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Tassie wine scientists leading on national stage

The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture’s (TIA) viticulture and oenology research team is making their mark on the national stage by attracting more than $4.2 million in national wine research funding.

Wine scientists Drs Fiona Kerslake, Anna Carew and Jo Jones are the chief investigators of three major projects and major contributors to a fourth project funded by Wine Australia.

Dr Kerslake says the team’s funding success demonstrates the impact and effectiveness of TIA’s industry-embedded approach.

“Our approach to collaboration and drawing on expertise from different disciplines is highly regarded,” Dr Kerslake said.

“We are advancing Tasmania’s status as an ultra-premium wine producer through industry-driven research that is helping businesses improve their wine through each step of the production process from the vineyard to the glass.

“Our job here is to assist Tasmanian vineyard managers and wine makers to build their reputation and produce premium products through applied scientific knowledge.”

The four Wine Australia research projects are:

  • Forecasting bud fruitfulness with spectral analysis: Dr Jo Jones is leading a project that is testing near-infra-red light technology to measure vine bud fruitfulness, i.e., how many bunches of fruit each bud will produce. Currently dormant buds have to be dissected under a microscope to estimate this. Dr Jones’ goal is to develop a hand-help tool that will save time, be more accurate, reduce unnecessary bunch removal during pruning, and produce more consistent yields.
  • Developing objective measures of quality for sparkling wine: Dr Fiona Kerslake is leading a four-year research project to analyse what wine-making processes contribute to the flavour, mouthfeel and textural properties of premium sparkling wine. She will analyse a process for making sparkling wine called autolysis where the wine is left in contact with the lees (the sediment of dead yeast cells) after fermentation to age for months or years. The efficiency of this technique, which dates back to Roman times, is being questioned by industry after an expert tasting revealed the so-called ‘autolytic character’ was not clearly distinguishable nor agreed upon from ‘aged wine’. Dr Kerslake will also test a number of novel methods that may hasten flavour development and reduce the time required for autolysis. A concept for in-line sensing of juice quality in the winery will also be tested.
  • Pinot noir provenance: Dr Anna Carew is leading a project that aims to provide evidence for the uniqueness of Australian pinot noir. This project will generate robust, tangible scientific and qualitative evidence to explain the unique character, quality and provenance of Australia’s emerging premier red wine pinot noir. Once established, the methods developed in this project will be applicable to other red wine varieties.
  • Adapting to ongoing climate change: This project aims to develop tools to help wine growers manage short-term climate cycles and long-term climate change. It will be led by the Antarctic Climate Ecosystem CRC in collaboration with TIA, the South Australian Research and Development Institute and CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.

The TIA team will be running a wine- tasting session at Wine Tasmanian’s Ferment 2016 Annual Conference, in Hobart to give winemakers a chance to sample for themselves the effect of novel methods used to extract the colour and tannin from pinot noir grapes to make red wines with deeper, lasting colour.

This research, undertaken by Dr Carew, trialled a number of juice maceration techniques, including ultrasound waves, carbon dioxide or ‘dry ice’, chilling and soaking, and microwave.

TIA is a joint venture between the Tasmanian Government and the University of Tasmania.

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