profitability, and higher sugar levels that lead to high-alcohol wines.”

Where earlier research has found techniques such as thinning vines and intense irrigation late in the growing season can change wine composition, the new study examined how these techniques specifically affect the development of aroma compounds in the grapes themselves.

The researchers grew Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes at a commercial vineyard in the San Joaquin Valley in California. The vines were either thinned, or irrigated late in the growing season, or both, with grapes collected throughout the ripening period. These were compared with grapes grown in the same block where neither technique was applied.

The researchers found that delaying ripening slowed down sugar accumulation, which led to a decrease in green aroma compounds, unwanted in winemaking, and increased fruity aromas, colour and mouthfeel compounds, associated with red wine quality.

They also observed that the composition of grape quality traits is not dependent on a single strategy.

“Rather, groups of compounds were responsive to different factors, including crop load, irrigation, ripening rate and in some cases an interaction of these,” Mr Previtali said.

Using the strategies available, the researchers sought to achieve the longest delay possible to study the relationship between sugar accumulation and flavour development. For example, a delay of three weeks was achieved through a 35 per cent reduction of crop load and late season irrigation of 50 per cent additional water.

“While representing a valuable experimental tool, this approach however may not be practical due to availability and high cost of irrigation, particularly as water becomes a scarcer resource,” said Project lead and co-author, Associate Professor Christopher Ford, the University of Adelaide.

“Tailoring the management of these strategies seems to be the way to achieve the targeted levels of aroma compounds, colour and mouthfeel in wines.”

The researchers say replication of these vineyard trials over future seasons is necessary to fully understand the implications of year-to-year variation, and develop a broader understanding of combining crop load and late season irrigation to delay sugar accumulation.

The study was conducted within the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production based at the University of Adelaide, with research partners from the Training Centre and E. & J. Gallo Winery in California.

Link to research (DOI): 10.1021/acs.jafc.1c01229

Source:  Scimex

Protecting grapevine health in New Zealand

Plant and Food Research has posted an update on a review by their scientists, along with scientists at the University of California (Davis), Lincoln University and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, which summarised information on fungi that contribute to grapevine trunk diseases (GTD).

These diseases are caused by fungi that spread slowly through woody tissue, killing the vine over many years.

They are a threat to vineyards globally.

Understanding GTDs is complicated because many fungal species are involved, in a variety of potential combinations, and these can differ between different growing regions. Continue reading

Winemakers could adapt to climate change by switching grape varieties

The regions of the world that are suitable for growing wine grapes could shrink by half or more as temperatures rise and seasons change, new research has found. But the losses can be mitigated to an extent if vintners swap the types of grapes they grow.

According to a study co-authored by Dr Amber Parker, Senior Lecturer in Viticulture at Lincoln University, 56 percent of the world’s winegrowing areas may no longer be suitable for producing wine if global temperatures rise by 2°C and there are no attempts to adapt.

And with 4°C of warming, suitability for winegrowing could decrease by 85 percent.

Fortunately for wine-lovers, however, the new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also outlines an adaptation strategy. The findings of the study indicate that reshuffling where certain grape varieties are grown could halve the potential losses of winegrowing regions under 2°C of warming and reduces losses by a third if warming reaches 4°C. Continue reading

Bragato Research Institute announces location of new research winery

Bragato Research Institute (BRI) has announced its national research winery will be built at the Marlborough Research Centre on the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) Marlborough campus in Blenheim.

The centre will be sited alongside Plant and Food Research, New Zealand Winegrowers and Wine Marlborough.

The Marlborough Research Centre has been a key supporter of the BRI’s establishment and its co-location with key research and industry organisations, said M. J. Loza, chief executive of the Bragato Research Institute.

Formerly the New Zealand Winegrowers Research Centre, the BRI has been working alongside NMIT and the Marlborough Research Centre to secure the site and the location will enable further collaboration between the different organisations. Continue reading

Plant & Food research – juice index for wine industry and work on stone cell formation in pear fruit

Two news items related to its research work have been released by Plant & Food Research this week.

The first, headed Juice index’ offers potential as a predictive tool for wine composition, regards the development of a ‘juice index’ database, metabolomics database of New Zealand Sauvignon blanc (SB) grape juices and their corresponding wines.

A collaboration between Plant & Food Research, academia and industry, the database is the first of its kind in the world to be made available to the scientific community. It is expected to help build a better understanding of the different factors that contribute to variations in SB juices and wines, offering winemakers a potential tool to assist with managing and maintaining wine style. Continue reading

VineFacts turns 600 – will they be celebrating with bubbly?

VineFacts, produced by scientists at Plant & Food Research and published by New Zealand Winegrowers, provides information on weather and potential disease pressure to help growers make decisions for vineyard management to optimise their crop.

In the mid-1990s, a Technology for Business Growth project was set up in Marlborough that looked at integrated disease management of vines. It looked to compare different spray regimes for botrytis, powdery mildew and downy mildew.

One of the main outcomes was a weekly disease monitoring of blocks and the dissemination of advice on sprays through a publication called Smartfax.

This fax-based service was sent out to a small group of local Marlborough viticulturists and winemakers. Over the years the number of recipients grew and today all New Zealand Winegrowers members have access to it. The name has also changed, from Smartfax to Vinefax to VineFacts. It also changed from being sent out by fax, to being sent out by email and now it is web-based.

Since the 2014-15 season VineFacts has been a national publication covering Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough, North Canterbury and Central Otago. Its content has also expanded to include weather summaries from different weather stations around these districts, vine phenology, yield comparisons from monitored blocks, information of potential botrytis and powdery mildew infection periods as well as pertinent articles of interest.

Over the years, this publication has been financially sustained through subscriptions, the Marlborough Research Centre Trust and the Sustainable Farming Fund.

For the period 1997 to 2014 VineFacts was under the ownership of the Marlborough Research Centre Trust (MRC). With the expansion of VineFacts to a national publication in 2014 the MRC Trust gifted ownership of VineFacts to New Zealand Winegrowers.

NZW now funds VineFacts to be freely available to all members. VineFacts is also supported with substantial in-kind funding from Plant & Food Research and collaborating wine companies.

Dr Rengasamy Balasubramaniam, known to the industry as Bala, was responsible for getting VineFacts off the ground in the 1990s. Rob Agnew, who now leads the project, has been part of the VineFacts team since its inception, joined by Victoria Raw in 2006.

Source: Plant & Food Research

New Zealand Winegrowers Research Centre appoints Professor Brian Jordan

New Zealand Winegrowers Research Centre (NZWRC) and Lincoln University have announced that Professor Brian Jordan will be joining the NZWRC team, as Acting Head of Science to assist with the NZWRC’s establishment.

While retaining his role at Lincoln University, Professor Jordan will be working part-time with NZWRC management and representatives of other universities and research institutes to shape the NZWRC science programme.

Professor Jordan is Professor of Plant Biotechnology at Lincoln University and has more than 30 years of experience in plant biochemistry and molecular biology. He received his doctorate on plant amino acid metabolism from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne University, in Britain, and carried out post-doctoral research on lipid biosynthesis at Cardiff University. Throughout his research career he has studied light regulation of plant growth and development, particularly the molecular response of plants to ultraviolet radiation.

In 2003, Professor Jordan was appointed to the Board of the Marlborough Wine Research Centre and has been involved in New Zealand viticulture and oenology since then.

Professor Jordan is now focusing entirely on viticulture research, especially effects of canopy manipulation on grape biochemistry and molecular biology.

In February 2011 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Örebro University, Sweden, in recognition of his professional excellence in plant biology and went on to spend five months undertaking research at ISVV, Bordeaux, that year. In addition to his research activities Professor Jordan has been dean of faculty and on the Lincoln University Council between 2015 and 2018.

Professor Jordan said the establishment of the NZ Winegrowers Research Centre is an excellent opportunity to develop a coordinated research strategy that will provide scientific leadership and innovation to future-proof the New Zealand wine industry. He said he was “very pleased to be able to contribute to its establishment.” 

Source: Lincoln University