Non-Saccharomyces Yeast in Winemaking

By Dr. Molly Kelly, Enology Extension Educator, Department of Food Science

As harvest begins you may want to consider utilizing non-Saccharomyces yeast strains. These strains have been shown to improve aromas, lend complexity and improve mouthfeel. In this post, we will provide an overview of their use and provide information concerning commercial strains available.

The Use of non-Saccharomyces Yeast in Winemaking 

The use of S. cerevisiae as a starter culture is the most widespread practice in winemaking. There is, however, an interest in conducting uninoculated fermentations. An uninoculated fermentation is often referred to as a “spontaneous” or “native” fermentation involving the sequential action of various non-Saccharomyces and indigenous Saccharomyces yeasts. The use of “mixed starter” of non-Saccharomyces with strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae provides an alternative to both “spontaneous” as well as inoculated fermentations. The possible benefits include added complexity, enhanced ability to secrete enzymes important in production of aroma compounds and a fuller palate structure. 

The ability of non-Saccharomyces yeasts to produce wines with distinct flavor profiles has increased interest in the use of such yeasts in mixed starters. In addition, research demonstrating the ability of non-Saccharomyces yeasts to lower alcohol content of wines, control wine spoilage and improve additional wine properties have been reported. 

Grape musts naturally contain a mixture of yeast species and therefore fermentation is not a “single species” fermentation. During crush, the non-Saccharomyces yeasts on the grapes, cellar equipment and in the environment may come in contact with the must. Cellar surfaces play a smaller role than grapes as a source of non-Saccharomyces yeasts. 

It is believed that a selected and inoculated strain of S. cerevisiae will suppress any “indigenous” non- Saccharomyces species and dominate the fermentation process. However, several studies have shown that non-Saccharomyces yeasts can persist during fermentations inoculated with pure cultures of S. cerevisiae

Non-Saccharomyces yeasts are thought to be sensitive to sulfur dioxide (SO2), poor fermenters of grape must and intolerant to ethanol. It is generally accepted that non- Saccharomyces yeasts, not initially inhibited by SO2, would not survive during fermentation due to combined toxicity of SO2 and alcohol. However, research has shown high numbers (106-108 cells/ml) and persistence of non-Saccharomyces yeasts in some wine fermentations, suggesting their potential role in winemaking. 

There are two general practices of inoculation when using non-Saccharomyces yeasts in mixed starters. The first, co-inoculation, involves the inoculation of the selected non-Saccharomyces yeasts at high cell concentration along with S. cerevisiae. The second practice, sequential inoculation, allows initial inoculation of selected non-Saccharomycesyeasts at high levels which are allowed to ferment on their own for a given amount of time before S. cerevisiae is added to complete the fermentation. Although both viable, potential interactions between yeast could determine which strategy is more appropriate. Today, there are available many non-Saccharomyces strains compatible with Saccharomyces strains for the improvement of wine primary aroma. See below.

 The most frequently studied species include: Torulaspora delbrueckiiMetschnikowia pulcherrimaCandida zemplininaHanseniaspora species and Lachancea thermotolerans). 

These yeasts are usually poor fermenters, therefore S. cerevisiae (either indigenous or inoculated) is necessary to take the fermentation to completion. Typically, non-Saccharomyces yeasts have been used in sequential fermentation where they grow or ferment prior to inoculation with S. cerevisiae.

Why use non-Saccharomyces yeast? 

What do these “native” yeasts have to offer winemakers and how can they be utilized in a planned and controlled manner to produce desired wine styles? Recently, consumer and market demand for lower ethanol wines has driven some research to develop various approaches to produce these wines.  Several studies have reported lower ethanol yields when using non-Saccharomyces yeast. In addition, some non-Saccharomyces yeast can utilize sugars with the production of desirable esters and other flavor/aroma compounds with the added advantage of only minimal production of ethanol. 

The variety of flavor/aroma compounds produced by different non-Saccharomyces yeasts is well documented. The compounds produced by different Saccharomyces yeasts include: terpenoids, esters, higher alcohols, glycerol, acetaldehyde, acetic acid and succinic acid. Wine color may also be affected by non-Saccharomyces yeast. Conversely, the improper use of non-Saccharomyces yeasts may result in serious fermentation issues including: stuck/sluggish fermentation, high levels of acetic acid and ethyl acetate, as well as lack of reproducibility etc. The goal of the winemaker is to emphasize the positive impact of non-Saccharomyces wine yeasts while minimizing its negative impact. 

Conclusion 

There are potential benefits of the use of non-Saccharomyces yeast in wine production; the abundance of grape yeast biodiversity presents many opportunities to explore their use. Strain selection is of key importance, as not all strains within a species will necessarily show the same desirable characteristics. The goals of many researchers have included: efficient sugar utilization, enhanced production of volatile esters, enhanced liberation of grape terpenoids to improve wine flavor and other sensory properties. These goals can be met by selected non-Saccharomyces wine yeast and their proper use in the winery. 

Please see links below to information summarized by PSU student Tyler Chandross-Cohen on commercial non-Saccharomyces stains.

Please contact me or your Scott labs representative with any questions. 

BIODIVA YEAST: This Yeast was initially sold in a pre-blended kit, partnered with a specific S. cerevisiae strain, but now is isolated for winemakers who can match it with a compatible S. cerevisiae of their choosing for both red and white wines. This isolated yeast makes developing wine more customizable. After creating your own blend, the resulting wines will have more intense aromas, mouthfeel and complexity. The S. cerevisiae strains compatible with Biodiva are 43, BDX, ICV D254, L2056, QA23, and VRB.

 FLAVIA YEAST: This yeast is a pure culture of Metschnikowia pulcherrima, which is selected for its ability to produce aroma and flavor revealing enzymes. Flavia is best used with creating aromatic whites and rosés. Flavia will enhance the aroma and flavor profiles of wines optimizing varietal characteristics while bringing freshness and volume in the mouth. 

A Complex Late Season Bunch Rot

By Andy Muza, Penn State Extension – Erie County

Harvest season in Pennsylvania is upon us or soon will be (depending on your varieties and where your vineyards are located), so late season bunch rots become a major concern for wine grape growers. A complex late season rot not controlled by fungicide applications is Sour Rot.  

Question: What can you get when you combine: tight clustered varieties; yeast; acetic acid bacteria; berry injury; and fruit flies?
Answer– Sour Rot.

Over the last few years extensive research, by Wendy McFadden-Smith and her colleagues at OMAFRA in Ontario and Megan Hall, Wayne Wilcox and Greg Loeb at Cornell, has greatly increased our knowledge of the Sour Rot syndrome. The following information is a brief summary of what the research revealed.

How do you know if the rot in your clusters is sour rot?
Sour rot has been defined by Megan Hall and Wayne Wilcox as, “a specific syndrome, characterized by the oxidation of the berry skin and the smell of acetic acid (vinegar) emanating from diseased berries.”

Therefore, field diagnosis is by both sight and smell. In white varieties, berry skins turn brown and in red varieties, berries have a reddish – purple discoloration (Figure 1). Infected berries degrade and have a vinegarlike odor. This syndrome is usually associated with large populations of fruit flies.

Development of sour rot
A wide variety of yeasts and bacteria naturally occur on and in grapes in the vineyard. Yeasts, whether in the vineyard or in the wine cellar, do what they do best. That is, they convert sugars in grape juice to alcohol (i.e., ethanol). Likewise, acetic acid bacteria (e.g., Acetobacter sppGluconobacter spp), whether in the vineyard or in the wine cellar, do what they do best. These bacteria convert ethanol into acetic acid (i.e., vinegar) in the presence of oxygen. Injured berries provide the gateway for bacteria, oxygen and insects (most commonly fruit flies) to enter berries.

The presence of fruit flies has been discovered to be a key component in the sour rot syndrome (Figure 2). Experiments showed that without fruit flies the symptoms of sour rot did not develop. Fruit flies spp. (e.g., common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster; and spotted wing drosophila, Drosophila suzukii) are attracted to injured berries via the smell of acetic acid and ethanol. As fruit flies feed and deposit eggs they spread yeast and bacteria from their bodies or gut contents throughout the clusters. However, the complete role that fruit flies contribute in sour rot development is not yet fully understood. Megan Hall, now at the University of Missouri, is continuing research to determine the complete picture of the fruit fly connection in sour rot development.

Management 

Cultural practices– Cultural practices play a critical role in the management of grape diseases and sour rot is no exception. Canopy management techniques, such as shoot thinning/positioning and leaf removal around clusters, provide better air flow and sun exposure thus reducing a more favorable microclimate for disease development.                 In addition, this opens up the canopy to better spray penetration.
Hall and Wilcox also showed that a vertical shoot position training system significantly reduced sour rot compared to a high wire trellis system. This should be taken into consideration if you are planning on planting a new vineyard with tight clustered, thin skinned varieties.

Berry Injury– The management of berry injury can be broken into 2 categories:
1)  What we cannot control, and 2)  What we can control. 

  1. What we cannot control – the weather.
    The most widespread cause of late season injury to berries in our region is due to rainfall events which cause berries to split or pull away from their pedicels.  Tight clustered, thin skinned varieties (such as Pinot Noir, Riesling, Vignoles, etc.) are the most susceptible to this injury and to sour rot and botrytis development.
    Unfortunately, tropical storms can and sometimes do occur around harvest, spreading excessive rainfall, resulting in berry splitting. The best we can hope for is that heavy rainfall events do not occur during harvest. 
  2. What we can control– injury caused by birds, diseases and insects.  
    Any injury can predispose berries to invasion from a variety of fungi, yeasts and bacteria that can result in bunch rots. Management of: birds (through use of netting and/or scare devices); diseases (through effective use of fungicides); and insects, particularly grape berry moth (through well timed insecticide applications) are important components in the reduction of berry injury levels.

Fruit flies, acetic acid bacteria and yeasts– Fungicides used for grape disease management are effective against filamentous fungi (e.g., Botrytis, powdery mildew, etc.) but not effective against yeasts and bacteria. Therefore, fungicides are not directly effective in sour rot management.
However, research conducted at Cornell in the Finger Lakes Region did show that applications of an antimicrobial material and insecticide applications against fruit flies are directly effective. Specifically, the most effective treatment regime consisted of weekly applications of Mustang Maxx insecticide (a.i. – zeta-cypermethrin) and OxiDate 2.0 (an antimicrobial, a.i. – includes hydrogen dioxide and peroxyacetic acid) starting when fruit reached 15 Brix and before any sour rot symptoms were evident.  This regime (insecticide and antimicrobial) provided an average of 69% control of sour rot. However, the insecticide alone treatments in 2015 & 2016, still provided 57% and 40% control, respectively.

It is important to mention that in 2018 in a Finger Lakes, NY vineyard a local population of fruit flies have developed resistance to Mustang Maxx, malathion and Assail. I cannot overemphasize the importance of rotating different classes of insecticides  (i.e., different modes of actions/different IRAC numbers) for fruit fly management in order to avoid the development of insecticide resistance. There are a number of registered insecticides with different modes of action and short preharvest intervals (PHI) which are effective against fruit flies. These include: Assail 30 SG (IRAC 4A, 3 days PHI); Delegate WG and Entrust SC (IRAC 5, 7 days PHI); Malathion 5EC or 57% or 8 Aquamul (IRAC 1B, 3 days PHI); and Mustang Maxx (IRAC 3A, 1 Day PHI). Greg Loeb and Hans Walter- Peterson (Cornell) suggest using a variety of different classes of insecticides in a season (refer to articles – Managing Fruit Flies for Sour Rot in 2019 and Suggested Fruit Fly Insecticide Program for 2019 under Additional Links).  

Management of Sour Rot in the Winemaking Process
Like it or not, winemakers may be forced to deal with volatile acidity issues due to sour rot. Since I am not an enologist, I will suggest 2 articles below which provide information for dealing with this problem. In addition, winemakers can also contact Molly Kelly, Enology Extension Educator, Penn State at (e-mail: mxk1171@psu.edu, phone: 814-865-6840) for assistance.

Managing Sour Rotted Fruit in the Cellar. Denise Gardner. Updated: May 5, 2016.
https://extension.psu.edu/managing-sour-rotted-fruit-in-the-cellar

Sour Rot Stinks: Some Strategies for managing Volatile Acidity. Chris Gerling.  Veraison to Harvest. Statewide Vineyard Crop Development, Update #5. Sept. 2018.
https://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/sites/grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/files/shared/Veraison-To-Harvest-2018-Issue-5.pdf

Additional Links

For more comprehensive information concerning Sour Rot research and management of fruit flies, I highly recommend checking out the links below.

Defining and Developing Management Strategies for Sour Rot. Megan Hall, Gregory Loeb, and Wayne Wilcox. Appellation Cornell – Research News from Cornell’s Viticulture and Enology Program, Research Focus 2017-3.
https://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/sites/grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/files/shared/Research%20Focus%202017-3.pdf

Managing Fruit Flies for Sour Rot in 2019. Greg Loeb and Hans Walter-Peterson.   Lake Erie Regional Grape Program Newsletter, September 2019, pages 6-8. https://nygpadmin.cce.cornell.edu/pdf/newsletter_notes/pdf116_pdf.pdf

Suggested Fruit Fly Insecticide Program for 2019. Hans Walter-Peterson and Greg Loeb. Lake Erie Regional Grape Program Newsletter, September 2019, page 9.  https://nygpadmin.cce.cornell.edu/pdf/newsletter_notes/pdf116_pdf.pdf

A Visit at the 17th Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference

By Dr. Helene Hopfer, Assistant Professor of Food Science, Department of Food Science

In late July of 2019, I was fortunate to be able to participate at the 17th AWITC in Adelaide, Australia. I was invited to speak about our sensory regionality study on commercial Riesling and Vidal blanc wines from Pennsylvania. 

https://twitter.com/The_AWITC/status/1153522535956283392

Last year, Dr. Kathy Kelley wrote about her sabbatical leave in Australia, and provided an excellent overview into Australia’s wine industry, therefore, this blog post will focus on the presentations and posters at the conference. 

TheAustralian Wine Industry Technical Conference & Exhibition (AWITC)is happening every three years, organized by The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI)and the Australian Society of Viticulture & Oenology (ASVO). Combining plenary sessions, workshops, poster presentations and a large trade exhibition, the AWITC attracts a large audience (over 1,200 participants this year) primarily from the Australian wine industry. Over 4 days, every aspect of grape growing and wine making, from vineyard to grape vine to enology and wine consumers is covered, providing scientific stimulation and lots of discussion for the industry. Intended to present the latest research findings while at the same time being approachable and transferrable for industry members, the AWITC hosts a wide variety of speakers (academics, industry members, governmental speakers, as well as forward-thinking leaders from other industries). Proceedings and video webcasts of all talks will be made available online on the website, where also all past proceedings are made public. Lots of participants also live-tweeted from the conference, so many impressions can also be found on the official event twitter handle @The_AWITC.

The conference started out with a traditional welcome by a local Aboriginal leader from the Adelaide Plains people. Providing a Welcome to his people’s land and an invitation to learn and work collaboratively, his inspiring speech was a great kick-off to the event, followed by the official opening by the Australian Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. 

https://twitter.com/The_AWITC/status/1153080623080173568

In the first two sessions, the supply and demand for Australian wine and its future were evaluated. Following the official outlook from Wine Australia, Warren Randall provided a thought-provoking talk on China very soon becoming the number 1 wine-consuming nation in the world. Although individual wine consumption for Chinese is estimated to reach 1.6 L per person per year (compare to US consumers averaging to 3.1 L per person per year), the sheer number of Chinese middle-class consumers leads to an estimated additional need of 850 million L within the next 5 years. This additional need equates to 1.2 m tones of grape, about 71% of Australians total annual production! The Chinese will remain to be a net importer, particularly for quality wine – the question is though whether Australia will be able to satisfy this demand, especially with the severe drought many Australian grape-growing regions face.

https://twitter.com/RetallackViti/status/1153099001769496576 

The subsequent talks reiterated the importance of China as a major Australian wine importer as well as for Australian wine tourism: Brent Hill from the South Australian Tourism Commission presented compelling research showing that wine tourism improves brand recall and sales, independent of winery size. For example, international marketing campaigns in combination with direct flights to Adelaide led to tripling visits from China to wineries in South Australia. Wine tourism also aligns nicely with consumers’ demands for personalized products that align with their values. Health and Well-being are driving consumer preferences and will continue to do so, as presented by Shane Tremble from the Endeavor Drinks Group, a major alcoholic beverage retailer in Australia. 

The afternoon session was dedicated to diversity, equity, and inclusivity in the wine industry. Our own unconscious biases create barriers to enter the wine industry, especially for talents from underrepresented groups. Diversity, equity, and inclusivity is not just about social justice, but is a real business loss, especially as the wine consumer base becomes more and more diverse. How can we make sure to meet the needs of our consumers if we don’t really understand them and their needs?  

https://twitter.com/The_AWITC/status/1153159464062611456

A large portion of the meeting was dedicated to different aspects of climate change and how the wine industry will be able to continue doing business. A representative from a major insurance company presented on her company’s strategy to climate change, and managing risks associated with a changing climate – from special loans for businesses to lower their carbon footprint and greenhouse emissions to ways to manage physical risks such as flooding and bush fires, this presentation was eye-opening. Tools already available for growers, such as high-resolution weather data, provide action-able data for e.g., harvesting or irrigation. Clonal selection, vine training systems and better suited varieties and rootstocks are another tool in the toolbox to adapt to climate change, particularly to higher temperatures and increased incidences of drought, as demonstrated by Dr. Cornelis van Leeuwen from Bordeaux Sciences Agro.  

https://twitter.com/The_AWITC/status/1153198270383980544

Ending with the conference’s gala dinner, this first day proved to be full of insights and what the future may bring. 

The next day started off with the fresh science session, including research on how changing climate will also change insect and disease pressure: Using the example of sooty mold and scale insects, Dr. Paul Cooper presented data and models that show how warmer temperatures will influence occurrence of scale insects and subsequent sooty mold. Similar scenarios could become more prevalent in PA as well, as for example late harvest insect problems could appear at an earlier stage during berry ripening (see also this blog post by Jody Timmer).

On the enology-side, several presentations were given to look at smoke-taint remediation of wines, alternatives to bentonite fining with grape seed powder, and the mechanisms underlying autolytic flavors in sparkling wines. A particular interesting, but also terrifying talk was given by Caroline Bartel from the AWRI on increasing SO2tolerance of Brettanomyces bruxellensis strains: Over the past 3 years, the AWRI has seen an increased number of Brettanomyces strains that show greater tolerance to SO2, some exceeding 1 mg/L molecular SO2

https://twitter.com/HeleneH14/status/1153471125172572160

Biosecurity is a big topic for Australian grape growers, as almost all vineyards are own-rooted, including some of the oldest productive vineyards in the world being over 100 years old! This history is however under threat, as phylloxera has arrived in Victoria and New South Walesa few years ago. Managing the biosecurity threats and best practices to protect vineyards from not just phylloxera but also grapevine viruses was the overarching theme of this session. Showing data from the Napa Valley, Dr. Monica Cooper from UC Extension highlighted the importance of clean plant material when it comes to managing grape vine diseases: in a newly planted vineyard, not enough certified disease-free material was available, and hastily organized vines, infected with red blotch virus, were planted alongside healthy vines. Within a few years, 100% of infected vines had to be removed to avoid spreading of the disease into other parts of the vineyard and adjacent vineyards. 

https://twitter.com/The_AWITC/status/1153481714116657152

The last talk in the session was given by Dr. Antonio R. Grace from the Portuguese Association for Grapevine Diversity, who argues that clonal selection of grapevines may increase efficiency but decreases resilience, complexity, and diversity.

A particular interesting session was focusing on Agricultural Technology or AgTech – robots, drones, and intelligent robot swarms! A particular impressive and eye-opening talk was given by Andrew Bate from SwarmFarm, a farmer in Queensland who now develops and sells farming robots that oppose the trend for “bigger is better”: using a swarming approach (i.e., many smaller robots that operate autonomously for maximized efficiency and adaptability), he showcased how his approach is forward-thinking and sustainable, and fueled by his own experiences as a farmer and grower. If you can check out the videos on the website! 

https://twitter.com/The_AWITC/status/1153561941664604163

In a similar inspiring manner, Everard Edwards from the CSIRO presented on low-cost drones and sensors and how to use them in the vineyard to support decision-making: for example, a go-pro camera mounted on a small cart, driving along rows, could be used for yield estimation. The technology is already there, but we are still lacking the data algorithm to make sense out of the data. 

The day was finished up with the flash poster research presentations of wine science students. From glycosylated flavor compounds locked up in grape skins, to vintage compression and the effect of very high temperatures (over 50°C/122°F) for a short time on grape berry development and tannin content, these talks showcased the breath of wine research in the various Australian research institutions. Following the evening’s theme, the next day’s fresh science included a talk on how to remediate reductive aromas in wines. Among the tested treatments (DAP addition post-inoculation, donor lees added after malo-lactic fermentation, copper addition, macro-oxygenation, and a combination of copper and macro-oxygenation) macro-oxygenation once a day of 1.5 L/min O2for 2 hours yielded the most promising results while copper addition increased the risk of reductive characters developing post-bottling. Similarly, how to easier measure total and free copper in wines and juice was the topic of Dr. Andrew Clark’s presentation. Working at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centerin Wagga Wagga, Dr. Clark developed an easy spectrophotometric method to accurately and precisely measure free and total copper in wines. 

Last, a genetic study on Chardonnay revealed that the same clones (clone 95) shows a different number of mutations depending on where it is from.  

https://twitter.com/BKPinot/status/1153820039100784641

Besides the many fascinating talks and the impressive trade show, the meeting also offered lots of opportunities to taste Australian wines. I was lucky enough to participate in a guided tasting of a type of fortified wines unique to Australia: Presented with an impressive number of Rutherglen Muscatwines of all ages and classifications, I was able to experience this special wine style, and must admit that I brought back some bottles of these “stickies”. Made from Muscat a Petit Grains Rouge grapes (literally Muscat with little red berries), very ripe grapes, accumulating very high sugar content, are fermented and fortified with grape spirit, then aged from 3 up to 20+ years in barrels. Wines undergo a solera blending, transferring wines slowly from barrel to barrel until bottling. Flavors range from floral, honey and orange peel all the way to viscous, toasted and caramel flavors. If you ever have the opportunity to taste such wines, I would strongly encourage you to do so – even if this is not your style of liking, it is for sure a worthwhile sensory experience!

https://twitter.com/HeleneH14/status/1152918484881498113

Outside of the Conference I also had the chance to visit three remarkable places: The National Wine and Grape Industry Center (NWGIC) in Wagga Wagga, University of Adelaide and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) in Adelaide, and last, but not least, Penfold’s original winery in the Adelaide Hills for a special tour and tasting of the most expensive wine in Australia, the Grange. 

Impressions from the Tasting Room at the Charles Sturt University Cellar/ The National Grape and Wine Industry Center (NGWIC) in Wagga Wagga. (top left) Modern art wine labels for their Tumbarumba Chardonnay; (top right) Big Red hoping around the vineyard outside the tasting room. (bottom) Panorama view of the Charles Sturt University Cellar Tasting Room.
Sunset in the Sydney Habor overlooking the Opera House.
Penfold’s Magill Estate Winery overlooking Adelaide, located 15 min from Adelaide downtown. (top right) Lineup of Penfold’s most known wines – St. Henri Shiraz, Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, and the iconic multi-regional Grange Shiraz. (bottom left) Bottle of the first Grange made by Maz Schubert in 1951. (bottom right) Current release of Grange (vintage 2014), selling for $850/bottle. 

Testing soil microbial stimulators for enhancing vine health

By Justine Vanden Heuvel and Mariam Berdeja, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University

What are mycorrhizae?  

Grapevines benefit from a symbiotic relationship with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF).  Together the vine and the AMF form mycorrhizae, which play an important role in vine health, grapevine nutrition, and water relations.  A range of products – generally referred to as soil microbial stimulators – are sold with the goal of encouraging the formation of mycorrhizae. While anecdotal reports from the grape and wine industry suggest these products can provide a benefit to the vine, none have been systematically tested in Northeast vineyards.  

Arbuscular mycorrhizae penetrates the cortical cells of roots to form arbuscules (Fig. 1) to aid nutrient exchange. The hyphal coils are long, branched portions of the fungus that act as a virtual root system for the vine.  The hyphae enter the root and create vesicles for nutrient storage structures where nutrients are transferred between fungus and plant (arbuscules).

Fig 1. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal structures in the fine roots of grapevine. Samples were collected 5 months after inoculation. A: Arbuscules, HC: Hyphal coils, V: Vesicles, 40x magnified.

Greenhouse experiment

In order to screen products for further testing in vineyards, we initiated a greenhouse trial in 2019 using potted vines of Cabernet Sauvignon (own-rooted) and the rootstock 3309C. We decided to use only products that contained the species Glomus, as it has been shown to improve AMF formation on other crops.  (Note that many biofertilizers are for sale that do not contain Glomus). In the experiment, five commercial biofertilizers were compared to a control (Table 1).  Five months following application, the vines were destructively harvested to determine whether the biofertilizers had resulted in the formation of AMF and whether vine growth or nutrient acquisition was improved with the treatments. 

Product numberNameContained species 
1Big Foot ConcentrateGlomus intraradicesGlomus mossaeGlomus aggregatumGlomus etunicatumN,P,KHumic acidsSoftwood biocharWorm castings 
2BioOrganicGlomus mosseaeGlomus clarumGlomus aggregatumGlomus intraradicesGlomus deserticolaGlomus etunicatumGlomus monosporusGigaspora margaritaParaglomus brasilianum 
3MycoGrow SolubleGlomus intraradicesGlomus mosseaeGlomus aggregatumGlomus etunicatumbGlomus deserticolaGlomus monosporumGlomus clarumRhizopogon villosulusRhizopogon luteoulusRhizopogon amylopogonRhizopogon fulviglebaPisolithus tinctoriusSuillus granulatusLaccaria bicolor 
4MycoApply Endo GranularGlomus mossaeGlomus intraradicesGlomus aggregatumGlomus etunicatumClay 
5MycoApply All PurposeGlomus mossaeGlomus intraradicesGlomus aggregatumGlomus etunicatumRhizopogon villosullusRhizopogon luteolusRhizopogon amylopogonRhizopogon fulviglebaPisolithus tinctorius

Biofertilizers increased colonization by AMF

All five products tested increased the proportion of roots that were colonized by AMF (Fig. 2), although the Cabernet Sauvignon roots responded more strongly to the products than the 3309C roots. 

Fig 2. Significance differences were found among the treatments for AMF structures in cv. Cabernet Sauvignon and rootstock 3309C

Biofertilizers increased dry weight of vine organs

In general, the biofertilizers increased the dry weight of shoots, roots, and trunk in the vines (Fig. 3) likely as a result of increased nutrient content in the leaves (data not shown).  Most micro and macronutrients were increased in concentration in the treated vines. 

Fig 3. AMF increased shoot trunk and root biomass for all the treatments in cv. Cabernet Sauvignon and rootstock 3309C

Summary

All five of the products tested warranted further testing in the vineyard.  In a complimentary vineyard trial funded by the New York Farm Viability Institute, the products have also demonstrated their ability to form AMF in field-grown vines as well, although whether those AMF structures are increased long-term without repeated applications is unknown.

Acknowledgements

We thank the Pennsylvania Wine Marketing & Research Board for funding this research. 

Mid and Late-Season Grape Disease Control

By: Bryan Hed, Plant Pathology Research Technologist, Erie County

2018 was a disastrous season for many grape growers in Pennsylvania. Excessive rainfall occurred almost everywhere below Interstate 90 and some growers have told me it was their worst crop, ever.  Now, looking at various NEWA weather station locations across PA, it’s been shaping up to be another wet season in a lot of places, yet again. May rainfall was heavy in all but the Lake Erie region, with 6-9 inches of precipitation recorded across most of the state. Conditions lightened up a bit in June but were still wetter than average in most places (even in the Lake Erie region). But now, conditions in July actually appear to be drying up in a few (but not all) locations, giving some growers a break in terms of fungal disease management. 

Hopefully, most premium wine grape growers have already applied fruit-zone leaf removal to open their fruit to better sunlight and aeration and better pesticide penetration. The benefits of this practice cannot be overemphasized, and in our wet, humid climate, it is one of the most effective cultural treatments we know of for reducing the susceptibility of the crop to disease of all kinds (especially bunch/sour rots), and improving coverage, and therefore efficacy, of fruit protection sprays. If you haven’t yet applied this treatment, it is not too late, though the benefits of leaf removal may be reduced the later it is applied. There is also a greater danger of sunburn on your fruit the later it is applied, and for that reason you may want to confine your leaf removal at this time to the east or north side of the trellis (depending on row orientation), especially in areas where very hot mid/late summer temperatures are expected. 

And with that, let’s talk about diseases and their control for the remainder of the season. Much of this information has already been covered in previous blogs in previous years, and I have borrowed some information from those blogs here (no need to reinvent the wheel). 

Downy mildew

As you know all too well, wet years are ideal for downy mildew. At about this time, the fruit of most grape varieties are resistant to this disease, but cluster stems may remain susceptible for a couple of weeks after fruit are resistant, and leaves will remain susceptible all season. If the weather remains wet or wet weather returns, downy mildew can be a serious threat to grape canopies and ripening, until harvest. Continue scouting for the distinctive white ‘downy’ sporulation on the undersides of leaves. Growers of susceptible varieties need to keep closely monitoring their vineyards for active sporulation and use that information in combination with the DMCast model on NEWA (http://www.newa.cornell.edu/) to determine if and when infection periods occurred.

If you see active, white sporulation on the undersides of leaves, the downy mildew pathogen is capable of spreading quickly under wet conditions. Even humid nights that result in heavy dews by morning, can continue to fuel downy mildew development. Once out of control, it can strip vines of their leaves and effectively end fruit ripening for this year and shoot ripening for next year’s crop. It could also mean your grapevines will go into winter dormancy at less than optimal hardiness and more vulnerable to damage by severe cold, leading to another bout with crown gall and trunk renewal to have to deal with for years to come. All these issues are connected, and this is definitely a disease you want to keep under very tight control, especially on Vitis vinifera. 

If you find yourself trying to control this disease well into the ripening period, be aware that your list of chemical control options will start to dwindle as we get within 30 (Ranman, Reason), then 21 (Ziram), then 14 (Revus, Revus Top, Zampro) days of harvest, until in the end you’ll be left with Captan, copper, and phosphorous acid products (0 day pre-harvest interval), which have their shortcomings, discussed below.

Another reason to keep this disease well under control is that products like Ranman, Reason, Revus/Revus Top, and Zampro, all contain chemistries that are prone to the development of resistance, and should not be used to put down an epidemic, which will speed up the resistance development process. Even phosphorous acid products, which are less prone to resistance development, can be lost to resistance through repeated applications on a heavily diseased vineyard. I know this is probably the last thing on your mind when your vineyard is under an attack of epidemic proportions, but still another good reason to keep downy mildew well in hand. 

Conversely, Captan or copper fungicides would be least risky in terms of the development of resistance and can be an effective means of controlling downy mildew late into the growing season. Just be aware that formulations of Captan have seasonal limits, so plan ahead if you can. There are also some insecticides that should not be applied with Captan. Also, keep in mind the risk for injury by copper applications, and that copper injury will be exacerbated by application under slow drying conditions and application to wet canopies (for example, don’t make applications to dew covered canopies in the early morning). It’s also important to consider that copper is poisonous to yeasts and that excessive copper residues at harvest can interfere with fermentation, and wine stability and quality. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict how high residues will be on fruit at harvest; that’s going to depend on the copper formulation (fortunately some of the newer coppers utilize lower copper concentrations), rate of material used, spray coverage, and amount of rainfall from application to harvest. I am not aware of any information that establishes a nice, clean cut-off date or pre-harvest interval for avoiding excessive copper residues at harvest. There is also some evidence that late Captan sprays can cause problems in the winemaking process, in terms of delaying fermentation and negative effects on wine quality but the consequences seem less severe and irreversible.  For more on this, consider this online article by Dr. Annemiek Schilder, former fruit pathologist at Michigan State University.

If you are protecting a non-bearing, young vineyard from downy mildew (you’re not selling/harvesting a crop), you can continue to use mancozeb products to control downy mildew past the 66-day pre-harvest interval. You can also consider using mancozeb after harvest to keep canopies clean of downy mildew and ‘firing on all cylinders’ until that first frost. The longer your vines can continue to produce and store carbohydrates after harvest, the better prepared they’ll be to withstand winter cold. 

Fluffy, white downy mildew sporulation on the underside of a grape leaf

Powdery mildew

Good control of powdery mildew is also very challenging in wet years when humidity levels remain ‘through the roof’ and cloud cover occurs for extended periods of time. Now that we are largely past the fruit protection period, our focus is on keeping leaves clean, especially on V. vinifera, for about 6-8 more weeks. I say this for many of the same reasons expounded in the section about downy mildew (ensure optimal ripening of fruit and shoots/canes, ensure optimal cold hardiness, more effectively and more easily manage fungicide resistance, etc). But there is another very important reason, demonstrated by some excellent research conducted by Wayne Wilcox, Dave Gadoury and graduate students at Cornell University, who showed that controlling powdery mildew up to about Labor Day can also go a long way to reducing overwintering inoculum and disease pressure the following spring. Why Labor Day? When powdery mildew infected leaves die by that first hard frost in fall, the mildew on those leaves stops developing and also dies…unless it has had time to form fully mature, winter resistant structures called chasmothecia. In other words, if the chasmothecia in a powdery mildew colony on a leaf, do not have time to fully mature before the leaf dies, they will not be tough enough to survive the dormant period (winter) and will not contribute to the bank of primary inoculum that infection periods draw upon the following spring. Knowing this, a grower can get a better handle on the ‘size’ of the powdery mildew problems he/she will potentially face next spring and the spring after that, and so on. If, for example, you had heavy powdery mildew development earlier in this season (on clusters and/or leaves), expect to have to deal with powdery mildew early next season and you’ll have to take appropriate action during early shoot growth stages with preventive fungicide sprays. Once again, this is particularly important if you are growing Vitis vinifera and much less important for growers of native varieties like Concord and Niagara. 

Greyish-white colonies of powdery mildew growing across the upper surface of grape leaves

Botrytis bunch rot control

If you’re growing bunch rot susceptible wine grape varieties, you have already applied a Botrytis specific fungicide at full bloom and probably pre-closure (?) This is because Botrytis infections can occur during bloom and early fruit development under wet conditions (which most of us have had). These Botrytis infections of the clusters usually remain dormant, or ‘latent’, and do not result in active rot of the fruit…until after veraison, when injury to berries or high humidity, or some other factor (research has not completely determined all the factors involved) may lead to activation of a percentage of these infections and cause clusters to rot. 

In varieties with very compact clusters, the pre-closure application may be extremely important as it may be your last opportunity to get protective fungicide residues onto the interior surfaces of clusters. Along with the bloom spray, this spray will also help to reduce ‘latent’ Botrytis infections that continue to accumulate throughout the ‘green’ berry development period. The pre-closure spray may also be a good opportunity to clean clusters of bloom trash (dead cap and stamen tissue that got stuck in the clusters after bloom). Bloom trash provides a substrate for Botrytis and serves as a focal point for bunch rots to develop later in the season, from inside clusters. The compactness of clusters plays an important role in not only the retention of bloom trash (the tighter the cluster, the more bloom trash retained) but also the effect of retained bloom trash on cluster rot; as compactness increases, the enhancement of bunch rot by retained bloom trash increases. 

Another bunch rot control measure is leaf removal around clusters, which we’ve already discussed above. It is an expensive operation to add to your production costs and is most cost-effectively applied by machine (machinery costs aside). We have found that it can be mechanized most effectively if vines are trained to a vertical shoot positioned (VSP) or some other two-dimensional trellis system with a relatively focused and narrow cluster zone. One additional benefit of leaf removal that I haven’t mentioned yet is the fact that it can also reduce bloom trash retained in clusters: when comparing clusters of vines treated with and without leaf removal, we noted a significant reduction in bloom trash where leaves were removed, regardless of timing or method (by hand or machine). 

Our next fungicide application for Botrytis is made just before or at veraison. As fruit begin to soften and skins become thinner and more easily penetrated by fungal pathogens like Botrytis, an application at this time, to rot prone varieties, is a good way to stave off bunch rot development. After veraison, fruit also becomes more susceptible and more likely to become injured by birds, insects, excess moisture/humidity, and overcrowding of berries in tight clusters. Botrytis fungicides can protect intact fruit surfaces and may help to reduce the spread of Botrytis rot on fruit, even after they have become injured. 

Lastly, an application about 2-3 weeks after veraison, especially under wet weather conditions, can reduce further rot development during the last stretch of ripening. Keep in mind that Botrytis fungicides control Botrytis and will not provide protection against sour rot organisms that often destroy the fruit of overly compact clusters, despite the application of a full Botrytis fungicide program.

And speaking of sour rot…

In case you haven’t already heard, there is some relatively new information on sour rot control that I would like to impart. It’s been included in previous blogs as well and that information was presented earlier this year at the Mid Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey PA. However, it bears repeating it here. It originated from work conducted by Dr. Megan Hall, a former graduate student of Wayne Wilcox at Cornell University, and it demonstrates how additional pesticide applications during the latter stages of ripening (beginning around 15 brix) can significantly reduce the development of sour rot, which for many premium wine grape growers in PA, is public enemy no. 1 at harvest. Her incredibly thorough work has shown a close connection between fruit flies and sour rot development. It turns out that the presence of the flies is important to the accumulation/generation of acetic acid in rotting fruit. Treatments composed of weekly, tank-mix applications of an insecticide (to control the flies) and an antimicrobial (to kill bacteria) have been found to reduce sour rots by 50-80% over unsprayed vines. So far, the best results appear to occur when weekly sprays are initiated before sour rot symptoms are observed (preventive sprays before about 15 brix). This exciting work should provide yet another effective option for sour rot control in the wet, humid parts of the eastern U.S. and we are looking forward to hearing more about this rot control option in the near future.

Lastly, don’t forget how important good canopy and fertility management is to the efficacy of your expensive Botrytis fungicide and sour rot pesticide applications. It’s always a good idea to make sure your shoots are well tucked and spaced within the catch wires, and summer pruning has removed shoots ends that may block sprays from thoroughly penetrating the fruit zone, just before you make each Botrytis fungicide application. We like to wait as long as possible to trim shoot tips because of the effect on lateral growth stimulation, but make sure excessively long shoots have not flopped over to block spray penetration into the fruit zone. Limiting shoot growth after veraison with good canopy and fertility management will also limit the supply of new green tissue that is hyper susceptible to powdery and downy mildew and will contribute to more effective late-season management of these diseases as well.   

For further reading on this and many other disease management topics, refer to the 2019 New York and Pennsylvania Pest Management Guidelines for Grapes. If you don’t have a copy, you can get one through Cornell University Press. Every commercial grape production operation should have one! 

Cleaning and Sanitizing Winery Equipment: Stainless Steel, Barrels, Bottling Lines

By Dr. Molly Kelly, Enology Extension Educator, Department of Food Science

As we approach harvest, we should be reviewing our sanitation protocols both in the vineyard and winery. In this article we will focus on effective cleaning and sanitizing in the winery, specifically winery equipment to make sure certain objectives are met:

  • To continually improve wine quality 
  • To reduce quality concerns
  • To ultimately operate cost-effectively…by annually producing both a quality wine and reaching the targeted financial return
  • To reduce food safety concerns

Stainless Steel Winery Equipment

During normal service, all grades and finishes of stainless steel may in fact stain, discolor, or attain an adhering layer of grime.  What considerations should one take regarding maintaining stainless steel equipment and the related use of cleaners and sanitizers?  The frequency and cost of cleaning stainless steel is lower than for many other materials and often out-weighs the higher acquisition costs. Generally, the frequency of cleaning should be determined by the objective to “clean the metal when it is dirty in order to restore its original appearance.”

So, the degree of cleaning depends on the condition of stainless steel equipment:

  • Routine Maintenance – mild cleaning
  • Mildly aggressive cleaning to remove minor surface dirt:  use sponge or bristle brush with a non-abrasive cleaner and warm water; towel dry. To prevent compromising the integrity of the protective oxide coating on stainless steel, only soft-bristle brushes should be used in the case where scrubbing is required.
  • More aggressive, for example, grease:  repeat above, then use a hydrocarbon solvent such as acetone or alcohol.
  • Aggressive cleaning to remove stains or light rust:  use a chrome, brass, silver cleaner and mild non-scratching creams and polishes.
  • Most aggressive to remove stubborn mineral deposits:  use phosphoric acid (10-15% solution) – apply with a soft cloth and let stand; no rubbing.  Follow with ammonia and water rinse; rinse with hot water.  Note that nitric acid is effective too but tends to degrade gasket material.

General Cleaning and Sanitizing Sequence: 

1. Begin with a cold water, high-pressure rinse.  Cleaning with high-pressure is most effective when the spray is directed at an angle to surface being cleaned.  One may also use warm water (100-109 F) in high-pressure systems; this tends to reduce time.

2.  Use a strong inorganic alkaline solution; such alkaline cleaners effectively dissolve acid soils and food wastes. Examples of alkaline cleaning agents are caustic soda (NaOH), soda ash (KOH), trisodium phosphate (TSP) and sodium metasilicate.  Carefully follow instructions because such alkalis are very corrosive to stainless steel if used incorrectly.  A mild acid (citric) will neutralize alkaline detergent residues, dissolve the mineral deposits and prevent spotting.  As a rule, soda ash (KOH) rinses better than caustic soda (NaOH).

3. Continue with a cold water, high-pressure rinse.

4. Sanitizer Options:  

a.  Water and Steam

  • Hot water (180 F) and steam are ideal sterilants:  they are noncorrosive, penetrative of surfaces, and effective against juice/wine microorganisms.  
    • Use hot water for 20 minutes (at 180 F).
    • If steam, use until condensate from valves reaches 180 F for 20 minutes.

b.  Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), combined with peroxyacetic acid.  

Note that “acid-anionic” sanitizers such as peroxyacetic acid are effective at lower than ambient temperatures; remove biofilms; and are effective against bacterial spores. The low foam characteristics make them ideal for Clean-in-Place (CIP) applications.  Although peroxyacetic acid must be used in well-ventilated area, it is ecologically harmless by decomposing into acetic acid, oxygen, and water.

  • Rinse: QAC solutions may leave objectionable films on equipment and should be rinsed off with fresh cold water, high-pressure rinse.
  • Final rinse: a hot water, high-pressure rinse. Ideally, heat-sterilized water should be used for this final rinse.  
  • Ozone treatment (optional)
  • NOTE: Remember to remove tank valves, take apart and clean prior to harvest.

Barrels

There are many different barrel cleaning methods:

  • High-pressure water, hot or cold
  • Steam
  • Caustic chemicals
  • Ozone
  • SO2 (in any form: wicks, liquid, gas)
  • Dry ice blasting
  • Ultrasound
  • Shaving

In selecting which method to use, consider the effects on aroma/flavor extraction, tartrate removal, microbial reductions, water usage, power usage, worker safety, and cost.

The following are recommended cleaning and sanitizing sequences, based on barrel status.

New Barrels/Fault-Free Barrels

  • Cold water, high-pressure rinse, 1-3 minutes
  • High-pressure steam rinse, 1-3 minutes
  • Repeat cold and steam rinses twice more
  • Either refill with clean wine or
    • Fill with water
      • add ozone, if available
      • follow with water + 45 ppm SO2/90 ppm citrate
  • After 1-4 days, empty and refill with wine or empty and burn sulfur wick, re-bung, and store; or, if using the gas, inject SO2for three to five seconds.
  • If the barrel is to be long-term stored, dissolve and add 45 grams of potassium metabisulfite (KMS) and 180 grams of citric acid; then top the barrel with water. Be sure to top the barrel with plain water every couple of weeks. When you’re ready to use the barrel, empty and rinse twice; then fill with wine.

Likely Fault-Free Barrels, but Unsure

  • Sodium percarbonate washes (Proxycarb) are an excellent option for addressing potential off-flavors.  Citric acid washes are then used to neutralize residual chemicals.  Once the barrel has been cleaned, allow the barrel to dry completely on a rack with the bunghole facing down.  Sodium percarbonate is better than hydrogen peroxide: it is more stable at application concentration (100-200 mg/L), has improved compatibility with hard water, and reduced foaming tendencies.
  • When the barrel is dry, burn 10-20 grams of sulfur wick per barrel; or, if using the gas, inject SOfor three to five seconds.  
  • Place either a paper cup, wooden shipping bung, or other in the bunghole.
  • Check sulfur level every 3-4 weeks and re-sulfur as necessary.

Tannin and Tartrate Deposit Removal

  • Removal of tannins:  Alkaline solutions (soaking with 1% sodium carbonate) are most effective in removing tannins from new barrels.  If further treatment is necessary, steam and several rinses should be applied.
  • Removal of tartrate deposits:  scraping is labor intensive and may injure wood. Instead, use a circular spray head. For stubborn deposits, soaking with 1 kg of soda ash and caustic soda in 100 L of water is effective.

Faulty Barrels

  • Option 1: Remove from winery and sell for non-wine uses
  • Option 2: Clean, sterilize, and re-use, if worth the cost
    • Use same rinse cycles as per barrels without faulty aromas or tastes.
    • Fill with water, put steam wand in water and bring water to 160-180°F, steam periodically to maintain temperature for 4-6 hours and
      • add ozone, if available
      • follow with water + 45 ppm SO2/90 ppm citrate
    • After 1-4 days, empty and burn sulfur wick, re-bung, and store.
    • After 1-4 weeks, rinse and fill with clean water; after 1 week, take samples and then add 90 ppm SO2/180 ppm citrate while doing microbiological assay of samples.
    • If samples are negative for spoilage microorganisms, re-use barrel, but sample periodically.

Bottling Room Equipment

The bottling and packaging function is one of the most critical steps in wine production because there are many opportunities for problems (people with different responsibilities, multiple wines to bottle, and operation and maintenance of multiple equipment stations).

Are sterile bottling rooms necessary?  No, but the bottling area should be screened-off from fermentation areas and excessive air movement, and the room itself should have easily sanitized floors, walls, and ceilings.

General Cleaning and Sanitizing Sequence: 

  • Cold water, high-pressure rinse
    • Mild alkaline detergent solution
    • Cold water, high-pressure rinse
    • Quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), combined with peroxyacetic acid.  
    • Cold water, high-pressure rinse
    • Sanitization: Hot water and steam used to sanitize bottling line
      • 80-90F for 30 minutes
      • 180F for 20 minutes; or
      • Ozone for 20-30 minutes; or
      • Use of iodophors (iodine-based sanitizers): broad-spectrum – active against bacteria, viruses, yeasts, molds, fungi.  Follow instructions carefully to avoid potential TCA problems; follow with a hot water, high-pressure rinse.

Prior to bottling, add enough SO2to ensure enough free SO2for 0.8 ppm molecular SO2. Add a little bit extra – to account for free SO2loss during bottling. Generally, target a free SO2that is 10 to 15 ppm higher than the level of free SO2needed for 0.8 ppm molecular SO2.  Also, target more or less depending on trauma of bottling method (O2pick up)

Recommendations during operation of the bottling line:

  • Wine spills as a source of contamination should be countered by regular and proper cleaning
  • Filter-pad trays should be emptied often, and related wine spills quickly rinsed away with a sanitizing agent
  • Fill bowls: Mist filler spouts with 70% ethanol to inhibit microbial growth
  • Corker: will likely have spilled wine, so use ethanol misting of corker jaws during bottling
  • Floor drain gutters should be kept clean by frequent rinsing
  • Activity: Limit number of people around the filling/corking area
  • Daily sanitation…hot water or steam…20 minutes at 180F
  • At least weekly, clean with caustic cleaners followed by hot water sanitation.
  • Collect bottles for analysis hourly and immediately after start-up and breaks.

References:

Butzke, C., Barrel Maintenance, Dept. of Food Science, Purdue University, 2007.

Carter, James, There’s a Right Way to Clean and Sanitizing your Facility, Food Quality.com

Donnelly, David M, Airborne Microbial Contamination in a Winery Bottling Room, Am. J. Enol Vitic, Vol 28, #3, 1977

Fugelsang, Kenneth; Edward, Charles G. Wine Microbiology, 2nd Edition, 2010. Springer-Verlag New York Inc. (Chapter 9, Winery Cleaning and Sanitizing)

Marriott, Norman G.; Gravani, Robert B.  Principles of Food Sanitation, 5thEdition, 2006. Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. (pp 361-367)

Howe, P., ETS Laboratories, SOWI “Current Issues” Workshops March 2011. 

Menke, S., Cleansers and Sanitizers, Penn State Enology Extension, 2007.

Tracy, R. and Skaalen, B. Jan/Feb 2009. Bottling-last line of microbial defense. Practical Winery and Vineyard

Worobo, Randy W., Non-chlorine Sanitizer Options for the Wineries, 33th Annual New York Wine Industry Workshop

Zoecklein, B. et al, Wine Analysis and Production, Aspen Publishers, 1999.

Barrel Care  http://www.boswellcompany.com/barrel-care/

Maintaining and Cleaning Stainless Steel  http://www.evapco.eu/sites/evapco.eu/files/white_papers/40-Cleaning-Stainless-Steel.pdf

Stainless Steel – Cleaning, Care and Maintenance  http://www.azom.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=1182

Taking Care of Your Barrels   https://barrelbuilders.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/06-16-Barrel-Care.pdf

Summary of the Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division Direct-to Consumer Wine Sales videocast, Part 1

By Dr. Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management

Each year, The Silicon Valley Bank’s Wine Division releases a State of the Wine Industry Report. This is followed by a videocast overview in January, and then a videocast focusing on Direct-to-Consumer Wine Sales in May.  For more information about these products and events click on this link: www.svb.com/premium-wine-banking.  On Wednesday, I watched Part 1 of the Silicon Valley Bank “Insights for Successful Consumer Wine Sales” videocast.  If you missed the live videocast, you can watch the recording and/or sign up for Part 2, which will air on May 29, 2019, via this link: http://bit.ly/2EvkV9g.  Both videocasts will be the subject of Cryril Penn’s July 1 Wine Business Monthly article. Until then, I decided to write a blog post to give you an idea of some of the main themes discussed during videocast, as well as examples of how you can utilize the information at your own winery and tasting rooms.  

In-home Experiences/Tasting Opportunities: Personalization and Convenience 

The panel discussed the fact that subscription boxes are popular – in fact, the industry was estimated to be worth at least $10 billion in 2018 (http://bit.ly/30C1WmK). Subscription boxes are offered based on “who” the box is for (e.g., age range, gender, pet owner), interests (e.g., food, wine, fitness, environmentally friendly products), usage (e.g., beauty and clothing, education, cleaning), and are often “mass customized.”  As with one specific wine-based subscription box, new subscribers answer survey questions, after which each package is semi-personalized with products that are most likely to appeal.  

Perhaps you are wondering how you can take advantage of this trend.  Whether you have an existing club/loyalty program or if you have considered doing so, you can implement the “best practices” that make subscription clubs so popular.  A couple of these include:

1)    Incorporate user-generated content (UGC)

UGCs are customer reviews that include photos and/or video, in addition to text, that describes the user’s experience (think Amazon reviews), which companies then repost on their own social media accounts.  

Why is this type of review valuable?  As reported by Michale Ugino, co-founder & CMO of Sellbrite, the following are reasons why you should repost UGC on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, etc. (http://bit.ly/2YN7YiR):

  • a majority of adults in the U.S. use social media,
  • customers trust what other viewers say about the product – even if they are strangers – more than they trust “brand-created content,”
  • video and photos are more engaging compared to text-only posts,
  • with the need for brands to post frequently to remain relevant on social media – such content can help keep your tasting room front and center on followers’ feeds, and
  • aside from the time needed to locate and repost the content – it is free. 

This makes sense – if your customers are “on” Instagram, for example, why not use this outlet to showcase “real people” as they talk about how much they enjoy your wine or the great time they had in your tasting room (http://bit.ly/2YN7YiR).  

While you can use a tool like Google Alerts to receive email notifications when something is posted about your brand online, you will need to develop a hashtag, use it consistently in your posts, encourage others to use the hashtag in what they post, and monitor its use.  You can read about how several bands have used UGC successfully by accessing Ugino’s article: http://bit.ly/2YN7YiR.  

2)    Elements of surprise  

If your current club allows members to select the exact number bottles and varietals of wine they receive in a shipment, you might find that other customers look forward to “surprise” packages that they receive, and that part of the excitement is in the “reveal.” Excitement builds throughout the process – starting from the date when the customer expects the box to arrive, to when the box is delivered to the mailbox/doorstep, and peaks when the customer beaks open the package and inspects each item.  

Even if a particular item does not exactly appeal – most likely the recipient will give it a try and/or pass it on to a friend/family member, which further extends the brand’s reach and potential clientele base.   Perhaps you have seen the commercials for certain subscription boxes that air before the shipment – giving a “sneak peek” as to what the subscriber will receive – and then after all boxes have been shipped – when additional videos provide subscribers with information on how to use the product (even if a detailed card or booklet is included in the box with photos and usage instructions).  

Think about the impact you could have with creating short videos and posting them on social media sites that 1) provide a sneak peek as to what is in the subscription box and 2) a longer video (or series of videos) that provide descriptions of the wine, what to pair them with, how long they can be stored, how to store them, etc. 

While you may feel more comfortable recording and editing a video before it is posted – having a live event will give you the opportunity to ask and answer viewer question.  You may have already produced videos that describe these elements for some of your wines, but if the videos are released in tandem with the delivery – there might be a stronger connection, interest in the content, and viewership.   Just another strategy for developing content to stay relevant and on your followers’ screens.  

What are other ways that you can provide a level of convenience and personalization?  Think about how you can enhance the online shopping experience with delivery and in-store pickup.  Do you and your tasting room staff suggest tie-in products that complete the main purchase, or recommending purchase based on past behaviors?  There is at least one way that winery tasting rooms can offer convenience and potentially increase transaction size. 

Lingering 

The panelists not only had experience in the wine industry but in other “traditional” industries that are also seeing a maturing customer base and searching for ways to appeal to Gen Y (born between 1977 and 1994; http://bit.ly/2W1xWSB) and Gen Z (born between 1995 and 2012) consumers.  

One of the issues that arose during the discussion was how these generations behave differently from more mature consumers in tasting rooms, restaurants, and similar.  Past blog posts have described how important experiences are to these young consumers and that the value received needs to be justified by the price paid.   Price is certainly a consideration for these young consumers who likely have less discretionary income than older generations, and these young wine drinkers may be choosing tasting rooms based on the fee they will pay, but they are also selecting them based on the value of the overall experience.  

Videocast host Rob McMillan, EVP and Founder, Premium Wine Division, Silicon Valley Bank, provided an example as to how his step-daughter selected a tasting room based on the tasting room fee, outdoor lounging area, and activities offered (cornhole game area). This particular group was looking for a tasting experience during which they did not feel rushed and where they could “linger” or hang out and have a good time.  

I have shared the image below of a winery tasting room in Australia that had a driving range guests could use to practice their golf swing while consuming wine, beer, and cider. As I observed the group using the driving range (which was available for a fee), they were relaxed, socialized, and spent more on food and beverages than visitors who were participating in an informal tasting – and the demand on the staffs’ time was very minimal.  

Driving range at Sidewood Estate, South Australia

Lisa H. Kislak, Chief Markering Officer, Crimson Wine Group, discussed the value of “soft seating” and that it is a concept recognized in the restaurant industry – flexibility in space (like many modern hotel lobbies).  Such spaces will allow for lingering and create an atmosphere that encourages this type of behavior.  

The inclination may be to create a large space for visitors to chillax; however, first create a small area and evaluate the response (as with any changes that you make to your wine, selection, etc.) to determine if response is positive, how positive the response was, and then make the decision to increase the offering based on these data. The area you create could be as simple as a few picnic benches and tables or a bit more stylish like the example below.  

Outdoor recreation and seating area at Jacob’s Creek Winery, South Australia

Tastings by Reservation

While many of your tasting room visitors enjoy the freedom to walk in without having to plan too much in advance, others may enjoy the ability to make reservations for a more involved tasting – which may include a number of benefits: 1) time-stressed individuals know they will not have to wait long for staff to pour samples, 2) assurance that staff will be available and able to answer questions, and 3) access to reserved wines.  

I witnessed this several times at several Australian wineries where a dedicated tasting bar area was set aside for this purpose.  A “premium” fee was charged for the tasting and the staff member who oversaw the tasting was one of their seasoned employees who could answer any questions guests asked.  These factors elevated the tasting room experience and even though visitors paid more for a tasting – the value they received was well worth it.  Perhaps, as a result of the heightened level of satisfaction during their experience, they had an increased interest in the wines, willingness to follow the tasting room on social media, and likelihood of writing a positive online review.  

Collect Data from all Customers

I often write about data collection and analysis in my blog posts, as there is great power in knowing what appeals to tasting room visitors.  Though it is fairly easy to collect data, track purchases, and communicate with club/loyalty program members, if you are not learning about who is visiting your trashing room/purchasing online and who are not members of your club – you are missing out.  

So, how might you collect data from visitors who (for one reason or another) have not/chose not to join the loyalty program?  If you offer a tasting that requires a reservation, customers should provide the minimum: name, city/state (to learn from how far visitors travel, if there are “pockets” of households where visitors live and that could be the basis for targeting), email (to send a confirmation email and make it easier for the recipient to signup for an email newsletter), cell phone number (additional way to send the confirmation for the tasting and for him/her to signup to receive texts about upcoming events).  

However, there is also the opportunity to ask about preferences (to tailor the tasting to their interests, select the appropriate person to oversee the tasting, etc.), consumption frequency (to suggest club membership type/level that might fit their needs), how they learned about the tasting room (for future promotional efforts), etc.  The reservation form/system should also provide links to Facebook, Instagram, etc. and encourage recipients to follow the tasting room and key staff.  

Tammy Boatright, President of VingDirect, encouraged viewers to evaluate customers based on how frequently they purchase, when the most recent purchase was made, and how much consumers spend on each occasion and annually.  This will allow you to segment customers and identify who purchases your wines online vs in the tasting room, who purchases more frequently, and/or spends more per transaction.  From there you can develop promotions or events that would appeal to groups that exhibit similar interests.  Perhaps, if you find that a certain group of visitors only visit your tasting room or make an online purchase around the holidays, you could develop a targeted promotion to entice them to visit during periods in between.