Please join us in welcoming Dr. Molly Kelly as our new Penn State Enology Extension Educator. In this role, Molly will support the technical needs of the Pennsylvania wine industry and lead educational programming focusing on wine quality. She has lead workshops, including winery sanitation, filtration, microscopy, wine analysis and berry sensory analysis. Molly’s research has focused on the effect of nitrogen and sulfur applications on Petit Manseng wine aroma and flavor. Her current research includes a pre-harvest, on-the-vine dehydration study in collaboration with Virginia Tech University.
Prior to this position, Molly was the Enology Extension Specialist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. She also held the position of enology instructor at Surry Community College in Dobson, N.C., where she developed the enology curriculum and managed all aspects of the college’s 1,000-case bonded winery. Under her direction, Surry produced numerous international award-winning wines. Prior to her position at Surry, she was a biodefense team microbiologist with the New York State Department of Health.
By Bryan Hed
Since the new year was ushered in we have had several scary moments when Mother Nature unleashed an “excess of personality.” I’m referring to the cold weather events we experienced around January 1, 7, and 14, when temperatures slipped down below zero in many places across Pennsylvania, even in some south central parts of the state. As many of you might remember, the last time we saw below zero temperatures that far south (February from hell, 2015) primary bud damage was widespread and grapevine trunks in vineyards all over Pennsylvania (and certainly other parts of the Northeast) exploded in crown gall the following spring. This generated a two-year trunk renewal process that we’ve only just recovered from. Therefore, this may be a good time to review grapevine winter hardiness and the factors that affect it, as well as how we can prepare for possible remediation pruning and renewal this spring.
Now I don’t want to raise alarm bells just yet, as the conditions we’ve experienced this January haven’t been as horrific as February of 2015. But it’s always good to be prepared for any potential consequences, like bud loss and trunk damage, so we can anticipate altering our winter pruning plans and production practices this season.
Let’s start with a review of the temperature stats available to everyone on the NEWA website (newa.cornell.edu) and see just how cold it got in various places across the state during the first half of January. In the table below, I’ve listed low temperatures for January 1, 7, and 14 for many of the NEWA locations. Starting at northeastern PA and moving counterclockwise to swing back up into northern New Jersey and finally western New York, we get the following data (Table 1).
Areas of southeastern and northwestern Pennsylvania, at opposite corners of the state, appear to have escaped the below-zero temperatures for the most part, but some areas of south central Pennsylvania took a hit (look at York Springs). Areas of southwestern Pennsylvania experienced some of the most extended periods of below-zero weather, and parts of northeastern and central Pennsylvania also got quite cold. The temperature low is the most important bit to consider when sizing up vine bud damage, but the duration of those lows can affect the extent of trunk damage, especially in big old trunks where it may take longer for the core to reach ambient temperatures. Up in the northwestern corner of the state, the buffering effect of Lake Erie probably played a role in our relatively mild temperatures during that period, and we expect little to no damage to most of our vines as our wine industry there is heavily invested in tougher hybrids. The Erie area was also blessed (?) with a heap of snow (10 feet!) before the cold snap that provided added protection to bud unions of grafted vines.
If you’re anticipating primary bud damage, here’s a review of the ranges of temperatures for the LT50 (low temperature at which 50% of primary buds fail to survive) for the cultivars you’re growing. For Vitis vinifera, the LT50 range of the most winter sensitive cultivars falls between 5o and -5oF. This includes cultivars like Merlot and Syrah. But for most cultivars of V. vinifera, LT50 values fall more in the 0o to -8oF range (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot gris, Pinot noir, Gewurztraminer). And finally, there’s the tougher V. vinifera and sensitive hybrids that have buds with LT50 values of -5o to -10oF. This includes cultivars like Riesling, Cabernet franc, Lemberger, and Chambourcin. On the flip side, most hybrids fall into the -10o to -15oF range (which is why Northeastern U.S. vineyards are perhaps still more invested in hybrids than V. vinifera). Then there are the V. labrusca (Concord) and the Minnesota hybrids that range from -15o down to -30oF for cultivars like Frontenac and LaCrescent. Unfortunately, we don’t have such helpful ranges for determining trunk damage, which often comes with more profound consequences and is costlier to address.
Rapid temperature drops are often the most devastating in terms of the extent of damage. Fortunately, December temperatures this winter descended very gradually giving vines time to fully acclimate to cold weather extremes. In fact, recent data from the Cornell research group in the Finger Lakes region of New York shows that LT50 values for primary buds of several cultivars were close to, or at, maximum hardiness. Therefore, it is hoped that many Northeastern U.S. vineyards were well prepped and close to their hardiest when these cold events occurred. On the other hand, any given cultivar in central New York is likely to be a bit more cold hardy than that same cultivar growing in southern Pennsylvania, simply because vines farther north will have accumulated more cooling units than those farther south. So there is the possibility of bud and—worse yet—trunk damage in parts of PA, to the more sensitive cultivars of V. vinifera.
We also had a balmy warm period during the second week in January that pumped temperatures up into the 60s in some places before plunging back down into single digits. However, it’s unlikely the brief warm period was long enough to cause any deacclimation of vines before cold temperatures resumed, and little, if any harm, is expected from that event.
The capacity for cold hardiness is mostly determined by genetics. As I alluded to above, V. vinifera cultivars are generally the most sensitive to cold winter temperature extremes, French hybrids are generally hardier, and native V. labrusca cultivars are often the toughest. Nevertheless, other site specific factors can come into play to affect cold hardiness, and this is often the reason for the range in the LT50 values. For example, there’s vine health to consider; vines that finished the season with relatively disease-free canopies and balanced crop levels can be expected to be hardier (within their genetic range) than vines that were over-cropped and/or heavily diseased. At times like these, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to maintain your vines and production strategy with a view to optimizing their chances of surviving every winter. Other stresses like drought or flooded soils (during the growing season) that we can’t do much to control, and infection by leafroll viruses, can also play a significant role in reducing vine cold hardiness.
If you suspect damage, you should delay winter pruning of your vines, according to Dr. Michela Centinari. Feel free to revisit her previous blog posts and others at psuwineandgrapes.wordpress.com. Type “cold hardiness” or “winter injury” into the search box, and you’ll quickly and easily gain access to several timely blogs.
Bud damage can be estimated from 100 nodes collected from each potentially compromised vineyard block. Typically, gather ten, 10-node canes from each area, but do not sample from blocks randomly, unless the block is relatively uniform. If a block is made up of pronounced low and high areas (or some other site feature that would affect vine health and bud survival) make sure you sample from those areas separately as they will likely have experienced different temperature lows (Zabadal et al. 2007). You may find that vines in high areas need no or less special pruning consideration than vines in low areas that suffered more primary bud damage and will require increased remediation.
Once you have your sample, bring the canes inside to warm up a bit and make cuts (with a razor blade) through the cross section of the bud to reveal the health (bright green) or death (brown) of primary, secondary, and tertiary buds. You’ll need a magnifying glass to make this determination as you examine each bud. You should figure that primaries will contribute two thirds of your crop and secondaries, one third when considering how many “extra” buds to leave during pruning. And remember that some bud damage, up to 15% or so, is normal. If you’ve lost a third of your primaries, leave a third more nodes as you do your dormant pruning. If you’ve lost half your primaries, double the nodes you leave, and so on. However, when bud mortality is very high (more than half the primary buds are dead), it may not be cost effective to do any dormant pruning as it is likely there are more sinister consequences afoot, like severe trunk damage that is much harder to quantify. A “wait and see” strategy, or at least very minimal pruning, may be best for severely injured vines (Figure 1) and trunk damage will manifest itself in spring by generating excessive sucker growth (Figure 2). And one more thing: Secondary buds are often more hardy than primaries, may have survived to a larger extent, and in some cultivars, can be incredibly fruitful. This is especially true of some hybrid varieties like DeChaunac. So, to make more informed decisions when winter damage is suspected, you have to know the fruitful potential of your cultivar; and in cases where primary bud mortality is high, it’s therefore important to also assess the mortality of secondary buds.
Another great fear is the appearance of crown gall, mainly at the base of trunks. This disease is caused by a bacterium that lives in the vine. However, the bacterium generally doesn’t cause gall formation on trunks until some injury occurs, usually from severe winter cold damage near the soil line or just above grafts on grafted vines (if you hilled over the grafts last fall). Another search at psuwineandgrapes.wordpress.com will bring up information on how to deal with this disease. You can also visit What we have learned about crown gall for an update on research into this disease from Dr. Tom Burr and his research group at Cornell University. Tom has devoted a lifetime to researching grape crown gall and many advances have been made over the years. But it’s still a huge problem for Northeastern U.S. grape growers; and crown gall problems will likely increase as our industry becomes more and more heavily invested in the most susceptible cultivars of V. vinifera.
With more sensitive detection methods, Tom’s group is getting us closer and closer to crown gall-free mother vines and planting stock, but they’re also discovering that the crown gall bacterium is everywhere grapevines are located. Not restricted to internal grapevine tissues; it’s also found on external surfaces of cultivated and wild grapevines. So, clean planting stock may still acquire the pathogen internally down the road and management of crown gall, once vines are infected, will continue to be an important part of life in any vineyard that experiences cold winter temperature extremes. However, there is potential for a commercial product that inhibits gall formation, which can be applied to infected vines. The product is actually a non-gall-forming, non-root-necrotizing version of the crown gall bacterium that is applied to grape wounds and inhibits the gall-forming characteristic of the pathogenic strains of the bacterium. This product is still under development in lab and greenhouse tests, awaiting field nursery trials soon.
If you do happen to meet up with some crown gall development this spring, galled trunks can be nursed through the 2018 season to produce at least a partial crop while you train up suckers (from below the galls) as renewal trunks. When our Chancellor vineyard was struck with widespread crown gall in the 2015 season, we were able to harvest a couple of decent sized crops while trunk renewal was taking place (Figure 2), and we never went a single season without some crop. There’s also the issue of crop insurance to think of; adjusters may want you to leave damaged trunks in place so they can more accurately document the economic damage from winter cold.
Lastly, a great guide to grapevine winter cold damage was published about 10 years ago by several experts. In fact, information from that guide was used in composing large parts of this blog and I highly recommend you read it. It’s an excellent publication, the result of many years of outstanding research by a number of leading scientists and extension specialists from all over the Northeastern U.S. The details of that publication are found below and you can purchase a hard copy for 15 bucksby clicking here: Winter Injury to Grapevines and Methods of Protection (E2930).
For those of you who can spend hours reading off of a computer screen without going blind, you can also access a web version of the document at msue.anr.msu.edu/uploads/files/e2930.pdf.
Zabadal, TJ, Dami, IE, Goiffinet, MC, Martinson, TE, and Chien, ML. 2007. Winter injury to grapevines and methods of protection. Extension Bulletin E2930. Michigan University Extension
By Michela Centinari, Bryan Hed, Kathy Kelley, and Jody Timer
The 2017 growing season was a rewarding one for many Pennsylvania (PA) grape growers; crop quality and yields generally met or exceeded expectations. However, this season was not without its challenges. Before we start planning for next year, let’s review this past season and discuss the important issues and concerns PA growers faced in 2017. In November a link to a 10-minute Internet survey was sent via email to 110 members of a PA wine grape grower extension mailing list. The survey was designed to solicit their feedback with regards to the 2017 growing and harvest season. Fifty participants completed the survey* and their responses form the basis of this blog article. So that we have a complete accounting for growers throughout the Commonwealth, we encourage PA wine grape growers who may not have received the email to contact us (Michela Centinari; Bryan Hed) and provide their contact information so that they can be included in future surveys.
First, some information about participant demographics
Of those who provided the region where they grew grapes (44 participants), the majority (16) were located in the Southeast region, followed by South Central (9), Northwest (8), Northeast (5), North Central (3), and Southwest (3) regions. Species of grapes survey participants grew are listed in Table 1.
What did we ask the survey participants?
Participants were asked to indicate the average yield of the grapes they grew in 2017 by selecting the appropriate category: “poor,” “below average,” “average,” “above average,” or “record crop.” Although growers often adjust crop load to meet a desired level, environmental or other unexpected factors may cause final yield to differ from expected, “average” values.
Participants were also asked to rank the overall quality of the fruit from “poor” to “excellent,” and the insect and disease pressure from “below average” to “above average.” Respondents were then directed to open-ended questions where they indicated what cultivars performed “below,” “average,” or “above average” and why.
Weather conditions during the growing season
A look at the weather conditions throughout the growing season can help to explain participants’ answers. In Figures 1 and 2, we reported monthly, seasonal (April 1 through October 31) growing degree days (GDD; index of heat accumulation), and precipitation collected by weather stations (http://newa.cornell.edu/) at two locations: Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension center (LERGREC) in North East (Erie County, northwestern PA) and in Reading (Berks County, southeast PA). We compared the 2017 data to the previous 18-year (1999-2016) average.
We recognize that weather conditions might vary greatly from site to site, but some general trends were observed. For example, April GDDs were above-average in many regions of the Commonwealth. On the other hand, May was slightly cooler than the average in both the Southeast and Northwest (Figure 1). Additionally, below freezing temperatures were recorded during the early morning hours of May 8 and May 9 at the agricultural experiment station located near the Penn State main campus in State College. Some of the grape cultivars grown at this research farm, especially those that typically break bud early like Marquette and Concord, sustained crop loss due to frost damage. Fortunately, spring frost affected relatively few growers in PA and only two survey participants, one from the Southwest and another from the Northeast, reported reduced crop yield due to early May frost damage.
Growing degree day accumulations were slightly above the long-term average in June and July. However, August was noticeably cooler than the average in the Southeast and many other regions of the state, but not in Erie which remained warmer than average nearly all season (Figure 1). As the season came to a close, temperatures in September and especially October were warmer than average at both locations (Figure 1).
In most regions of the state, precipitation was abundant, particularly in June, July, and August (Figure 2 and Table 2). The one exception to this trend was in the far Northwest corner of the state where rainfall along the Lake Erie shore was well below average in July and August. September was relatively dry statewide, which was a big relief for many growers after facing a wet summer. As the season came to an end, October saw a return to higher amounts of rainfall in some areas of the state.
Survey participants’ responses
Yield: Twenty-two respondents (44% of the participants) indicated that overall crop yield was “average,” which was close to the target values (Figure 3). Sixteen percent of the participants indicated that overall yield was “above average,” or “record crop,” while for 40% was “below average” or “poor.”
“Poor” or “below average” yield was attributed to several factors, including poor or reduced fruit set, herbicide drift damage from a nearby field (for more information please refer to the newsletter article: Growth regulator herbicides negatively affect grapevine development) and/or disease issues (e.g., downy mildew, bunch rot). Two participants reported crop yield losses due to late spring freeze damage. One respondent indicated that “above average” yield was likely related to bigger berry size.
Fruit quality: Participants were asked to rate fruit quality, with the majority of the respondents (82%) rating fruit quality as “average,” “above average” or “excellent.” Only 18% of the respondents indicated that overall quality was “below average” or “poor,” although in some cases the rating varied depending on the cultivars grown as specified in a follow-up question.
With the exception of the Northwest region, several participants across the state pointed out that despite the wet summer conditions the warm and dry fall weather favorably influenced fruit ripening, especially for late ripening cultivars.
For example, some of them commented:
- “Early cultivars were of lower quality than later cultivars due to the cold, wet weather in the August and early September time frame. The warm and dry later half of September and most of October benefited the later.”
- “Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay all had excellent sugar levels and good pH and acidity. Flavors were well concentrated. Reds were average to good. Some like Merlot had low sugar levels while later varieties had better sugars like Cabernet franc and Cabernet sauvignon. The late reds seemed to ripen more quickly than normal.”
- “Later varieties were above average due to smaller crop size and better weather conditions.”
Disease pressure: Half of the growers who participated in the survey experienced “above average” disease pressure during the 2017 growing season, while 41% reported “average” disease pressure and only 9% reported that the disease pressure was “below average.” This contrasts markedly with results obtained in 2016 when 47% of survey participants experienced “below average” disease pressure (Looking back at the 2016 season).
The major disease problem identified by the growers was downy mildew followed by bunch rot. A few respondents indicated that downy mildew pressure was particularly high in August. This is not surprising; downy mildew pressure is very dependent on rainfall and the threat of this disease would be particularly high in areas where recorded rainfall had been above average for most of the season (for example, Berks County).
It is important to note that areas of the state that experienced “above average” disease pressure may have a relatively high overwintering population of the pathogen(s), particularly if a fair amount of disease was actually observed in the vineyard. This can easily translate into higher disease pressure in 2018, especially if conditions remain wet.
In contrast to the majority of grape growing areas in PA, growers in the Lake Erie region experienced a second consecutive dry season, and disease development in many of the region’s vineyards was limited to powdery mildew in 2017. Therefore vineyards in the Lake Erie region will generally carry relatively low overwintering pathogen levels into 2018, with the exception of powdery mildew (a disease that is only dependent on rainfall for the first primary infections in early spring).
Despite the above-average wet conditions, respondents pointed out that fruit was clean from major diseases: “low fruit disease despite wet season,” and “given the weather conditions during the growing season overall our grapes were kept almost disease free.”
Several of them attributed their ability to keep disease pressure under control to a “persistent spray program,” “solid spray program and very good protective materials available,” and that “rainy season required that growers stay on top of their disease management program. Botrytis, downy and powdery mildew could have been rampant.”
A respondent pointed out that in addition to a solid spray program new canopy management implemented likely helped to reduce Botrytis infection in susceptible varieties: “I also started to leaf pull pre-bloom which I believe has loosened our clusters up and has allowed for better spray penetration and overall less rot.”
Insect pressure: Twenty-two participants (45% of the respondents) experienced “average” insect pressure during the 2017 growing season, while 31% answered “above average” and 24 % “below average.”
The majority of the growers who experienced “average” or “above average” insect pressure indicated problems with late-season insect pests, such as Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD), wasps and hornets (for more information on those insect pests and how to manage them please refer to: Is Spotted Wing Drosophila a problem in my wine grapes?; Late season insect management)
Some of them commented:
“SWD seems to be more present at the end of the season,” “Drosophila was the primary insect,” “SWD was above normal.”
Japanese Beetles were also named, although answers were divided: some respondents indicated “Japanese beetle pressure was lower than in previous years” while others answered that “Japanese beetles were the most prevalent insect” and they were “very aggressive in the vineyard.” A respondent observed a new insect in the vineyard, the grape leafhopper. Grapevines can tolerate fairly high populations of leaf hoppers and Japanese beetles without harm to the crop. Populations of fewer than 20 leafhopper nymphs/leaf usually does not require spraying (Japanese Beetle: A common pest in the vineyard).
In the Lake Erie region the grape berry moth was once again the most destructive insect present. The unusually dry summer kept a potentially large population to average numbers. Brown Marmorated stink bug damage is beginning to be noticeable in some Lake Erie vineyards (Will the Brown Marmorated stink bug be a problem in wine and juice?)
Unfortunately, the insect who made its big entry this season into southeastern PA vineyards was the Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula). Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) is an invasive insect first discovered in Berks County in 2014 and is now threatening parts of southeastern PA and Southern New York (Invasive insect confirmed in New York). Half of the respondents from the Southeast region (8 participants) observed the Spotted Lanternfly in their vineyards, and this was the first year for many of them.
Some of them commented:
- “At the end of the season I started seeing Spotted Lanternfly.”
- “Lantern fly moved into my vineyard this year. Some of us believe honeydew from lantern fly is attracting yellow jackets and other bees, which were really bad.”
- “The Spotted Lanternfly in our vineyard continues to put pressure on the crop; we estimated that we killed 1/2 million adults in September.”
- “The significant increase in the adult Spotted Lantern Fly population this season in our area causes significant concern for our vineyard longevity. While many of the sprays were able to knock the populations back quickly only so many applications could be made. Within a few days of spraying and killing the adults, new adults migrated into the vineyards.”
The quarantined area for SLF at the beginning of the season included three counties of southeastern PA, but by the end of the season, SLF populations had decidedly increased causing the quarantine area to be markedly expanded. The PA Department of Agriculture does not have the quarantine map completely updated at this time, however, they do have a search quarantine map where you can put in your location to check to see if you are included in the quarantine. (https://www.agriculture.pa.gov/spottedlanternfly; http://www.agriculture.pa.gov/plants_land_water/plantindustry/entomology/spotted_lanternfly/pages/default.aspx)
Information on SLF and measures that can be taken to stop its spread can be found at: https://extension.psu.edu/spotted-lanternfly, additional resources are listed on the Penn State Extension website. As stated in the article: “Penn State is at the forefront of education and research aimed at stopping the spread of this exotic species.” Penn State is seeking to hire an entomologist extension associate to coordinate outreach and response efforts for the SLF.
We are also planning to discuss Spotted Lanternfly management options at the Penn State Grape Disease & Insect Management Workshop, soon to be announced through the Penn State extension website and our listserv.
We would like to thank all the growers who participated in the survey. Their time spent responding to these questions provides us with valuable information that research and extension personnel can utilize to customize efforts to help the industry grow and improve. The more responses we receive, the more accurately our efforts can target the needs of our stakeholders statewide. Despite some challenges, it was a rewarding growing season for many PA wine grape growers. We are looking forward to tasting this season’s wines!
* All procedures were approved by the Office of Research Protections at The Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA). Upon completion of the survey, each participant was entered into a raffle to win one of three $25 gift certificates that could be redeemed toward any Penn State Extension wine or grape program fee.
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).
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 . 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 .
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 .
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 .
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 . 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 . 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) .
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.
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.
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.
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.
 Huber K (2017) Durchschnittliche Weinernte 2017 erwartet. LKOnline. Available at (in German): https://noe.lko.at/weinbau+2500++2455141
 Austrian Wine Marketing Board (2017) Austrian Wine Statistics Report 2015. Available at (in German): http://www.austrianwine.com/facts-figures/austrian-wine-statistics-report/
 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
 Austrian Wine (2017) Wine Law. Available at: http://www.austrianwine.com/our-wine/wine-law/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!