Winemaking in Austria: An introduction and comments from an 8th generation winemaker

By Dr. Helene Hopfer

Since starting to work at Penn State last year, I am excited about all these local wines made of Austrian varieties. As a native Austrian, Grüner Veltliner, Zeigelt, and Blaufränkisch (called Lemburger in Germany and Kékfrankos in Hungary) and in particular, the (even) lesser known Rotgipfler, Zierfandler and St. Laurent, are near and dear to my heart (and my palate).

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The more I learn about viticulture in Pennsylvania, the more similarities I discover: Similar to Pennsylvania, Austrian growers worry about late spring frosts, fungal pressure and fruit rot, wet summers, and damaging hail events [1]. So it is only fitting to provide some details and insight to Austrian winegrowing and winemaking through this blog post.

Located in the heart of Middle Europe, the Austrian climate is influenced by a continental Pannonian climate from the East, a moderate Atlantic climate from the West, cooler air from the north and an Illyrian Mediterranean climate from the South. Over the past decades, the number of very hot and dry summers is increasing, leading to more interest in irrigation systems, as on average the annual average temperature in Austrian wine growing areas increased between 0.3 to 1˚C since 1990 [2].

 

Austrian wine growers also see a move towards larger operations: Similar to other wine regions in Europe, the average vineyard area per producer is increasing, from 1.28 ha / 3.16 acres in 1987 to 3.22 ha / 7.96 acres per producer in 2015. Many very small producers who often run their operations besides full-time jobs are now selling grapes or leasing their vineyards to larger wineries. A similar trend is true for wineries [2].

 

Different to other countries where widely known varieties like Chardonnay or Pinot noir make up the majority of plantings, the most commonly planted grape varieties in Austria are the indigenous Grüner Veltiner (nearly 50% of all whites) and Zweigelt (42% of all reds), followed by the white Welschriesling and the red Blaufränkisch (Lemburger).  Another interesting fact is that over 80% of all planted vines are 10 years or older, with 30% of all vines being more than 30+ years old [2].

 
The Austrian wine market is very small on a global scale, with just over 45,000 hectares / ~ 112,000 acres of planted and producing vineyards by around 14,000 producers nation-wide [2]. Nevertheless, Austrian wine exports are steadily increasing, particularly into countries outside of the European Union, such as the USA, Canada, and Hongkong, indicating a strong interest in this small wine-producing country. Austrian wines are considered high quality, attributable to one of the strictest wine law in the world, the result of the infamous wine scandal of 1985 [3]. Today, the law regulates enological treatments (e.g., chaptalization, deacidification, and blending), levels and definitions of wine quality (e.g., the “Qualitätswein” designation requires a federal evaluation of chemical and sensory compliance), and viticultural parameters such as maximum permitted yield of 9 tons/ha or 67.5 hL/ha and permitted grape cultivars (currently 36 different varieties) [4].

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One of the leading figures in developing the now well-established Austrian wine law was Johann Stadlmann, then president of the Austrian Wine Growers’ Association. During his 5-year tenure starting in 1985 at the peak of the wine scandal, he made sure that the wine law could be implemented in every winery and ensured strict standards; Johann Stadlmann could be called the father of the Austrian ‘Weinwunder’ (=’wine miracle’), the conversion of Austria as a mass-producing wine country to one with an emphasis on high quality.

 

Weingut Stadlmann – an estate with a very long history

If you ever visit Austria, you most likely fly into Vienna, the country’s capital. Vienna is one of the few cities in the world that also has producing vineyards located within city limits. Just outside of the city limits to the South, lies another important wine region in Austria, the so-called ‘Thermenregion’, named after thermal springs in the region. The region has a long wine history, dating back to the ancient Romans, and later Burgundian monks in the Middle Ages. The region is characterized by hot summers and dry falls, with a continuous breeze that reduces fungal pressure. One of the leading producers within the region is the Weingut Stadlmann, dating back to 1778 and now run by the eighth generation, Bernhard Stadlmann. He is the latest in a line of highly skilled winemakers that combine innovation with a conservative approach. His grandfather, Johann Stadlmann (yes, the same guy of the Austrian wine law), was one of the first ones in Austria to use single vineyard designations on his wine labels. Bernhard’s father, Johann Stadlmann VII, a master in creating wines from varieties only grown in this region, and named ‘winemaker of the year’ in 1994, is known for his careful approach and is now working alongside his son, Bernhard. In 2007, Bernhard started the conversion of the family-owned vineyards to certified organic. The family cultivates some of the best vineyards in Austria, including the single vineyard designations ‘Mandel-Höh’, ‘Tagelsteiner’, ‘Igeln’, and ‘Höfen’, planted with the indigenous varieties Zierfandler and Rotgipfler only grown here in the region. Wines from these vineyards are among the very best Austria can offer!

 

The vineyards cultivated by the Stadlmann family also differ quite dramatically in soil composition: While the ‘Mandel-Höh’ vineyard is highly permeable to water and nutrients, with lots of ‘Muschelkalk’ (limestone soil formed of fossilized mussels shells), is the ‘Taglsteiner’ vineyard characterized by more fertile and heavier ‘Braunerde’ soil, capable of retaining more water.

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The long winemaking history becomes apparent once one steps into the wine cellar, full of large barrels, made of local oak: Some of these barrels have hand-carved fronts, depicting their vineyards and Johann Stadlmann senior. All of these barrels are in use, and part of the Stadlmann philosophy of combining tradition with innovation.

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Another increasing threat is the spotted wing Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, damaging ripening grape berries from véraison onwards. Bernhard sees some varieties more affected by Drosophila suzukii than others. There is intensive research on pest control, including shielding nets, fly traps, and insecticide strategies, and the Stadlmanns currently run experiments within their organic program: They blow finest rock flour (Kaolin and Dolomite rock) into the leaf canopy and fruit zone to create unfavorable conditions for different insects, including Drosophila, wasps, which pierce sweet berries, earwigs and Asian lady beetle, both leafing residuals causing off-flavors in the wine once they’re crushed.  Drosophila suzukii was first discovered in Austria a few years ago and is also an issue in the US (see also Jody Timer’s blog post).

 
During a recent visit at the Stadlmann estate, I had the chance to chat with Bernhard about the challenges of Austrian winegrowing and winemaking. I was interested in a young winemaker’s perspective, especially as Bernhard has been trained all around the world, including Burgundy, Germany, and California. This year, spring frost in late April threatened vineyards in many winegrowing regions in Austria, requiring the use of straw bales and paraffin torches to produce protective and warming smoke. Luckily, not too much damage was done to the Stadlmann’s vineyards, however, it caused some sleepless nights for Bernhard and his family, and shows also the importance of developing effective spring frost prevention alternatives (see also Michela Centinari’s blog post).

 
We also talked quite a bit about wine quality: while the Austrian ‘Qualitätswein’ designation ensures basic chemical (e.g., ethanol content, titratable and volatile acidity, residual sugar, total and free SO2, malvidin-3-glucoside content (for reds), etc.) and sensory (i.e., wine defects like volatile acidity, Brettanomyces, atypical aging, mousiness and other microbial defects) quality, this only ensures a lower limit of quality. In the recent years, the Austrian governing bodies added another layer of wine quality, based on the Romanic system of regional typicity and origin: The so-called DAC (Districtus Austriae Controllatus) wines are quality wines typical for a region, made from varieties that are best suited for that region. DAC wine producers adhere to viticultural, enological, and marketing standards, with the goal to establish themselves as famous wines of origin (think Chablis, Cote de Nuits, Barolo, Rioja or Vouvray).  As this is a relatively new system for Austria, we will see how successful these DAC regions will be. Their success will also depend on the regional producers, and how stringent they set the criteria for the DAC designation, as they have to walk a fine line between establishing a recognizable regional typical wine without losing individual character that each producer brings to their wines.

 

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If you are interested in learning more about Austrian wines, and Bernhard and his family’s wines, they were recently highlighted in a couple of US wine publications, including a great podcast episode on ‘I’ll drink to that!’ and an article in the SOMM journal about Zierfandler. Zierfandler is one of Stadlmann’s signature varieties, indigenous to the region, but tricky to grow, as it requires long and dry ripening periods and has a very thin skin, prone to botrytis. However, when done well (like the Stadlmanns do), it produces extraordinary wines with fruity, floral, and sometimes nutty notes that have a long aging potential. If you are able to get your hand on these Zierfandler wines get them while you can!

Last, a big Thank You to Bernhard Stadlmann for his help with this blog post: He took time out of his super busy harvest schedule to show me around, never getting tired of answering my questions. He also graciously provided all but one of the pictures.

References

[1] Huber K (2017) Durchschnittliche Weinernte 2017 erwartet. LKOnline. Available at (in German): https://noe.lko.at/weinbau+2500++2455141

[2] Austrian Wine Marketing Board (2017) Austrian Wine Statistics Report 2015. Available at (in German): http://www.austrianwine.com/facts-figures/austrian-wine-statistics-report/

[3] New York Times (1985) Austria’s Wine Laws Tightened in Scandal. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1985/08/30/world/austria-s-wine-laws-tightened-in-scandal.html

[4] Austrian Wine (2017) Wine Law. Available at: http://www.austrianwine.com/our-wine/wine-law/

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Customer Service Checkup

By Dr. Kathy Kelley 

We have touched on a few customer-service related issues and strategies in past blogs: responding to online comments and criticism (http://bit.ly/2wYNSZm), why customers would like to contact a customer service department using text rather than call the company (http://bit.ly/2wYPxhR), and the importance of “good customer service” (http://bit.ly/2wYQuqn), but today’s post focuses on providing good customer service, ways to learn about customer service issues, and strategies for appeasing dissatisfied customers.

Employer and employee expectations

How can employees provide exceptional customer service if they don’t know what is expected of them?  Because you are hiring an adult – you would think that they know how to treat people properly and always be a good brand ambassador.  While most employees will remember to smile and greet customers when they arrive and ask which bottles they would like to purchase after their tasting – you may need to remind/teach them how to interact with customers between the guest’s arrival/departure.  Or, you may need to educate staff on how to focus on visitors when the tasting room is packed, customers are two to three people deep at the bar, and staff members are just trying to remember what to pour next and who liked which wine.

To make sure that all staff members handle situations the same, it is suggested that businesses create a customer service strategy.  After you develop a strategy, print hard copies, require all employees to read and retain the document and have them sign a statement (that is kept on file) indicating that they understand what is expected of them (just like you would for your employee handbook).

According to an article posted on The Thriving Small Business website (http://bit.ly/2wXIqRW), a customer service strategy consists of:

  • Developing a customer service vision that employees fully understand
  • Asking customers (using surveys, comment cards, focus group sessions, or one-on-one conversations) if the level of customer service provided meets or (hopefully) exceeds expectations
  • Setting customer service goals (e.g., within how many seconds a visitor should be welcomed after they enter the tasting room)
  • Providing training and reviewing customer service skills during employee meetings or after an issue is brought to your attention
  • Holding staff accountable and rewarding excellent customer service (e.g., ask customers to indicate who provided exceptional customer service during their visit)

Further explanations and examples for each of these are below.

Developing a customer service vision that employees fully understand

If you have ever taken your Apple devices to an Apple store for service, or you are just browsing the store, you may be quite impressed with how they learn about customer needs.  According to a video produced by Carmine Gallo, President of Gallo Communication Group (http://bit.ly/2wYYNCD), Apple is most likely implementing the following five steps:

  • Approaching customers and giving them a sincere welcome
  • Asking questions to understand a customer’s needs
  • Presenting a solution that the customer can take home that day
  • Listening for and resolving issues or concerns
  • Thanking them for visiting and inviting them back

Asking customers if the level of customer service provided meets or exceeds expectations

You can approach this activity in a few different ways:

  • Hand a comment card to visitors and ask them to fill it out before they leave the tasting room
  • Post questions on your website and on your Facebook business page
  • Conduct an online survey using the free versions of com and SurveyGizmo.com (with limited functions) or purchase the full version on a monthly or annual basis
  • Use Google Forms (within Google Docs) to create a document that looks like a survey, which can be embedded into an email and sent to tasting room visitors/case club members. Recipients can respond to the questions and click the “submit” button when finished. You will then have access to a spreadsheet where responses are organized by survey participant

 

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Examples of questions that you can include in your customer service survey. 

 

If you learn about an issue where the custom was wronged:

  • Tell the customer what we can do (realistically) and correct the problem
  • Thank them for bringing the problem to your attention
  • Follow-up to make sure that they are satisfied with the outcome

Setting customer service goals

A goal could be that you will provide each and every visitor with an enjoyable customer.  In a Wall Street Journal article written by Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher (“Tips for Tasting Rooms,” http://on.wsj.com/2wY1ggr) the authors listed a few of their tasting room “pet peeves” and behaviors that tasting room staff should focus on:

  • While tasting room staff do not need to be wine and viticulture experts they do need to be able to provide tasting room visitors with at least a “basic understanding of the wines”
  • Have a list of questions that will help staff suggest wines for visitors to try based on preferences. You might also want to have a list of wines that appeal to beer drinkers based on the style of beer they like
  • Be a “people person” and engage visitors in a conversation so that they don’t feel like just a sale
  • Have a little “something special” that you can offer wine enthusiasts, but be discreet if others are tasting too. You don’t want to pour samples for one couple and leave the bottle on the countertop and not offer it to others
  • Give all visitors your attention, even when there is a VIP at the tasting bar. Specifically, “If you are going to lavish wine and attention only on [VIPs]…take them to another room and flatter them instead of just pretending that we’re not there” (http://on.wsj.com/2wY1ggr)
  • Indicate which wines are only available at the winery, which supermarkets/retail outlets sell your wine, and if your wine is available for sale online

This quote may strike a chord: “Many impressive wineries offer very poor service with staff that ‘pour and ignore.’ They don’t act interested in the customer, and they expect all the energy to come from the customer’s side of the counter…To “pour and ignore” is like being the last person in a relay race and deliberately dropping the baton. It is the worst possible public relations we could provide next to outright rudeness. (http://on.wsj.com/2wY1ggr)”

Providing training and reviewing customer service skills

It is suggested that training tasting room staff “has the potential to reduce turnover and build staff loyalty… [and that] a winery may be able to obtain a competitive edge at the cellar door and improve the bottom line of its retail sales by incorporating strategic cellar-door training and development programs” for both existing and new employees (http://bit.ly/2x0okGw).

Several free resources are available online ranging from training manual templates (http://bit.ly/2ycFJB4) to video modules (http://bit.ly/2ydhqTr) to interactive “games” (http://bit.ly/2yc1D7d).

Holding staff accountable and rewarding excellent customer service

When you are out shopping and see customers interact with employees, discreetly observe their conversation and ask yourself:

  • Does the customer service representative look/sound like they are interested in helping the customer and that solving the customer’s problems is his/her number one priority?
  • Based on the customer’s issue, would your response be similar or different from what the customer service rep is doing/saying?
  • If you were the customer, would you be satisfied with the response/outcome?

Remember the saying “praise in public and criticize in private.”  Employees will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they are recognized for providing great customer service.  When you do provide praise:

  • Included details about the situation (e.g., while assisting a customer with buying wine for a gift…)
  • How the employee provided “excellent customer service”
  • The outcome/what happened as a result of the employee assisting the customer (http://bit.ly/2x0MjFK)

Empower your employees by giving them the ability to make decisions (http://bit.ly/2ybYDI0).  According to the article, “Think about employee empowerment, not as something a manager bestows on employees, but rather as a philosophy and a strategy to help people develop talents, skills, and decision-making competency.”

Where to look for customer service complaints online

Most likely you are aware of the following review sites and (hopefully) claimed your business page, where appropriate.

  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor
  • Foursquare
  • Google local guides
  • Yahoo! Local

If you have not searched these sites for customer comments, it is critical that you know what customers are saying about your winery/tasting room.

Another site to consider, though you will not necessarily see customer reviews and complaints, is Glassdoor.com.  This is a website where employees complain/provide reviews about companies they (supposedly) work(ed) for.  While you may not learn about customer issues you may get an idea of how employees feel about your business and how they perceive manager/owner leadership and expectations.

For example, an employee, who worked in the tasting room at “X” in Kenwood, California, wrote that working at the tasting room was a “seasonally fun place to work,” but he/she also indicated that management focused “solely [on] sales” and that “a little more focus on simply learning the wines and delivering better client experiences” was needed (glassdoor.com).   Perhaps this employee never talked to the manager or owner because he/she didn’t feel comfortable doing so, maybe they have brought up issues in the past and felt the input was ignored, or maybe they just like to complain.  Regardless, now the comments are on the website for all to see.

If responding to online comments and criticism seem intimidating, look online for examples of how businesses have responded to customer reviews and comments (both positive and negative). Follow companies like Zappos.com, Apple, Trader Joe’s, JetBlue, Starbucks, and others you feel provide good customer service to see examples as to how you can appease customers who feel that they have been wronged.

Until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fond farwell to Denise

Last week Denise wrote a blog post about her time at Penn State as our state’s extension enologist.  This week, a few of us who worked closely with Denise wanted to share our thoughts and wish her well in her new endeavor.

Denise established this blog and she has worked incredibly hard to provide the industry with information that was both timely and critical to the success of any winery.  Denise was an excellent team player and she understood that the industry would also benefit from posts that also focused on viticulture, entomology, marketing, and business management issues.  Hense, several of us have contributed to the blog by writing posts, and we will continue to do so to maintain our an online presence.  We will post at least once a month (on the last Friday of each month) and we hope to return to a weekly posting schedule at some point.

Until then, we hope that you will join us in wishing Denise, “Good luck and best wishes!”

From Bryan Hed, Jody Timer, and Any Muza

On behalf of the folks at the Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Center, we wish Denise success in her future venture ‘Denise Gardner Winemaking’.  Her passion for improving the wine grape industry in Pennsylvania has made her an essential part of our grape team for 6 years and she will be sorely missed. However, we’re glad she’ll still be around actively working with Pennsylvania winemakers and we hope to be able to continue to interact with her in some capacity during the years to come. She has been, and will always be, an excellent source of knowledge, professionalism, enthusiasm, team work…and good humor. Cheers, Denise!

 

From Michela Centinari

Since I started my tenure at Penn State, about three and a half years ago, Denise has always been there to help, no matter how numerous and annoying were my questions and requests. I learned a lot from her, not only about the Pennsylvania wine industry but also how to navigate what was for me a completely new world – “Extension.” I have fun memories of every extension visit/trip we had together over the last three years and she will always be, in my opinion, the best-dressed person doing vineyard visits (a joke between viticulture and enology people).

Denise has been the pillar of our extension grape team, always keeping us organized and on track to meet our blog post deadlines, and that was not an easy job!

Likely, many of you know Denise for her extension activities and efforts, but you may not know that throughout her tenure at Penn State she dedicated a lot of her time teaching winemaking to graduate and undergraduate students, spending long days in the ‘cellar’ with them.  Because of her dedication, several Penn State undergraduate students were able to find jobs in the Pennsylvania wine industry as well as in other states. Without her hard work and assistance, we would not have been able to include winemaking in several of our viticulture-based research studies.

She has been a great colleague but most important she is a great friend. I will tell her the rest in person while drinking a glass of wine together.

Cheers Denise to your new endeavor!

 

From Jen Zelinskie

Best of luck to you, Denise! As a young student, you inspired me to explore the wine industry through our time working on the winemaking projects in the Food Science lab way back during my freshman and sophomore year. As I continued to grow in my education, you impacted me on my decision to further my studies in pursuing a Master’s degree with a focus on wine marketing. Thank you for being an encouragement and inspiration throughout my undergraduate and graduate career. I am beyond excited for your next step in starting your own consulting business and wish you the best of luck! I believe you will achieve great things and make many more differences in the wine industry in the future!

 

From Laura Homich

I can say with certainty that I would not be where I am today if I had not met you. There are not enough words or thank yous to express my gratitude for all that you have done for me.

When I stopped by your office junior year eager to begin enology research, I could not have dreamed of the number of opportunities and rich experiences that were in store. You spent countless hours teaching me the ins and outs of winemaking and analysis, working alongside me through many long days of grape processing and fermentation and explaining the methodology of each laboratory test and its importance to the winemaking process. You also coached me through the processes of conducting scientific research, showing me how to plan and perform a research study, interpret and represent the data, and construct and present a scientific paper. These experiences not only equipped me with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to take ownership of my graduate work, but they are also proving to be invaluable as I continue my career in the wine industry. For that – I am forever grateful.

You are surely someone whom I admire – ambitious, innovative, and bold! You have been an amazing mentor to me both professionally and personally, and your passion for enology and viticulture is undeniable. I always enjoyed observing you in your element, sharing your immense knowledge and experience with industry members and students whether through workshops, seminars, conferences, or social media posts. It is exciting to see you continuing to grow in your career, and I cannot wait to see all that you accomplish in the years to come.

Penn State Extension and the PA wine industry have been so lucky to have you serving in the role of Enologist for the past six and a half years. I am incredibly excited for you as you launch your new consulting business and wish you all the best as you begin this next chapter in your career.

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From Abby Miller

I remember meeting Denise for the first time; I was a Sophomore working with a Dr. Alter in the College of Ag & the generously set up a meeting because I had expressed interest in the wine industry. She was extremely knowledgeable, energetic & allowed me to pick her brain on all things wine. At first, I recall I was intimidated by her accomplishments & thought I was out of my league, but Denise always opened her door to any & all questions I had with welcoming arms.

Fast forward two years to when I began Graduate School; she, fortunately, agreed to be on my graduate committee. Throughout my two years in Grad School, Denise was not only a tremendous teacher & mentor but also a great friend & confidant. She was a brilliant instructor of all things relating to wine, of course, but was also there for any other setback I came across, including the traumatizing public speaking engagements I had to endure. I was always inspired by her poise, expansive knowledge & humor and am thankful to have had her as a part of my time at Penn State & beyond.

I wish you all the best, Denise, as you embark on your next adventure with Denise Gardner Winemaking & cannot wait to watch you flourish in your next endeavor. Saluté!

 

From Mark Chien

Gosh, I hardly know where to begin with Denise, we have a long and fun history together, but here goes…

We first met when she was a sophomore at Conrad Weiser HS in Berks County.  I’m not sure who introduced us, but there was this really bright and nerdy (in the best way) kid who had an unusual interest in grapevines and wines.  She told me that she was visiting Adams County Winery with her parents and looked at a book about wine and she was hooked.  The next thing I know, we are stomping Chambourcin grapes together with her classmates in the science lab and making wine (much to the chagrin of school administrators).  We planted a small teaching vineyard at the school and then she started to use tissue culture to propagate grapevines and consulting with university professors, which is very advanced for a high school student.  She not only took the initiative and educated herself, but she got other students interested in grapes and wine as well.  She came to Penn State extension meetings and worked with Joanne Levengood at Manatawny Creek Vineyards.  That is how the Denise and her wine story got started.

What followed was pretty typical for a college student, but atypical for a student in the east, the pursuit of enology as a discipline and career.  It’s hard to know exactly what to think about a young person who follows her dream and instincts into such a rare career.  Agriculture was strange enough, but wine and enology were truly off the beaten path.  Fortunately, she had a very supportive family and some great mentors along the way.

She began with food science at Penn State and then enology at Virginia Tech.  She nailed both and then moved to Napa Valley to work with Vinquiry, but the move itself was a challenge and maybe living in Napa was not the best place for someone from Berks County, so when Stephen Menke left for Colorado and the enology extension position opened up, she was the obvious and perfect choice!

It was a bit of an odd and delightful coincidence that Denise ended up at Penn State so we could work together for a few years before I departed for Oregon.  Our relationship kind of went in a full circle.  It was neat to see her grow into extension, especially her devotion to students and helping to prepare them for a career in wine, not something your average FST undergrad does at Penn State.  Her interest in enology pegged her as a bit of an outlaw, and she always has had a feisty and independent attitude, going her own way and reaching her goals through sheer determination and preparation.  She undertook the rigorous WSET course because she wanted to understand the people on the other side of the wine fence in the retail world.

Now she is off on yet another adventure, starting her own consulting business.  I am certain that she will be very successful and hopefully happy working on her own and using her knowledge and skills to assist wine makers across the region.  She’s lucky to have Josh as her partner and booster, to help bump up her confidence and nudge her forward.  This is a great partnership that should flourish as they build their lives together.

I learned a lot from Denise over the years. Mainly that you can be very determined and reach your goals, but also have fun and enjoy the people who you meet along the way. Denise loves good food, wine, and people, so I hope everyone in the wine world will take advantage of her love of wine and life.

I have absolutely no doubt that Denise will continue to serve the wine industry in the Mid-Atlantic and help to improve the quality and reputation of the wines in the region.  Denise has a really good attitude and spirit that has and will continue to serve her very well.  We are delighted with the union between Denise and Josh and looking forward to the next chapter of their lives as it unfolds.

 

From Kathy Kelley

It is often said that having friends at work makes the job/tasks more enjoyable.  I find that this is true and that working with Denise has made my job more enjoyable.  Denise has an incredible work ethic and tons of energy and drive.  In the six years that she has been with Penn State Extension, she has helped numerous businesses, established this blog, and worked with several undergraduate and graduate students who consider her a mentor/friend (as demonstrated in the messages above).  Though she will no longer have a psu.edu email address – I look forward to opportunities when Denise and I can work on industry issues.

Good luck, Denise, there is no doubt that you will continue to be successful and that the industry will benefit from your knowledge, expertise, and that you truly care about their well-being.

 

 

 

 

Dear Wine Industry Members: Reflections being the Penn State Extension Enologist

By: Denise M. Gardner

While I know this has reached many of you, I would like to announce that my last day with Penn State Extension will be on September 1, 2017. After 6 and half years with Penn State Extension, I have decided to start a new venture and open ‘Denise Gardner Winemaking,’ a wine consulting business for wine producers and consumers.

While I had the opportunity to speak briefly about this decision at the 2017 PWA Annual Conference, I wanted to take some time to reflect upon my time at Penn State and my perspective on what I’ve seen change since I joined the Extension team in 2011.

Most of my interest in wine grapes and enology is affiliated with the mentorship provided by Mark Chien, Penn State’s previous Extension Viticulturist, and Joanne Levengood from Manatawny Creek Winery. The two of them worked a lot with me as a young high school student interested in the wine industry. Eventually, they helped me execute a research project pertaining to red wine color stability, and my success affiliated with that project provided me with an opportunity to work for Lallemand as a student intern in Toulouse, France the summer before I started college. Mark wrote about this story in one of his many newsletters in 2003. However, I will never forget the shock and disbelief I felt when I opened up a letter from Mark with an attached check containing a list of the Pennsylvania wineries that had financially contributed to support my travel costs associated with the internship. This act of kindness and support from so many local wineries that did not know me made an everlasting impression on me, and it had been my goal from that day forward to return to the Pennsylvania wine industry.

Mark Chien teaching me how to balance prune at Manatawny Creek Winery. 2003. Photo from: Denise M. Gardner

I share this story now to remind everyone how impressionable young adults are and the impact we can make on shaping their careers and futures. As I leave Penn State, I recognize that one of the greatest awards affiliated with this position was the opportunity to work alongside so many talented young adults while they were students at the University. Their involvement with Extension not only helped me manage the five year NE-1020 variety trial research project, but it also gave me an opportunity to expose many students to this industry. While many of them may not know their final career destination, I truly believe they have all been worth the grant funds, the introductions, the internships and co-ops, and the time that many of us have allocated towards developing their professional careers. Mentorship will definitely help shape our industry if we take the time to make it a priority, and I am excited to see where these young minds eventually lead us if they continue to integrate back into the wine industry. I hope many of them stay in the field, as I truly believe that in order for the industry to grow, stay competitive and progress, we will need their education, experience and application.

Undergraduate students experience a grape harvest a local winery on a Saturday morning. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

 

Erin and Virginia mix up yeast inoculations. 2012. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

 

Jen, Allie, and Abby crush incoming fruit. 2013. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

 

Stephanie was the master at running VAs. 2014. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

 

Taking regular Brix and temperature readings with Gary. 2015. Photo from: Denise M. Gardner

 

An early morning harvest… when team work means everything. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

 

Everyone learned how to wear proper clothing for processing and how to properly clean up after processing was complete. It was a dirty job, but everyone enjoyed themselves. Crushing with Marlena and Laura. 2015. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

 

Virginia teaches industry members about her experiences during a harvest-hop opportunity in Australia as an undergraduate student. 2013. Photo from: Denise M. Gardner

I am also proud of the educational workshops that have been developed since 2011 to address wine production and quality issues. While wine quality starts in the vineyard, its quality ends in the winery, and I am overjoyed to have been a part of the educational process that has assisted several winery operations within the state. The Wine Quality Improvement (WQI) Short Course, originally started by Dr. Stephen Menke and managed in interim by Mario Mazza, has reached almost half of the wineries in Pennsylvania through its attendance. It has always been a pleasure to hear about how this program has influenced those that have participated, and I would like to publically thank all of the previous students, both undergraduate and graduate, that have contributed to the success of the short course, as well as my industry volunteers: Mario Mazza, Jamie Williams, and Virginia Mitchell. Without their contributing time and patience, the success of the WQI would not be where it is today.

Alain Razungles provides tasting feedback to industry members. 2012. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

 

The Wine Quality Improvement (WQI) Short Course takes a lot of preparation and volunteer hours to run smoothly. Here, industry members and students volunteer time to prep for the WQI. 2013. Photo by: Michael Black/Black Sun Photography

 

We made efforts to add lab demonstrations and activities to our workshops. 2013. Photo from: Denise M. Gardner

Finally, there is undeniably a wonderful team of individuals here at Penn State that works very hard to address industry questions and needs. Dr. Michela Centinari, Dr. Ryan Elias, Bryan Hed, Dr. Helene Hopfer, Dr. Kathy Kelley, Andy Muza, and Jody Timer, as well as Dr. Rob Crassweller, Mike Masiuk, and Dr. Michael Saunders are all committed to the success of making the wine industry and Penn State a lifelong collaboration. It was not an easy decision to leave this stellar group of people. I hope that you, as industry members, will continue to support them as the program should only evolve and grow from here. As the enologist in the group, I was fortunate enough to have a supportive and thought-provoking advisory committee. I hope that many of you will consider supporting the next enologist by serving on their own advisory committee in an effort to keep this growing program a part of Pennsylvania’s industry and academic communities.

Vineyard walks with Michela, Andy and Jody. 2014. Photo from: Denise M. Gardner

 

Michela, Kathy and Denise tour Dr. Amanda Stewart (Virginia Tech) through some Pennsylvania wineries. 2014. Photo from: Denise M. Gardner

 

Our grape group in Erie County: Andy, Bryan, and Jody with Denise and Michela. 2017. Photo from: Denise M. Gardner

 

The first PA Wine Marketing and Research Board Symposium. Vineyard walk with speakers and industry members. 2012. Photo from: Denise M. Gardner

Between the growth of our academic team and the involvement of students in industry-related research, Pennsylvania has shown well within the research spectrum. I have been very proud of all of the Penn State students that have taken their research and presented at state-wide, regional, and national conferences. Additionally, the research executed by our faculty is top notch. While the benefits of research may not always be immediately apparent, the caliber of research and outreach associated with students and faculty has helped make Pennsylvania’s industry recognizable at a national scale. Sometimes that recognition is small and other times it is monumental. With the financial support of the PA Wine Marketing and Research Board, I hope that we will continue to see the collaboration between industry and academia continue, as well as witness the growth and seriousness of the state’s industry and academic programs. After all, no great wine region has ever succeeded without the arms of science, education, and research coming together.

I have learned that research helps us grow and get better as an industry. It can be slow, yes, but it shows us that we do not know it all after all, and it allows us to adapt to changing conditions like new pest integration in the vineyard or high pH winemaking practices. I hope I see many of you at the American Society of Enology and Viticulture – Eastern Section (ASEV-ES) Conference in Pennsylvania next year. This conference is a forum for regional research, but it also creates networking opportunities, highlights the wine quality affiliated with the hosting state, and includes a focused workshop on an industry relevant topic. For the 2018 conference, we believe the focused workshop will be related to high pH in the vineyard and cellar and how to address those problems. For the number of Pennsylvania wineries that contribute financially to support ASEV-ES scholarships, I thank you for supporting so many of our students, especially those at Penn State that I have seen benefit from these awards. No contribution – large or small – goes unnoticed.

Research from when I had the opportunity to work in Dr. Elwin Stewart’s lab in 2005.

 

Phylloxera research when working with Dr. Taryn Bauerle (now at Cornell University) and Dr. David Eissenstat (Penn State).

 

These 2 graduate students spent a lot of time on enology research in 2013. Marlena went on to study red wine color and stability for her Ph.D. thesis. Photo from: Denise M. Gardner

 

Gal is the master of wine oxidation and a brilliant chemist. His Ph.D. wine oxidation research has taken him all over the world. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

 

Laura presents her undergraduate research at the national ASEV Conference. Her research was associated with co-inoculation of yeast and MLB in Chambourcin wines. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

 

Penn State and student volunteers to help conduct a rose wine sensory descriptive panel to complete an undergraduate student research project. 2013. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

For those that are concerned about the nature of the position, Penn State Extension is committed to the position, and the current job opening it is already posted on the Penn State jobs website. Please support the next hire! I know the team will find an amazing individual to fulfill this role, and I’m looking forward to all that they accomplish with the position.
My last day with Penn State Extension will be on September 1, 2017, but I hope I will not lose touch with many of you through the transition. I will continue to run this message through the next few V&E News email distributions, but you can also find the generation of Denise Gardner Winemaking on Facebook (www.facebook.com/GardnerDeniseM/) until the website’s (www.denisegardnerwinemaking.com) launch in September and reach my by email: denise@dgwinemaking.com. This new venture will definitely be unique, and I hope many of you will consider exploring it in the coming months ahead as I am staying focused on Eastern, Southern and Midwestern production practices. Despite this transition, I will continue to work out of Pennsylvania and am hopeful that this new venture will be applicable for many of the local and regional wineries.

Again, it has been a pleasure working alongside many of you and I thank you for making me a valuable part of this industry. I wish you all a fruitful growing season and a successful 2017 harvest.  I can’t wait to taste the vintage!

Denise

Is it Possible to Control These Insect Pests?

By: Jody Timer, Entomology & Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension Center

Over the last ten years there have been an inpouring of newcomers to the insect community of Pennsylvania’s grape vineyards. These pest, combined with the numerous indigenous pest, have created an ever evolving challenge for the area’s grape growers. In this blog, I will briefly review the grape pest which I feel are becoming ever increasingly problematic for grape growers to control.

The Spotted wing drosophila has become a progressively severe problem in blueberries raspberries, and grapes. Recent research has shown that they are attracted to all cultivars of grapes that we tested. Spotted wing Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, Matsumura (Diptera: Drosophilae) (SWD) is an invasive vinegar fly of East Asian origin, that was recently introduced into the United States. It was first found in California in 2008 and is now found in all major fruit-growing regions of the country including Pennsylvania. It was first discovered in Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie grape growing region in the late fall of 2011. The potential infestation rate of spotted wing Drosophila differs from other vinegar flies because the female possess a serrated ovipositor that cuts into healthy fruit to lay eggs. Consequently, spotted wing Drosophila (SWD) larvae can be found in fruit that is just ripening: https://youtu.be/dPr61VC2gyo

During egg-laying, it is believed that sour rot and fungal disease can also be introduced, further affecting the fruit quality. During peak temperatures, a female can lay more than 100 eggs a day. Such a high reproduction rate indicates the SWDs’ high potential for fruit infestation and their potential for spreading rapidly through a field or a vineyard. Because of this prolificity it has become increasing important to protect wine grapes starting at veraison.  A good YouTube video on how to identify SWD damage is: https://youtu.be/DLNDnMMfWfs

In our research we have seen SWD showing up earlier in the spring each season and their numbers increasing yearly. SWD do attack injured grapes before non-injured, they tend to wait till veraison before attacking grapes, and they will reproduce in fallen berries.  For this reason it is important to keep your vineyards as clean as possible and to maintain coverage of these wine grapes through harvest. Trapping and forecasting can lead to improvements in grower’s capability to optimally time pest management decisions which should reduce both the direct cost of pesticide treatments and the indirect cost to wineries.  Information can also be found at:
http://extension.psu.edu/pests/ipm/agriculture/fruits/spotted-wing-drosophila

The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is currently a very serious pest in tree fruits and vegetables, and can be a nuisance when they overwinter in houses. Although BMSB prefer other fruits and vegetables to grapes, they do feed on grapes. Their damage can cause ugly scars on table grapes and grapes grown for sale at fruit stands. This type of damage is not important to wine grape and juice grape growers, however, the holes open pathways for fungal and bacteria late season infections. This season, in the Lake Erie region, we have begun to see a small number of BMSB damaged grapes. BMSB may also be easily harvest with the grapes. The insects tend to move to the interior of the cluster when disturbed and are hard to see. When they are killed they give off a foul odor – which is how they got their name. Our research has shown that this odor and resulting taste do survive the pasteurization of juice grapes, but disappears after being stored for longer periods of time. There is conflicting research on whether this taint transfers to wine, more research is ongoing. There are traps commercially available to trap these insect, but their efficacy is very low. BMSB have been found in both grape foliage and grape clusters; they seek the moisture, sugar, and warmth on the inside the clusters (especially overnight) and they often migrate to the cluster’s interior close to harvest. This makes the possibility of BMSB inside the cluster very likely when these grapes are mechanically harvested and transported to the processor.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug in a Grape Cluster

With the yearly increase of numbers of BMSB in the Pennsylvania vineyards, it is very important for growers to scout for the adults and the presence of the eggs on the underside of grape leaves. There are one to two generations in Pennsylvania. A compilation of research can be accessed at www.STOPBMSB.org

Life stags of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug. Photo from: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/plants/insects/stinkbug.aspx

 

The newest invasive poised to become a major problem to grape growers, the spotted lanternfly (SLF), Lycorma delicatula, (Hemiptera: Fulgoridae) is native to China, India, Japan, and Vietnam and has been detected for the first time in the United States in northeastern Berks County, Pennsylvania. This approximately one inch long insect with piercing-sucking mouthparts has the potential to impact the green industry, grape growers, tree fruit growers, and the forests and wood products industries in Pennsylvania as well as the United States. The host plants of the SLF in its native habitat include grapes, pines, stone fruits, and up to 50 other hosts. Early detection of the SLF is critical for effective control and protection of Pennsylvania’s agriculture and its related businesses. SLF group feeds on grapevines in numbers great enough to cause destruction of the entire grapevine. Grapes are listed as a primary host in its native regions. To date this insect has been confined to areas of Berks and Bucks counties in Pennsylvania. The PDA has issued a general order of quarantine for these areas over the past few years, however this insect is slowly increasing its range.

The following is a link to the PDA’s information on the SLF: www.pda.state.pa.us/spottedlanternfly. You may find a link to a pdf copy of the SLF Order of Quarantine, a PowerPoint on Lycorma Inspection Tips, and the SLF Pest Alert at this website.

What to do if you:

  • See eggs: Scrape them off the tree or smooth surface and place the eggs in a tightly sealed container with 70% alcohol or hand sanitizer to kill them.
  • Collect a specimen: Send the adult/nymph specimen or egg mass to the PDA Entomology Lab for verification. The mailing address for the lab is: PDA, Entomology Room-111, 2301 N. Cameron St., Harrisburg, PA 17110. First, place the sample collected in 70% rubbing alcohol or hand sanitizer in a leak proof container. Complete the PDA Entomology Program Sample Submission Form. This sample form can be found in the PDA SLF website www.pda.state.pa.us/spottedlanternfly.
  • Report a site: Call the Bad Bug hotline at 1-866-253-7189 with details of the sighting and your contact information.

The most destructive insect pest in the Lake Erie region remains the native Grape Berry Moth (GBM), Paralobesia viteana.  This insect is becoming increasingly harder to control as result of shorter residual time of insecticides, resistance to insecticides, and abandoned vineyards. GBM larval burrow into the grape berry soon after hatching, making precise timing of spray applications a critical component of control.  This insect has four generations per year.  Each generation increases in number exponentially if control measures are not applied to the early generations. Spray timings can be calculated by following the NEWA model recommendations (see earlier posts). Growing seasons with large populations of GBM, will require a second spray in July and/or August to control the populations, and to prevent them from moving farther into the vineyards. Scouting for GBM damage often during the season is a critical component of control, as the pheromone traps capture only the males and are not a good indicator of infestation after the first generation.  More information can be found on extension pages and on the LERGP Podcasts on Youtube.

Grapevine leafroll associated virus; A brief introduction to an old disease. Should Pennsylvania grape growers be concerned?

By: Bryan Hed, Michela Centinari, and Cristina Rosa

As if wine grape growers don’t have enough challenges in this day and age, the effects of grapevine viruses have been taking on greater importance in eastern vineyards over the past several years. Studies examining grapevine leafroll-associated viruses are developing a growing body of information that will be essential for vineyard managers to continue moving the eastern wine grape industry forward. Grape growers in the eastern United States need not feel they are the only ones with this disease management challenge (as is the case with many fungal diseases of grapes); grapevine leafroll-associated viruses (GLRaVs) are found in vineyards all over the world (Compendium of Grape Diseases). This group of viruses causes a disease known as grapevine leafroll disease, and the association of symptoms with grapevine leafroll viruses was recognized over 80 years ago. As is the case with so many plant pathogens, the worldwide distribution of these viruses occurred as a result of increased movement of plant material/goods across the globe; the ever widening dissemination of infected planting stock (Compendium of grape diseases). The effects of these leafroll viruses is most severe on – you guessed it – cultivars of V. vinifera, where the disease is known to greatly reduce yield, vine vegetative growth or vigor, and cold hardiness; a factor of critical importance for these cultivars grown in the northeastern United States. Grapevine leafroll disease can also delay fruit maturity, reduce color development in red grapes, and fruit quality (decreased soluble solids, increased titratable acidity) of V. vinifera grapes (Fuchs et al. 2009), which can negatively impact perceived wine quality. The severity of the effects of leafroll viruses is dependent on a great number of factors such as grapevine cultivar, virus strain, climate, soil, cultural practices, stress factors, etc. So naturally, the severity of symptoms can vary from one season to the next (Compendium of Grape Diseases). With respect to cultivar, the effects of these viruses on Vitis interspecific hybrids and Vitis labrusca are generally considered to be less serious, but are also less well defined and studied.

Infection by leafroll viruses results in the degeneration of primary phloem tissues in grapevine shoots, leaves and clusters (Compendium of Grape Diseases). As one can imagine, this can have profound effects on all parts of the vine. Symptoms of the disease, which are generally most observable on V. vinifera, consist of cupping and discoloration of older leaves in late summer and fall. On red fruited varieties, leaves of infected vines can display a distinct red coloration of the interveinal tissue, while veins remain green (Figure 1). On white fruited varieties of V. vinifera, symptoms are less striking and leaves tend to look yellowish (chlorotic) and cupped (Figure 2). Leaf discoloration generally affects older leaves first, but these symptoms are not diagnostic of the disease, as they may be due to other causes such as nutrient deficiencies, water stress, and even crown gall. Analysis of grapevine tissues in the laboratory is the only way to confirm the presence (or absence) of these viruses.

Figure 1. Grapevine Leafroll Disease on red fruited Vitis vinifera. The infected vine is on the left (Courtesy: Dr. Wendy McFadden, OMAFRA)

 

Figure 2. Symptoms of leafroll virus on white Vitis vinifera. Note the more subtle yellowing of the leaves and cupping of leaf margins. (Courtesy: Dr. Wendy McFadden, OMAFRA)

Currently, there are about seven GLRaVs found in cultivated grapes, the most common being GLRaV-3. These viruses are easily spread over long distances through the movement of infected nursery stock, but can be spread (vectored) within the vineyard by mealybugs (Compendium of Grape Diseases). Unfortunately, there are no known sources of resistance to GLRaVs among Vitis species and they have been found in many cultivated grape varieties, including V. labrusca, Vitis interspecific hybrids, and V. vinifera. Interest in grapevine leafroll disease and the extent of its effects has been growing in the eastern United States over the past ten years or so. Surveys conducted in New York, Ohio, and Virginia (Fuchs et al. 2009, Jones et al. 2015, Han et al. 2014), have provided confirmation of the presence of GLRaVs in commercial vineyards and have yielded important information necessary to the management of grapevine leafroll disease. For example, infection by GLRaVs is permanent and infected vines must be destroyed to reduce the incidence of grapevine leafroll disease. Therefore, management of the disease would naturally include planting only stock that is free of GLRaVs. Insecticides that target mealybugs and soft scales can prevent vine to vine spread (within the vineyard) of GLRaVs that are known to be vectored by these insects (Compendium of Grape Diseases). Indeed, studies have shown that applications of insecticides like dinotefuran (Scorpion) and spirotetramat (Movento) can significantly reduce mealybug counts and result in a slowing of the progress of the disease in vineyards. One study from New York (Fuchs et al. 2015) showed that insecticide applications should target overwintered and second instar mealybug crawlers from bud swell to bloom and summer generation crawlers later in mid-summer. A study with grape phylloxera as a potential vector of these viruses showed that phylloxera can acquire the virus through phloem feeding on infected vines, but there was no evidence that phylloxera can transmit it (Wistrom et al. 2017).

As was mentioned earlier, cultivars of Vitis labrusca (Concord, Niagara) can also become infected with GLRaVs, but the infections appear to remain latent or dormant (Bahder et al. 2012) and have not been shown to result in visual symptoms of the disease (Wilcox et al. 1998). On the other hand, cultivars of V. vinifera are severely affected by GLRaVs and make up a very important and growing sector of the PA wine grape industry. Surveys conducted in New York, Ohio, and Virginia (Fuchs et al. 2009, Jones et al. 2015, Han et al. 2014) have revealed the presence of GLRaVs in commercial vineyards to the north, west, and south of Pennsylvania and have led to the development of some important guidelines for management of grapevine leafroll disease.

Given the fact that grapevine leafroll disease is common worldwide and that grapevine leafroll disease can profoundly impact wine quality and grapevine health, researchers at Penn State University are initiating a project to look for GLRaVs in Pennsylvania vineyards.  As in other states, the study is targeted to help growers recognize the impact that the disease may be having on the Pennsylvania wine industry and help them to address the effects of these viruses on productivity and fruit quality, reduce their spread and impact, and thereby grow and improve the wine grape industry in Pennsylvania.

The short term, initial objectives of this project will focus on the development of an online survey to collect information from growers with regard to the presence of symptoms of grapevine leafroll disease in Pennsylvania vineyards and their interest in participating in the project. The project will then follow up with tissue sampling from participating, symptomatic and non-symptomatic vineyards throughout the state and serological analysis to determine the presence of Grapevine leafroll virus-1 and Grapevine leafroll virus-3 – the most common of the leafroll viruses – in commercial vineyards in Pennsylvania. The collection of vineyard samples across the state will map the incidence and geographical distribution of these viruses on cultivars of Vitis vinifera and Vitis interspecific hybrid grapevines. The project will also determine and compare the impact of grapevine cultivar and age on infection by Grapevine leafroll virus-1 and -3 in Pennsylvania. Once infected vines have been identified in Pennsylvania vineyards, future objectives will focus on studying the impacts of grapevine leafroll disease on grape quality and productivity in Pennsylvania, and management techniques to mitigate the economic impact of the disease on the Pennsylvania wine industry.

Vineyards will be selected from all parts of Pennsylvania, but the number of locations will favor northwestern and southeastern PA, where the majority of vineyards are located. The study will be expanded as new findings are made and the results will be made available to growers at various meetings throughout the next several years.

 

Literature cited:

Bahder, B., Alabi, O., Poojari, S., Walsh, D., and Naidu, R. 2013. A Survey for Grapevine Viruses in Washington State ‘Concord’ (Vitis x labruscana L.) Vineyards. Plant Health Progress, August 5, 2013. American Phytopathological Society (online).

Compendium of Grape Diseases, Disorders, and Pests. 2nd edition, 2015. Editors Wayne F. Wilcox, Walter D. Gubler, and Jerry K. Uyemoto. The American Phytopathological Society. Pp. 118-119.

Fuchs, M.Martinson, T. E.Loeb, G. M.Hoch, H. C. 2009. Survey for the three major leafroll disease-associated viruses in Finger Lakes vineyards in New York. Plant Disease 93:395-401.

Fuchs, M.Marsella-Herrick, P.Hesler, S.Martinson, T.Loeb, G. M. 2015. Seasonal pattern of virus acquisition by the grape mealybug, Pseudococcus maritimus, in a leafroll-diseased vineyard. Journal of Plant Pathology Vol.97 No.3 pp.503-510

Han, J.Ellis, M. A.Qu, F. 2014. First report of Grapevine leaf roll-associated virus-2 and –3 in Ohio vineyards. Plant Disease Vol.98 No.2 pp.284-285

Jones, T. J.Rayapati, N. A.Nita, M. 2015. Occurrence of Grapevine leafroll associated virus-2, -3 and Grapevine fleck virus in Virginia, U.S.A., and factors affecting virus infected vines. European Journal of Plant Pathology 142:209-222.

Wilcox, W. F.Jiang, Z. Y.Gonsalves, D. 1998. Leafroll virus is common in cultivated American grapevines in western New York. Plant Disease Vol.82 No.9 pp.1062.

Wistrom, C. M., G. K. Blaisdell, L. R. Wunderlich, M. Botton, Rodrigo P. P. Almeida & K. M. Daane. 2017. No evidence of transmission of grapevine leafroll-associated viruses by phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae). European Journal of Plant Pathology. Volume 147, issue 4. pp 937–941.

Harvest Preparation for Sub-Optimal Fruit: Botrytis

By: Denise M. Gardner

The eastern U.S. growing seasons can be somewhat unpredictable.  Late season rains or untimely hurricane events can be a recipe for disaster for local grape growers (http://www.pawinegrape.com/uploads/PDF%20files/Documents/Viticulture/Harvest/Rain%20at%20Harvest.pdf), and a few have been unprepared for such events in the past.  These weather events can lead to higher incidences of the grey-rot form of Botrytis in addition to other rots, which may also be related to pest damage.  Furthermore, these weather incidences and pest damage can ultimately impact picking decisions for growers and wineries (Osborne, 2017).

It is almost inevitable that wineries need to be prepared for end-of-season weather flops, and plan for the best possible ways to manage or maintain wine quality in light of above-average disease pressure.

One disease that winemakers can prepare for prior to harvest is Botrytis.  For the purpose of this article, we’ll be using the term Botrytis to indicate the grey-mold or grey-rot form of the disease.  Grey-mold, the form of Botrytis more commonly noticed in humid regions or during heavy-precipitation seasons, can ultimately affect wine quality.  Peynaud (1984) has defined 4 ways in which the grey-mold can negatively affect wine quality:

  • Deplete wine color (especially important in red varieties),
  • Increase the risk of premature browning (through oxidative enzymes),
  • Deplete varietal character (through degradation of grape skins), and
  • Contribution to off-flavors developed by the mold’s presence on the fruit.

Botrytis, grey-mold, infection can force winemakers into alternative winemaking techniques in order to retain wine quality. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Based on a 1977 study by Loinger et al., guidelines pertaining to wine quality were developed with regards to a visual assessment of Botrytis incidence on incoming fruit:

  • 5-10% Botrytis rot on clusters: noticeable reduction in wine quality; wine quality is still “good” (as opposed to very good with 0% rot on clusters)
  • 20-40% Botrytis rot on clusters: marked reduction in wine quality; wine quality is “low”
  • >80% Botrytis rot on clusters: wine is commercially unacceptable

With a noticeable sensory and chemical difference in Botrytis-infected clusters, it is best for wineries to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP) for assessing rot-infected fruit, as well as how the grapes should be handled and processed during production.  While there is no one correct way to work with the wine, below are some suggestions or options that wineries can integrate when dealing with Botrytis-infected grapes.  For a full list of possibilities, please visit: http://extension.psu.edu/food/enology/wine-production/producing-wine-with-sub-optimal-fruit/fermenting-with-botrytis-101

Pre-Fermentation Sorting

Some wineries will sort through all incoming grape clusters prior to the crushing/destemming process to assess for any cluster damage or presence of unwanted material.  If your operation is not set up with this equipment, sorting can also take place in the vineyard.  Depending on the concentration of disease and on the projected wine style or quality parameter the fruit will go towards, disease portions of clusters can be cut out in the vineyard.  Or diseased fruit can be left in the vineyard to deal with after the harvest is complete.  Sorting out diseased fruit from that of decent quality will reduce the impact of the mold on the wine’s aroma, flavor, and quality.

Limit Contact Time with Skins

Depending on the resource, there are various recommendations for how to handle diseased fruit.  In whites, some recommend whole cluster pressing and tossing the first 10+ gallons, which are rich in Botrytis metabolites (Fugelsang and Edwards, 2007).  Many recommend separating juice press fractions for white and rosé wines, as this will give the vintner more control over the chemical constituents (e.g., phenolics, enzymes, and disease-related off-flavors) in the final wine.

Depending on the desired outcome for a red wine, treating or limiting skin contact with diseased fruit may be ideal post -primary fermentation.  This would include avoiding extended maceration processes.  Due to the fact that the presence of Botrytis on red varieties reduces anthocyanin and phenolic extraction (Razungles, 2010) in addition to the varietal aromatics, excessive skin contact may not be ideal during primary fermentation.  Whole berry fermentations, as opposed to a more aggressive crush and destem process, may help minimize extraction of Botrytis metabolites, which can also contribute to mouthfeel variations or off-flavors.

Tannin additions pre-fermentation may also be good considerations to compensate for phenolic losses associated with Botrytis infection.  Pre-fermentation and post-fermentation additions may help rebuild the wine’s structure or provide constituents for color stabilization.

Flash pasteurization (i.e., flash détente) has been previously recommended for Botrysized fruit to inactive the laccase enzyme associated with Botrytis, enhance color stability in reds, as well as improve the aromatics and flavors associated with the final wine.  Wines that undergo a thermovinification step tend to extract more anthocyanins and phenolics compared to traditionally fermented wines (Razungles, 2010).  Additionally, this heat step helps to inactivate laccase, which can contribute to early browning or oxidation of young wines.  However, commercial producers may not find this technological application easily accessible.

Therefore, in addition to minimizing skin contact time, winemakers will want to reduce contact time with the gross lees, and may also remove the wine from fine lees associated with the mold-infected fruit quickly.  The integration and use of clean, fresh lees, however, is still encouraged.  Removing the lees associated with mold-infected fruit can help reduce additional contact time with rot metabolites that have settled out with the lees.  This inhibits further integration of those metabolites into the wine.

Inoculate with a Commercial Yeast Strain

The presence of rot is one incidence in which processing techniques (e.g., cold soak) that encourage native microflora to dominate the fermentation are probably not desired.  Things like cold soak and native ferments allow ample opportunity for the mold to progress and contribute to the wine’s flavor.

Fruit that has rot or microflora issues is best inoculated with commercial yeast and malolactic bacteria strains to outcompete the native microflora (including those microorganisms that contribute to the rot), and to give the fermentation its best chance at completing the fermentation cleanly.  Remember that proper yeast nutrition is important to support the yeasts’ growth and to reduce the risk of hydrogen sulfide development.  For more information on determining the starting nitrogen concentrations (YAN) and how to properly treat your fermentation with added nutrients, please refer to:

Penn State Extension’s Wine Made Easy Fact Sheet: Nutrient Management During Fermentation

With high Botrytis concentrations, a more robust yeast strain may be preferred in order to quickly get through primary fermentation.  A quicker fermentation may simplify the aromatics associated with the wine, but it will also ensure little opportunity for additional spoilage.  Saccharomyces bayanus strains are often selected as more robust yeast strains.

Use of commercial yeast strains can be a valuable tool when dealing with disease-infected fruit. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Use of Sulfur Dioxide

Sulfur dioxide additions at crush will be determined based on the style of wine in which you are producing (e.g., white, rosé, red, etc.), but in general, the use of sulfur dioxide can help inhibit further spoilage of your product and retain antioxidant capacity.  Sulfur dioxide additions in the juice stage will help minimize early browning, but primarily inactivate PPO.

In general, botrysized wines tend to require more sulfur dioxide as Botrytis metabolites bind with free sulfur dioxide (Goode, 2014).  This is true even when processing wines with the noble rot version of Botrytis.

When primary fermentation, and malolactic fermentation (dependent on style), is complete it is a good idea to ensure that the wine has an adequate free sulfur dioxide content in order to retain its antimicrobial protection.

Fining

Some fining agents may also be applicable in the juice stage.  For example, some producers find it helpful to fine juice with bentonite in order to reduce protein content, as well as help minimize rot-associated off-flavors or partially reduce laccase concentrations.

PVPP can be added to the juice to reduce potential browning pigments or their precursor forms (Van de Water, 1985).

In both of these scenarios, neither bentonite or PVPP is specific for rot-related constituents, but each could be helpful to avoid potential challenges later on in the production process.

The presence of Botrytis can also contribute glucans to the must/wine, which can cause filterability problems for heavily-infected wines.  In this situation, many suppliers have beta-glucanase enzymes that can be applied either to the juice, wine, or both, to help breakdown the glucans and enhance ease of filterability.

A Word about Laccase

Both polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and laccase can cause early browning in grapes and wine.  However, PPO is inhibited by the alcohol content that is developed during primary fermentation.  Laccase, however, is not inhibited by the presence of alcohol, and can only be inactivated by a pasteurization step, heated to at least 60°C (140°F) (Wilker, 2010).

Grapes tend to be higher in laccase concentration when infected with Botrytis, and, thus, wines produced from grapes that had a high incidence rate of Botrytis can develop a brown hue post-primary fermentation.  This oxidative activity can occur even in young wines.

If you are concerned about the prevalence of laccase in diseased-fruit, wineries can submit wine samples to a wine lab for a laccase test.  Or, if you own a copy of “Monitoring the Winemaking Process from Grapes to Wine: Techniques and Concepts” by Patrick Iland et al., pg. 90 and 94 have 2 laccase test protocols that outline how wineries can assess oxidation by laccase.  The results of these test will indicate if extreme treatments are required during production to avoid the rapid and early oxidation caused by laccase.

 

Additional Resources:

 

Literature Cited:

Goode, J. 2014. The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass. (2nd Ed.) University of California Press: Berkley, California. 216 pg.

Fugelsang, K.C. and C.G. Edwards. 2007. Wine Microbiology: Practical Applications and Proceedings. (2nd Ed.) Springer: New York, NY. 393 pg.

Loinger, C., S. Cohen, N. Dror, and M.J. Berlinger. 1977. Effect of grape cluster rot on wine quality. AJEV. 28(4): 196-199.

Peynaud, E. 1984. Knowing and Making Wine. Wiley-Interscience: New York, NY. 391 pg.

Razungles, A. 2010. Extraction technologies and wine quality. In Managing Wine Quality, Vol. 2 Oenology and Wine Quality. Andrew G. Reynolds, Ed. Woodhead Publishing: Philadelphia, PA. 651 pg.

Van de Water, L. 1985. Fining Agents for Use in Wine. The Wine Lab.

Wilker, K.L. 2010. How should I treat a must from white grapes containing laccase? In Winemaking Problems Solved. CRC Press: Boca Raton, Florida. 398 pg.