The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and Wine2030 are physical neighbours in Adelaide at the Waite campus as well as both being part of the country’s Wine Innovation Cluster (WIC), along with the CSIRO and SARDI.
The AWRI was established in 1955 through an Act of Parliament, with the key objective of developing research outcomes to contribute to the way we grow grapes and make wine. While based in Adelaide, the AWRI is a nation-wide body and has offices in NSW and Tasmania.
The AWRI offers “science at your service” to Australia’s grape and wine industry, with a keen focus on being industry responsive and industry relevant.
On 25 May 2011, on behalf of Wine2030, I attended the AWRI Roadshow Seminar for Langhorne Creek and Adelaide Hills. This is one of a series of roadshows that the AWRI undertakes around the country in all major wine regions on a two-year rotation, and it visited this very same venue – the Langhorne Creek Bowling Club – two years ago.
At these roadshow seminars, the programme varies according to each region’s requirements – the AWRI communicates with the local grape and wine associations and gives a long and varied list of possible topics to choose from. Each seminar then is regionally specific – focusing on the most relevant issues, challenges, problems and ideas according to the people in that region.
At this event, the attendees consisted mainly of viticulturalists, winemakers, and suppliers to the wine industry. Wineries represented included The Lane, Bleasdale, Ballast Stone and Mollydooker Wines. The atmosphere from the start was interactive and inclusive, inviting any questions for discussion and feedback.
Presentations reflected requests collated by event organisers Langhorne Creek Grape and Wine Inc. and focused on key issues (full details at the end of the article): how to prevent Botrytis, and how to deal with it in the vineyard and in the winery once it is present; irrigation of vines; achieving vine balance; sensory analysis of consumer preferences for red wines; warning labels on wines; the origins of eucalyptol in wines; how AWRI can add value to your business; and features of the AWRI website – an invaluable source of information.
In addition there was a time slot allocated for a group panel discussion where the attendees were invited to ask questions about any topic of interest/concern to them. All of the day’s presenters sat at the front of the room for this session and discussed these topics and answered any questions. For example, some people wanted to know about the various methods of testing for laccase (an oxidative enzyme produced by Botrytis that must be removed from any wine); and someone asked what alternatives were available to bentonite for fining wine, since bentonite is expensive and can also strip flavour compounds, as well as lose a proportion of the wine in the process. People shared their knowledge and experiences and everyone’s input was welcomed. The researchers were keen for everyone to be involved and to get the maximum value from the day.
The day was entirely aimed at answering people’s specific queries and providing useful information arising out of AWRI research. There was also practical assistance and information about the range of AWRI’s services and its ongoing research. People were told how to navigate the website, ask questions, find references, and use the various tools available on the website, such as the winemaking calculator which is a simple, practical and extremely useful tool. All of these resources are provided free of charge to levy-paying members. This includes all of Australia’s grapegrowers and winemakers, since the AWRI is largely funded by the GWRDC – the GWRDC receives $2/tonne from grapegrowers on the winegrape harvest, and $5 per tonne of grapes crushed from wineries and the Australian Government matches these contributions.
The presenters made it clear that the AWRI aims to maximise quality and efficiency across the entire value chain for wine, right from the vineyard to the consumer. Its business model is based on four pillars: research, development, extension and education, and commercial. Research is central to its role, as is development of findings and ideas and pushing these out to industry to be taken up. The extension and education arm – including these seminars – includes presenting findings and ongoing research and inviting feedback. The AWRI receives around 6,000 enquiries/requests for assistance through the year, including any topic relating to wine, such as: How do I deal with Botrytis in my fruit?; What are the regulations for sulphur levels for wine going to Canada?; Does resveratrol have a health benefit? The extension and education role ties in with Wine Australia so that they support and complement market initiatives.
The commercial aspect is also a vital fourth cog in the machine, as research is translated into commercial applications, to be available to the industry as a whole on a ‘user pays’ basis (not GWRDC funded), as the AWRI takes on a consulting role, developing commercial applications for an array of analytical techniques.
While being extremely responsive to industry there is a push from within the AWRI to keep ahead in research and technological advancements, such as the development and application of spectroscopy to scan wine in the bottle, which has a range of industry uses as well as being a valuable research tool.
The event provided an excellent example of the two-way street between researchers and industry. These seminars not only provide attendees with an invaluable opportunity to ask experts about issues affecting them directly, and to hear about ongoing research in their industry, but also to foster networking and interaction with others in the industry, with the chance to chat and meet new people in a friendly and positive setting. We were also reminded just what a great resource the AWRI is for the wine industry right through the value chain.
Visit http://www.awri.com.au/ for more information.
Con Simos: “Winemaking management strategies for Botrytis and powdery mildew”; “Features of the AWRI website”
Marcel Essling: “I have Botrytis bunch rot – what can I do about it?”
Peter Dry: “Vine balance – how does it afect yield and quality?”; “How can irrigation management strategies be used to manipulate wine quality?”
Peter Godden: “Which new AWRI technologies can add value to your business?” Leigh Francis “What sensory properties of red wines drive consumer peferences?”
Creina Stockley: “Health, nutrition and other warning labels”
Dimitra Capone: “The origin of eucalyptol and minty flavour in red wines”
This article written by Dr Nicola Chandler, Wine2030, University of Adelaide.