2013 ASEV-ES Red Wine Symposium

On July 18, 2013 at the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, Eastern Section Conference in Winston-Salem, NC I attended the Symposium on Advances in Red Wine Production: Berry to Bottle.  The speakers included Diego Barison (NovaVine), Tony Wolf (Virginia Tech), Michael Jones (Scott Laboratories),  James Kennedy (Fresno State), James Harbertson (Washington State), Sara Spayd (NC State), and a panel of growers from NC, TN, and VA.  The Symposium started off with a welcome from ASEV-ES Chair Fritz Westover.


Fritz Westover gets the Symposium started

Fritz Westover gets the Symposium started

The first speaker, Diego Barison gave a talk entitled “Latest News on Red Wine Varieties for Warm Climates”.    He spoke on the need for clonal selection to preserve genetic variability, preserve infrequent characteristics, to make more complex wines, and to exhibit weaker genotype by environment interactions.  One of his jobs is to look for characteristics that may be suitable for clonal establishment, such as loose clusters that minimize susceptibility to disease.  Any new clones are grafted to indicator rootstocks to determine if viruses are present.  Eventually microvinification and sensory analyses are carried out to see if the clone is suitable as a wine.  Some of the goals he mentioned for his program are grape acidity, ripening period, color, crop load, vigor, clean plant material, adaptability to blending, adaptability to environment, and its cultivated history.  He mentioned some new clones derived from Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Teroldego, Aglianico, Negro amaro, and Calabrese that may be available in the future to growers.

Diego Barison from NovaVine

Diego Barison from NovaVine

The second speaker was Dr. Tony Wolf and he covered “Canopy Management Advances for Red Wine Grapes”.    Canopy management is a set of practices which can be used to alter the number, arrangement and development of shoots in space and time and thereby affect the canopy and cluster microclimate.  It is often aimed at improving the architecture of canopies under supra-optimal growth conditions.  Common goals of canopy management are: improved fruitfulness, improved grape composition, improved wine quality potential, decreased disease incidence/severity, and to facilitate mechanization.  Canopy modification can have direct and indirect effects.  A direct effect is one that alters arrangement of leaves and clusters such as training system, pruning, thinning, positioning, and shoot/leaf/cluster removal.  Indirect effects are those the affect the canopy density by controlling things like shoot vigor, lateral shoot development, and duration of shoot growth.  This is accomplished through management of irrigation, choice of rootstock, site selection, cover cropping, and root containment/root pruning.  An indicator of an out-of-balance vine is greater than 1.0 kg of prunings per meter of canopy (about 0.4 lb/ft).  Desired canopy goals are 1 square meter of leaf area per kg of fruit and 12-15 shoots per meter.  Other desirable attributes of a balanced canopy post-bloom to veraison in red varieties are: about 20% gaps in the canopy, 1 to 1.5 leaf layer, 3-4 shoots per foot (VSP system), 12-20 fully unfolded leaves, 5% or less active shoot tips by veraison, 50% or more cluster exposure to light on East side (less on West; maybe more for high acid varieties), few lateral leaves in the fruiting zone (less than 10 on basal 7 nodes of each shoot by veraison), and 0.3-0.6 kg fruit/meter of canopy.

Tony Wolf discussing canopy management in red wine varieties

Tony Wolf discussing canopy management in red wine varieties

Since these were the two “viticulture” talks of the symposium they were primarily the ones I took notes on; however, I do have a few more.

The third speaker was Michael Jones from Scott Labs.  He spoke on “Stuck and Sluggish Fermentations”.  The primary causes of stuck and sluggish fermentations are: nutrient deficiency, competition from wild yeast/bacteria, lack of survival factors (long-chain fatty acids, sterols), ethanol, temperature, osmotic shock, toxins, inadequate yeast populations, highly clarified must, and pesticide residues.

The next speaker was Jim Kennedy from Fresno State on the topic of “Phenol 101”.  I recall this talk was heavy in biochemistry.  He described that anthocyanins are largely found in the skin along with flavonols.  Hydroxycinnamic acid is in the pulp.  The tannins in the grape are made prior to veraison.  The tannins mature along with anthocyanins post veraison.  Moderate stress tends to increase phenolic quantity and quality, including high sun exposure, low nitrogen, low soil moisture, moderate canopy size, and moderate crop load.  Fruit exposure to the sun is positively related to wine quality.

The next two speakers, Jim Harbertson (Washington State) and Sara Spayd (NC State) also spoke about phenols (“Improving Red Wine Color and Phenols” and “Red Wine Phenols in North Carolina”, respectively).  However, I did not take any notes.  There was also a panel discussion on “Issues in Red Wine Production in the Southeast”.

My colleague Mark Chien from Penn State summarized some of these and other talks from the conference.  You can find that here: http://www.pawinegrape.com/uploads/PDF%20files/Temporary%20Files%20-%20delete%20often/asev%20es%2013%20notes.pdf.  See the entire program here: http://www.asev-es.org/pdf/2013%20%20Program%20ASEV-ES%20full.pdf.

You might also find Mark’s discussion with Steve Menke (Colorado State) and Sara Spayd of interest on growing fine wines in the East (http://www.pawinegrape.com/uploads/PDF%20files/Temporary%20Files%20-%20delete%20often/Sara%20and%20Stephen%20-%20wine%20quality.docx.pdf).

Generally most of the talks focused on Vitis vinifera varieties, as that is where most of the research has been done.  However, there was good info on interspecific hybrids and a little on muscadines as well.  I would encourage anyone with an interest to join ASEV-ES.  It is relatively inexpensive and the information that comes out of the meeting is great.  Plans are in the works to update the webpage, create a newsletter, and get involved with social media (primarily facebook).  If you are interested in more information and how to join go here: http://www.asev-es.org/index.php


The VitisGen Project

Vitisgen (http://www.vitisgen.org/index.html) is a large, multi-disciplinary, collaborative project focused on decreasing the time, effort and cost involved in developing the next generation of grapes. Vitisgen incorporates cutting edge genomics technology and socioeconomic research into the traditional grape breeding and evaluation process, which will speed up the ability to identify important genes related consumer-valued traits like disease resistance, low temperature tolerance and enhanced fruit quality. Identifying these genes will help grape breeding programs from around the world to more rapidly develop new grape varieties that will appeal to a wide range of consumers, while also addressing grower and producer needs. Additionally, the scientific resources developed during the project will allow scientists and breeders to address other issues and needs that have regional significance, like salinity or drought tolerance.

Vitisgen represents a new model of scientific collaboration. The integration of the needs of multiple interests—breeders, growers, fruit processors and consumers—into a single outcome will result in novel grape varieties that are beneficial to producers, processors and consumers.

I am part of this project on the extension and outreach team (http://www.vitisgen.org/teams.html#extension).  Read more about VitisGen extension here (http://www.vitisgen.org/extension.html).  This project has tremendous potential to revolutionize grapevine breeding and help reduce the time needed to get new cultivars out to growers.  I encourage  you to take a look and feel free to write me with any feedback you have.

A Visit with the Alabama Winemakers’ and Grape growers’ Association

On Sunday, May 19, 2013 I was invited to speak to the Alabama Winemakers’ and Grape growers’ Association (AWGA).  This group can be found online here: http://awgga.org/

I was asked to speak on grafting grapevines as well as some of my research/extension activities.  To see my presentation to the group, click here: Grafting and Budding Grapevines

As I expected, there were quite a few enthusiastic folks there and we had good discussion on grafting, wine varieties, and wines.  I was able to take a quick visit to the Auburn University vineyard at the Chilton Research and Extension Center in Clanton, AL that is overseen by Dr. Elina Coneva.  I was impressed with the vigor of the vines!  These vines are from Dr. Andy Walker‘s program at UC-Davis.  They are resistant to Pierce’s Disease via an introgressed gene from Vitis arizonica.  They look promising so far, but there is still a long road to go for full evaluation.   I was able to taste a wine from one of these selections.  It was very good.  It reminded me of a very good Chambourcin (this should be taken as a compliment).  It will be interesting to see how the fruit develops as the vine gets more age.

There was some discussion on how everything being currently grown in Alabama (at least North Alabama) was made obsolete by these new selections.  This is a bit extreme, as I believe there are still markets for other wine types (muscadines, etc).  The quality of the Chambourcin and Norton I tasted at the meeting tells me that these grapes make a quality product — although I have not seen the vines in person to know if they can stick around for the long haul.  Of course there were some lesser wines that I tasted but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised overall.  At least I didn’t find any contamination or other defects that indicate poor sanitation — the faults were in the grapes themselves — either not suited for the area or perhaps not managed enough.  I did taste a wine that I thought was “over-vinted”, meaning it tasted like all the fruit was removed, possibly by fining or filtering — it was, I don’t know, too processed.  But that can happen for several reasons and the winemaker must make the call on that.  I would have preferred more fruit, but luckily we all don’t have the same taste buds.

All in all it was a nice visit.  Growing bunch grapes in the South is very challenging.  We definitely have a lack of top notch quality wine varieties.  I was encouraged by the work being done at Auburn to help fill that niche for areas in North Alabama and surrounding areas.  Now if we can just find more for the Gulf South.

Making Mississippi Wine

Dr. Wayne Adams, a small scale grape grower near Richton, has several different interspecific hybrid wine grape varieties (as well as muscadines).  Each year he harvests some fruit to make a little wine.  It can be taxing and backbreaking work without the latest equipment.  He prefers the variety Conquistador that was released from the University of Florida in 1983 (http://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/grapes/CultivarBulletins/Conquistador%20circularS-300%201983.pdf).  One issue Dr. Adams has noticed with Conquistador in 2012 is uneven ripening of the clusters.  Since Conquistador has Concord in its parentage this is not a big surprise.  Concord is notorious for uneven ripening in hot temperature conditions.  Conquistador also has a good dose of Vitis aestivalis in it, a southern-adapted species that spawned the famous ‘Norton’ (aka ‘Cynthiana’).  Dr. Adams likes how the vine grows and the wine it produces.  He plans to add more vines in the future.   In my opinion we need to do more work on it and see.  I think it is good for a small-scale homeowner/hobbyist vineyard, but for commercial production there needs to be more testing to see how viable it is on a larger scale.  Currently we are looking at some varieties on a very small scale to see which ones to ramp up on a larger scale.  Cynthiana/Norton and Blanc du Bois are two of those.  Herbemont is another that looks promising.  In the coming year we will bring in some outside varieties that have never been tested here (at least to my knowledge) so that we can take a look-see.

Below are a couple of photos from Dr. Adams vineyard operation.  The first is an example of uneven ripening in Conquistador.  The second is pressing of fruit to obtain the juice.

Uneven ripening in Conquistador, photo by Dr. Wayne Adams

Uneven ripening in Conquistador, photo by Dr. Wayne Adams

Pressing grapes for wine, photo by Dr. Wayne Adams

Pressing grapes for wine, photo by Dr. Wayne Adams

Your Chance to Have a Hand in History

Help name Cornell’s newest grapes!

 It’s hard to come up with new winegrape names- they have to be unique, distinctive, and descriptive, look good on a wine bottle, and meet a variety of complicated legal specifications that you don’t even want to think about.

Even more important, you have to like them- because we hope we’ll be seeing the name of these grapes on wine bottles in the near future!

So the Cornell Grape Breeding Program is challenging YOU- the wine industry of NY- to help us come up with names for two new wine grapes.

If you’d like to try your hand at naming grapes, take a look at the variety descriptions for NY 76.0844.24 and NY 95.0301.01 below.  Be as creative as you like, keeping in mind that names have to be unique- no reruns- and should be designed to sell varietal wine.  Send as many creative names as you can think of to Bruce Reisch at bruce.reisch@cornell.edu by July 27, 2012, and we’ll put them on the list.  We’ll do the all the legal footwork to check for trademark violations and such, compile a shortlist of possibilities, and have a name for you soon!

If your name is chosen, you’ll be acknowledged at the variety introduction and in publicity related to the event.  (Sorry, no cash award- but just think of the lasting glory and fame!)

Thanks for your help, and we look forward to seeing your creative names!

Bruce Reisch & Anna Katharine Mansfield

Meet the Grapes:

NY76.0844.24, a white wine selection, ranks very high for winter hardiness and productivity. The estimated temperature of 50% primary bud kill in mid-winter is –17 F, and cold damage to trunks is rare. Wine quality is excellent, showing aromatic characters that panelists compare to Gewürztraminer or a citrusy Muscat.

NY95.0301.01 is a red wine selection, and will be the first introduction to originate from the “no-spray” portion of the Geneva breeding program.  It’s highly resistant to both downy and powdery mildews, making it a good choice for sustainable or organic growers. The wine is dark red with little or no hybrid character, and exhibits moderate body, good structure, and blueberry on the palate.