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2019 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium: Presentation Summaries

On March 5, 2019, Penn State researchers and Extension personnel presented research findings and provided five-minute overviews of upcoming studies at the 2019 Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium, held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Winery Association Annual Conference.

In this post, we have included short summaries of what each presenter discussed during their session along with a PDF/access to their presentation.

Research presentations

Under-vine cover crops: Can they mitigate vine vigor and control weeds while maintaining vine productivity?

Presented by Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, Suzanne Fleishman, Ph.D. Candidate, and Kathy Kelley, Professor of Horticultural Marketing and Business Management 

Michela, Suzanne, and Kathy discussed research conducted at Penn State related to the use of under-vine cover crops as a management practice alternative to herbicide or soil cultivation. Michela reviewed potential benefits of under-vine cover crops, such as reduction of excessive vegetative growth, weed suppression, and reduced soil erosion. She showed how the selection of cover crop species depends on the production goals of a vineyard, climate, vine age, and rootstock. Suzanne presented results from her research project. She is investigating above- and belowground effects of competition between a red fescue cover crop and Noiret grapevines, comparing responses between vines grafted to 101-14 Mgt vs Riparia rootstocks. Surveys will be administered to Pennsylvania grape growers and wine consumers in the Mid-Atlantic region. Growers will be asked to respond to questions about interest in using cover crops and benefits that could encourage their use. The consumer survey will focus on learning whether cover crops use would impact their purchasing decision and if they would be willing to pay a price premium for a bottle of wine to offset additional production costs.

Presentation PDF file

Impact of two frost avoidance strategies that delay budburst on grape productivity, chemical and sensory wine quality.

Presented by Michela Centinari, Assistant professor of Viticulture 

Crop losses and delays in fruit ripening caused by spring freeze damage represent an enormous challenge for wine grape producers around the world. This multi-year study aims to compare the effectiveness of two frost avoidance strategy (application of a food grade vegetable oil-based adjuvant and delayed winter pruning) on delaying the onset of budburst, thus reducing the risk of spring freeze damage. Our objectives are to: i) evaluate if the delay in budburst impacts grape production and fruit maturity at harvest, as well as chemical and sensory wine properties; ii) elucidate the mechanism of action of the vegetable oil-based adjuvant through an examination of bud respiration and potential phytotoxic effects; and iii) assess the impact of the two frost avoidance strategies on carbohydrate reserve storage and bud freeze tolerance during the dormant season. 

Presentation PDF file

Toward the development of a varietal plan for Pennsylvania wine grape growers

Presented by Claudia Schmidt, Assistant Professor of Agricultural Economics, and Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture

Claudia Schmidt is a new Assistant Professor of Agricultural Economics with an extension appointment at Penn State. Claudia used the opportunity of the symposium to introduce herself to the industry. In her presentation, she first gave an overview on what and where Pennsylvanians buy their wines and spirits. She then talked about the research needed to develop a varietal plan for the Pennsylvania grape and wine industry to match existing and future grape production and variety suitability with anticipated consumer demand. The immediate next steps on her research agenda are to develop a  baseline survey of grape production in Pennsylvania and, in collaboration with Michela Centinari, region specific cost of production of grapes.

Presentation PDF file

Survey for grapevine leafroll viruses in Pennsylvania: How common is it, and how is it effecting production and quality?

Presented by Bryan Hed, Research Technologist

This is a continuing project funded by the PA Wine Marketing and Research Board, that has focused on the determination of the incidence of grapevine leafroll associated virus 1 and 3 (the two most economically important and widely distributed of the leafroll viruses) in commercial vineyard blocks of Cabernet franc, Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Chambourcin, across the Commonwealth. Over two years, the survey has shown that grapevine leafroll associated viruses 1 and/or 3, were present in about a third of the vineyard blocks examined. Infection of grapevines by grapevine leafroll-associated viruses can have serious consequences on yield, vigor, cold hardiness, and most notably fruit/wine quality. Bryan also discussed a second phase of the project, anticipated to continue for at least another two years within 6 vineyard blocks of Cabernet franc, identified in the survey. In these vineyards, we plan to plot the spread of these viruses, examine and report their effects on grapevine vegetative growth, yield, and fruit chemistry, and characterize the influence of inter- and intra-seasonal weather conditions on virus-infected grapevine performance.

Presentation PDF file

Integrating the new pest, spotted lanternfly, to your grape pest management program.

Presented by Heather Leach, Extension Associate

Spotted lanternfly (SLF) is a new invasive planthopper in the Northeast U.S. that threatens grape production. Heather covered the basic biology, identification, and current distribution of SLF. She also presented on the economic impact of SLF in the grape industry and ways to manage SLF in your vineyard. SLF can feed heavily on vines causing sap depletion in the fall which has resulted in death of vines, or failure of vines to set fruit in the following year. While biological controls such as pathogens and natural enemies along with trapping and behaviorally based methods are being researched, our current management strategy relies on using insecticides sprayed in the vineyard. Heather showed results from the 2018 insecticide trials conducted against SLF, with efficacy from several products including bifenthrin, dinotefuran, thiamethoxam, carbaryl, and zeta-cypermethrin. You can read more about the results from this trial here: https://extension.psu.edu/updated-insecticide-recommendations-for-spotted-lanternfly-on-grape

Presentation PDF file

Five-minute research project overviews

Impact of spotted lanternfly on Pennsylvania wine quality.

Presented by Molly Kelly, Extension Enologist 

The Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) presents a severe problem both due to direct damage to grapevines as well as their potential to impact wine quality. Insects are known to produce or sequester toxic alkaloid compounds. The objectives of this study include characterizing the chemical compounds in SLF and production of  wines with varying degrees of SLF infestation. We can then provide winegrowers with recommendations for production of wine from infested fruit. Toxicity studies will be conducted to determine the levels of toxic compounds in finished wine, if any, using a mouse bioassay.

Presentation PDF file

Exploring the microbial populations and wild yeast diversity in a Chambourcin wine model system

Presented by Chun Tang Feng, M.S. Candidate, and Josephine Wee, Assistant Professor of Food Science  

In Dr. Josephine Wee’s lab, we are interested in the microbial population and diversity associated with winemaking. When it comes to wine fermentation, not only are commercial yeasts involved in this process, but also many indigenous yeasts. Our research goal is to isolate the wild yeasts and assess their feasibility of wine fermentation. We are expecting to explore the unique yeast strains from local PA which are able to make a positive impact on wine flavor. 

Prezi Presentation 

Rotundone as a potential impact compound for Pennsylvania wines

Presented by Jessica Gaby, Post-Doctoral Scholar and John Hayes, Associate Professor of Food Science  

This study will examine Pennsylvania consumers’ perceptions of rotundone with the goal of determining whether a rotundone-heavy wine would do well on the local market.  This will be examined from several different perspectives, including sensory testing of rotundone olfactory thresholds, liking and rejection thresholds for rotundone in red wine, and PA consumer focus groups.  The ultimate aim of the study is to determine the ideal concentration of rotundone in a locally-produced wine that would appeal to PA consumers.

Presentation PDF file

Defining regional typicity of Grüner Veltliner wines

Presented by Stephanie Keller, M.S. Candidate, Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, and Kathy Kelley,  

Grüner Veltliner(GV) is a relatively new grape variety to Pennsylvania, and while climatic conditions are favorable to its growth, the Pennsylvania wine industry is still becoming familiar with the varietal characteristics of GV grown and produced throughout the state.  This study focuses on defining typicity of Pennsylvania-grown GV wines.  Typicity is described as the perceived representativeness of a wine produced from a designated area, and defining typicity can improve wine marketing strategies.  This study uses multiple experimental sites across the state to create wines from a standardized vinification method.  The wines will be analyzed using both instrumental and human sensory methods.Surveys will be administered to Pennsylvania grape growers and white wine consumers in the Mid-Atlantic region.  Growers will be asked their interest in growing GV and what perceived and real barriers may impact their decision to grow the variety.  The consumer survey will focus on understating how to introduce them to a wine varietal they may be less aware of and what promotional methods may encourage them to purchase the wine. 

Presentation PDF file

Boosting polyfunctional thiols and other aroma compounds in white hybrid wines through foliar nitrogen and sulfur application?

Presented by Ryan Elias, Associate Professor of Food Science, Helene Hopfer, Assistant Professor of Food Science, Molly Kelly, Extension Enologist, and Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture

The quality of aromatic white wines is heavily influenced by the presence of low molecular weight, volatile compounds that often have exceedingly low aroma threshold values. Polyfunctional varietal thiols are an important category of these compounds. This project aims to provide research-based viticultural practices that could lead to increases in beneficial varietal thiols in white hybrid grapes. The expected increase in overall wine quality will be validated both by measuring the concentrations of these desirable compounds (i.e., thiols) in finished wines using instrumental analysis and by human sensory evaluation, thus providing a link between the viticultural practice of foliar spraying and the improvement of overall wine quality.  

Presentation PDF file

Gassing Regimens

By: Conor McCaney, Graduate Assistant, Department of Food Science & Technology

            The winemaking process is a dynamic one: from crush, to fermentation, on to post fermentation cellar procedures, aging, and bottling.  Each step along the way allows for the potential ingress of oxygen, whether wanted or not.  While oxygen is considered by many to be the enemy of wine, this is not always the case. In fact proper use of enological oxygen at crucial steps in the winemaking process is paramount to wine development.  That said, many winemakers dutifully aim to eliminate it from the process altogether particularly in partial tank headspace.  Proper gassing regimens and selection of the correct gas for a particular application is something that many do not do well and fail to fully understand the principals at play.  Managing proper inert gas procedures is tricky.  Most protocols are generally arbitrary ones copied from bad information and the proliferation of poor techniques passed on anecdotally from winemaker to winemaker.  In general it is a procedure that is often over looked and never given much thought. This usually means the use of a high pressure cylinder (most often nitrogen), and a ¼” or ½” hose that is allowed to run for an arbitrary amount of time, generally 15 to 20 minutes.  The results are the improper use of inert gases from the failure to measure gas volumes delivered (using a flowmeter), monitoring results with the use of a dissolved oxygen meter, using an under or oversized delivery system and unsubstantiated cost analysis pertaining to gas type and volume needed.  

            Typical gas choices are: carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon.  Most wineries choose to use carbon dioxide and nitrogen because they believe it provides the best cost-benefit in terms of oxygen displacement per unit cost.  This is not the case. To understand this, we must first delve into some fundamental principles of gases.  In the wine industry, we typically use gas by volume, either in standard cubic feet or molar volume delivered from a standard steel pressurized cylinder in which the gas is compressed.  These gas volumes are usually measured at 25°C and 1 atm.  If you happen to purchase gas by the pound it is necessary to divide the gas by its molecular weight before you can compare gases to one another.  The approximate molecular weights are: 40 g/mole for argon (Ar), 44 g/mole for carbon dioxide (CO2), 28 g/mole for nitrogen (N2), and 29 g/mole for air.  One mole of any of these gases measured at standard pressure (1atm) and temperature (25°C) occupies one molar volume, roughly equivalent to 22.4 liters, 5.92 gallons, or 0.8 standard cubic feet.  Using the ideal gas law PV = nRT the behavior of gases can be described in which pressure and volume is a fixed proportion in relation to the number of moles of gas at absolute temperature.  This indicates that gas molecules take up the same amount of space regardless of their mass when they are at the same temperature and pressure (Avogadro’s Law).  Thus one mole of any gas contains the same number of molecules (i.e., 6.02 x 1023).  This also indicates that the head space in a tank, barrel, or other container will fluctuate regularly throughout the day in response to temperature and pressure changes. Tanks that are kept outside experience greater temperature changes throughout the day compared to a tank kept inside at a constant temperature.  Changes in barometric pressure and temperature can cause the headspace in a tank to pump 3% to 7% of its volume in and out daily. This ultimately means that the headspace in a tank is not a static system and could be constantly changing.

Air is roughly composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% argon, so in essence nitrogen is air without the oxygen.  In any gassing procedure it is ideal to reduce the percentage of oxygen in the headspace to below 1% or even below 0.5% to inhibit the growth of aerobic microbes and prevent wine oxidation.  The most commonly used gas in winemaking is nitrogen (N2) with a molecular weight (MW) of 28 g/mole making it moderately lighter (less dense) than air at 29 g/mole MW.  Graham’s law of diffusion (also known as Graham’s law of effusion) states that the rate of effusion of a gas is inversely proportional to the square root of its molar mass at constant temperature and pressure.    This principle is often used to compare the diffusion rates of two gasses such as nitrogen and air.  The diffusion rates of nitrogen and air are almost identical meaning that nitrogen does not provide adequate layering, but rather readily mixes with air and does not remain in contact with the wine surface for an extended period of time.  This also means that in order to reduce the O2level from 21% to less than 1%, the headspace needs to be flushed with a volume of nitrogen that is five times the volume of the headspace. So if the tank has a 100 gallons of head space it would take 500 gallons of nitrogen to reduce the O2level from 21% to below 1%.  The cost of nitrogen is approximately $0.05 per cubic foot (Praxair, Inc).  However, because nitrogen requires five times the volume equivalents to reduce the O2percentage from 21% to less than 1%, the cost to gas a barrel (60 gallons) is $2.00, 100 gallons of headspace is $3.34 and 1,000 gallons of headspace is $33.42.  This is significantly higher than the cost of using argon for the same O2reduction in the equivalent headspace volumes.  This is why headspace gassing with nitrogen requires a substantial effort and time commitment on the part of the winemaking team to be effective.  It takes substantially more nitrogen and a greater application time compared to argon to achieve the same reduction in oxygen percentage with a shorter effective shelf life.

In contrast to nitrogen is carbon dioxide (CO2), which is significantly heavier than air at 44 g/mole compared to 29 g/mole and by Graham’s law has a much slower rate of diffusion compared to air.  This allows for a more significant displacement of air compared to nitrogen.  However, when CO2is delivered from a compressed tank, it is difficult to achieve the desired laminar flow necessary for successful layering.  This results in substantial mixing of CO2and air.  A more effective alternative for CO2delivery is dry ice (solid CO2) which leads to more efficient layering of CO2and subsequent displacement of air but does not form a permanent layer.  However, it should be noted that CO2cannot be considered inert in the same way as nitrogen and argon.  Because of Henry’s Law, which states that the solubility of a gas is directly proportional to the partial pressure of the gas above the solution, CO2readily dissolves into wine under standard conditions and its solubility can be increased or decreased with changes in pressure.  This dissolution of CO2into the wine causes the pressure in the tank to fluctuate and results in the intake of air from the outside environment through an airlock to replace the lost volume of gaseous CO2.  If there is no vacuum release valve on the tank, this could cause the tank to implode.  Carbon dioxide dissolved in the wine will also alter the acid, flavor, and textural profile of the final wine.  Carbon dioxide is much more effective when deployed early in the winemaking process at juice stage or when the wine is young as there will be substantial time to allow excess dissolved CO2to come out of solution.  The use of dry ice to protect grape must is an effective way to protect wine must from excess oxygen exposure, deter fruit flies, and subsequently cool the must.  

This leaves argon with a molecular weight of 40 g/mole, making it substantially heavier than air (29 g/mole) and similar in weight to CO2but more inert.  A major opposition to the use of argon regularly in wine production is because it is significantly more expensive compared to the other two gases.  It is true that when purchasing gas by volume argon is roughly three times as expensive as nitrogen or carbon dioxide. However it is much more effective at displacing air and creating a more permanent blanket that remains in contact with the wine surface longer while also remaining inert compared to CO2. Less volume is also needed to achieve the same desired results.  At approximately $0.11 per cubic foot (Praxair, Inc) not including daily tank rental fee, a barrel (60 gallons) can be completely gassed with argon for $0.88, 100 gallons of head space for $1.47, and 1,000 gallons of headspace for $14.71. This cost is relatively insignificant to a winery’s bottom line in terms of the degree of quality preservation that argon can provide.

When using any of the gases discussed previously, it is important to select the proper pressure gauge, hose diameter, hose length, flowrate, and the use of a t-valve in order to deliver the gas under laminar conditions.  The use of a lower velocity, will encourage laminar flow delivery and reduce any chance of turbulence and subsequent mixing with air, thus creating a more layered effect.

            It is ideal to keep the flow velocity to 1 meter per sec or less.  To determine the velocity divide the volumetric flow rate in cubic meters per second by the cross sectional area in meters of the hose being used.  If using cubic feet instead of cubic meters, perform the same calculation but convert the units from cubic meters to cubic feet and meters to feet.  Table 1 shows that it is best to use a 1.5” or 2” diameter line with a t-valve to deliver an adequate amount of gas in a reasonable amount of time.  This will require the use of an oversized regulator compared to the typical 0.25” regulator used on most compressed gas cylinders.  

            In essence it is best practice to recommend the use of argon as the headspace gas for the majority of wine production processes.  Carbon dioxide and nitrogen have their respective roles but when it comes to headspace gassing argon it the number one choice.  In the production of high quality wine, it is imperative to establish proper gassing procedures.  This includes the successful training of staff in all aspects of gassing procedures and the selection of the correct gas for the appropriate task. This also requires selecting the correct regulator size, hose diameter and length, the use of T-valves, measuring gas flow using a flowmeter, and finally verifying results with the use of a dissolved oxygen meter to monitor oxygen levels in the tank headspace pre and post gassing.  The proper investment of time and resources in this often overlooked area of winemaking can have a profound effect on wine quality and preservation in the long run. It can also reduce long term costs by reducing the amount of gas and time required to achieve the desired reduction in the amount of oxygen present in a tank headspace.  

2017 PA Research Symposium Provides Research-Based Practicality for PA Grape Growers and Winemakers

By: Denise M. Gardner

The Pennsylvania Wine Marketing and Research Board (PA WMRB) annually awards researchers and graduate students grants to explore pertinent topics to the Pennsylvania wine industry.  For the 2016 – 2017 fiscal year, four projects were awarded industry-funded grants.  Results from these four projects will be presented at the 2017 Symposium, co-hosted by the PA WMRB, Penn State Extension, and the Pennsylvania Winery Association (PWA).

Registration is being organized through the PWA, and can be found here:

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This year’s Symposium, held on Wednesday, March 29th at the Nittany Lion Inn (University Park, PA) will only run in the morning and is packed with 5 sessions of information pertinent to both the enology and viticulture fields in Pennsylvania.  At the close of the Symposium a lunch will be provided for all attendees.

Guest Speaker has Enology and Tannin Focus

The WMRB Symposium key guest speaker is Dr. Catherine Peyrot des Gachons, Winemaker Consultant at Chouette Collective.  Dr. Peyrot des Gachons has assisted Pennsylvania wineries with enhancing their quality production for several years.  She will be speaking towards her tannin and wine aroma matrix research that she has been working on at the Viticulture and Enology Department through the University of Montpellier (France).

Dr. Catherine des Gachons, winemaker consultant, will be the key guest speaker at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium.

Dr. Catherine des Gachons, winemaker consultant, will be the key guest speaker at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium.

Tannins: Modulation of wine structure and aroma

From environmental factors on tannin biosynthesis to human interventions to modulate tannin content in wine what do we know and what can we do to modulate wine structure. Can this tannin content impact wine aroma?  The presentation will focus on few main points of interest with practical applications.

 

Enology-Focused Presentations

An additional enology-based presentation will feature Laurel Vernarelli, a graduate student in Dr. Ryan Elias’s lab within the Penn State Department of Food Science.  Laurel’s presentation will be an extension from Dr. Gal Kreitman’s work that was presented last year on predicting reductive off-odors in wines.  Laurel will explore the use of copper fining in wine production and the potential impact it may have on wine quality.  Given the prevalence of reductive off-odors, including hydrogen sulfide, and heavy reliance on copper fining, this topic should be of considerable interest to most wineries.

Laurel Vernarelli will give an update on treating reductive and hydrogen sulfide aromas/flavors with copper sulfate at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium.

Laurel Vernarelli will give an update on treating reductive and hydrogen sulfide aromas/flavors with copper sulfate at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium.

Reconsidering copper fining in wine

This presentation will include a brief overview of copper fining, along with the impact of reductive thiols and recent findings describing the effect that copper has in wine. A method for using immobilized copper materials in place of copper fining is described. Depending on the result obtained, winemakers can make informed decisions for use of alternative fining techniques when dealing with reductive issues.

 

Viticulture-Focused Presentations

For those with an interest in viticulture, this year’s program promises to deliver some key updates.  Bryan Hed, Research Technologist for the Department of Plant Pathology, will present his annual updates regarding disease management for Pennsylvania vineyards.  For those that are frequent blog followers, Bryan is a lead contributor to the important seasonal reviews.  These tend to be very popular posts for growers and his presentations are always informative and practical.  If you missed the 2016 seasonal reviews, you can find them here:

Bryan’s talk at this year’s Symposium is a continued study with results collected over 2 years, which helps initiate trends and suggestions useful towards growers.

Bryan Hed from Penn State University will review current disease management techniques for the vineyard at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium.

Bryan Hed from Penn State University will review current disease management techniques for the vineyard at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium.

Updates on Grape Disease Management Research

Fruit zone leaf removal can be a very beneficial practice in the management of harvest season bunch rot. Bryan will start his presentation by briefly reviewing the pros and cons of different timings of this practice. In addition, leaf removal by hand is very expensive and labor intensive, and with the increasing scarcity and rising cost of hand labor, mechanization is crucial to increasing cost effectiveness and adoption of this practice, no matter what the timing. Bryan will follow up with an in depth discussion of the progress made toward mechanizing an early, pre-bloom leaf removal and comparing its effectiveness over a variety of wine grape cultivars and training systems during the past two seasons.

 

Maria Smith, Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Michela Centinari’s lab, will discuss her research regarding early leaf removal in Gruner Veltliner vines.  Maria and Dr. Centinari have previously written a blog post pertaining to leaf removal strategies for Mid-Atlantic vineyards, which could act as an excellent primer to Maria’s presentation in March.  Her presentation will deliver two-years (2015, 2016) of data regarding the effects of early leaf removal and cluster thinning techniques on Gruner Veltliner vines.

Penn State Plant Science Ph.D. Candidate, Maria Smith, will discuss her research on early leaf removal and cluster thinning techniques for Gruner Veltliner at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing and Research Board Symposium.

Penn State Plant Science Ph.D. Candidate, Maria Smith, will discuss her research on early leaf removal and cluster thinning techniques for Gruner Veltliner at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing and Research Board Symposium.

Vine response and management costs of early leaf removal for yield regulation in V. vinifera L. Gruner Veltliner

Early leaf removal (ELR) and cluster thinning (CT) were applied and compared for yield regulation in Grüner Veltliner over the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons.  Early leaf removal was performed at two different times, trace-bloom and fruit-set. We compared the effects of ELR and CT on grape quality, vine health, and economic costs to un-thinned vines.

 

Finally, Dr. Michela Centinari will follow up with further results regarding sprayable products to reduce frost damage in wine grape vineyards.  Michela’s frost research has been a prominent topic at previous Symposiums, and is often featured here on the blog site.  While the updated results that will be presented at the 2017 Symposium have not yet been reported through Penn State Extension, please see some of her past blog posts pertaining to frost control and freeze damage in the vineyard:

Dr. Michela Centinari will discuss her current research findings pertaining to frost protection in the vineyard at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium.

Dr. Michela Centinari will discuss her current research findings pertaining to frost protection in the vineyard at the 2017 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium.

Spray-on materials: can they reduce frost damage to grapevines?

Dr. Centinari will present results of studies conducted to test the efficacy of sprayable products as a low-cost frost protection strategy. Two materials Potassium-Dextrose-Lac (KDL) and a seaweed extract of Ascophyllum nodosum, were tested for their cryo-protective activity using a controlled-freezing technique on several grapevine cultivars.

 

We hope to see you there!

Harvesting the Knowledge Accumulated at Penn State on Grapes and Wine

By: Denise M. Gardner

Early in 2016, I was asked to create a “behind the scenes” event in late October to feature our research winemaking program and share this with alumni to introduce them to some of the things that Penn State offers in the fields of viticulture and enology.  This was, by far, one of the most interesting events I have organized during my time with Penn State, and it ended up being a very rewarding experience, personally, to see the pride and talent that contributed to make the event a success.

The challenge: teach a group of adults about wine production… most of whom have probably very little knowledge about or experience in actual wine production.

As many of us know, making wine is not really the romantic ideal that is often portrayed and associated with the wine industry.  We all know that we aren’t overlooking our vineyards with a glass of wine in hand 24-7.

It’s hard work.  It’s dedication.  And it’s farming.

When I introduced this event idea to the Extension Enology Advisory Committee – a group composed of 13 volunteers from Pennsylvania’s wine industry and several representatives from various academic communities – they all jumped on the idea of showcasing the Penn State Extension Enology presence and the impact it has had on the local industry in addition to Penn State’s research programs.

Starting in April 2016, I went to work on developing a short [film] script to organize and develop a small video that highlighted our research initiatives and student involvement around winemaking at Penn State.  The hope was that this video would feature how students, faculty, and staff are getting involved with industry members via Penn State Extension’s programs while also explaining how wine is generally produced.

With this video, I ended up interviewing two faculty members from our research team, Dr. Michela Centinari from the Dept. of Plant Sciences and Dr. Ryan Elias from the Dept. of Food Science.  We collected their perspectives and opinions on various activities that they have been involved in and related it back to the growth and development associated with Penn State offering educational and research experiences in viticulture, enology, and wine marketing.

Figure 1: Filming Day! Dr. Ryan Elias, Dr. Michela Centinari, and Denise Gardner get interviewed and video taped for a small presentation on winemaking at Penn State. Filming completed by media guru, Jon Cofer. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 1: Filming Day! Dr. Ryan Elias, Dr. Michela Centinari, and Denise Gardner get interviewed and video taped for a small presentation on winemaking at Penn State. Filming completed by media guru, Jon Cofer. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Luckily, one of the media specialists within the College of Agricultural Sciences, Jon Cofer, had a collection of footage that we had shot during wine processing days just in case we ever needed video footage for anything.  As luck would have it, we did need the media footage!  Jon sifted through hours of film to find the best footage, which we then tied back into the explanation on how research wines are generally processed at Penn State.

During our travels around the state, whether it was to check in on research trials or visit with industry members during Regional Winery Visits, Michela, a group of dedicated graduate students, and I collected video footage in commercial vineyards in an attempt to highlight what goes on during the growing season.  And finally, I met with some recent graduates that experienced educational opportunities through Penn State and Extension, and who both work in Pennsylvania’s wine industry today.  I have to admit, one of the most awarding experiences in being Penn State’s Extension Enologist is that I have watched several “students” graduate and find full-time job placement within our state’s wine industry.  It is an absolute joy to see these young adults exceed in a growing industry.

The result of this event couldn’t have been better received.  Instead of making wine with a group of non-winemakers, we set up three educational stations to teach about:

  1. wine grape properties and vineyard management by highlighting how to conduct a berry sensory analysis, explaining berry physiological differences, and teaching how to read a refractometer.
  2. the chemistry behind fermentation and sensory training associated with wine tasting through analytical demonstrations and “aroma guessing” with aroma standards.
  3. and evaluating the end result (finished wine!) of some of our best research wines and commercial winery collaborators.

Figure 2: Graduate students, Maria and Drew, get ready to teach attendees about wine grape properties. Maria and Drew are members of Dr. Michela Centinari's research lab. Photo by: Tom Dimick

Figure 2: Graduate students, Maria and Drew, get ready to teach attendees about wine grape properties. Maria and Drew are members of Dr. Michela Centinari’s research lab. Photo by: Tom Dimick

 

Figure 3: Jared Smith (Dept. of Food Science Teaching Lab Support Specialist and previous graduate supported by the Crouch Endowment) explains how winemakers monitor fermentation and the use of temperature-controlled fermentation tanks. Photo by: Tom Dimick

Figure 3: Jared Smith (Dept. of Food Science Teaching Lab Support Specialist and previous graduate supported by the Crouch Endowment) explains how winemakers monitor fermentation and the use of temperature-controlled fermentation tanks. Photo by: Tom Dimick

 

Figure 4: Graduate student, Laurel, tests attendees on their ability to smell and aroma and guess what it is. Laurel works within Dr. Ryan Elias's lab. Photo by: Tom Dimick

Figure 4: Graduate student, Laurel, tests attendees on their ability to smell and aroma and guess what it is. Laurel works within Dr. Ryan Elias’s lab. Photo by: Tom Dimick

 

Figure 5: Denise Gardner pours some of the commercial wines for attendees and explains how to pair them with locally produced cheeses. Photo by: Tom Dimick

Figure 5: Denise Gardner pours some of the commercial wines for attendees and explains how to pair them with locally produced cheeses. Photo by: Tom Dimick

 

Figure 6: Dr. Michela Centinari pours and explains the research wine trials. Attendees loved this portion of the program and were truly impressed with the quality wines produced by our research team! Photo by: Tom Dimick

Figure 6: Dr. Michela Centinari pours and explains the research wine trials. Attendees loved this portion of the program and were truly impressed with the quality wines produced by our research team! Photo by: Tom Dimick

The educational portion of this program was a big success.  Attendees learned about native and wine grape varieties grown in Pennsylvania, and how those grapes compare to table grapes that people see in grocery stores.  At the fermentation booth, participants learned how to measure Brix to determine potential alcohol and how a temperature-controlled stainless steel tank can be useful in wine production.  Additionally, our graduate students put guests’ nose-sniffing skills to the greatest test in seeing if they could guess various wine aromas without peaking at the answers!  It was enlightening to see our students teach the importance of these skills to develop a career in the wine industry.

The Penn State research wines that are made at University Park were also a big hit.  Explaining the purpose of research wines can be a slight challenge, as most of our wines are never finished.  This means that in order to emphasize a vineyard or winemaking treatment, fining, stabilizing, and finishing treatments (like oak aging) are kept to an absolute minimum or completely avoided.  In many cases, bottled wines will never see any oak or fining other than getting racked off of their lees.

Our primary display was on the Noiret wines, which was a project funded by the PA Wine Marketing and Research Board to determine if vineyard management treatments affected the concentration and perception of rotundone, the primary aroma compound associated with the Noiret variety that exudes a black pepper aroma.  The rosé wine, also made from Noiret, was an excellent contrast to the red wines produced from the same variety.  Pairing the wines with various cheeses produced by Berkey Creamery was an excellent way to also talk about wine styles produced in Pennsylvania and the importance of food and wine pairing with many of the local wines.

If you are interested in tasting many of our wine trials, please join us at the annual PA Wine Marketing and Research Board Symposium.  The 2017 Symposium will be held in University Park on March 29th(More details on this conference will be released soon!)

But what happened to that video?!  If you are still interested in evaluating our winemaking program, curious about what we have been up to for the past few years, please feel free to enjoy our short 12 minute video that highlights a small portion of our efforts to work with industry and participate in viticulture and enology research.  While the program is young, we have truly been fortunate to work with some pretty amazing people: commercial growers and producers that are interested in research, students developing expertise, and other academic colleagues that have been willing to collaborate with us as we build our programs.

We truly hope that you have seen or experienced some of the benefits of our programs, but if you would like to know more about what we do, please do not hesitate to contact us!  Our email addresses are readily available and we also try to document our regular activities on Facebook.  We honestly couldn’t do it without the support of people like YOU!

Enjoy the video!  We think it is fairly entertaining, a lot of work went into it, and it showcases a small fraction of the things we are trying to do at Penn State to help progress and educate the local wine industry:

Winemaking At Penn State Video

(If you do not have a dropbox account, simply hit “No Thanks” when the pop up window is displayed.  You can also do this if you would like to avoid logging into dropbox.)

Figure 7: Bottled research wines ready for tasting. Photo by: Denise Gardner

Figure 7: Bottled research wines ready for tasting. Photo by: Denise Gardner

 

Tasting room odds and ends

By: Dr. Kathy Kelley

With just a few weeks until Valentine’s Day and March and April tasting room trail events being planned, you are probably giving some thought to the customer service your staff provides, whether your tasting room sheets might need to be updated, and what constitutes overall customer satisfaction.  What I have included in this blog post are highlights of a few marketing studies and some strategies that focus on various tasting room components.

Does your tasting room sheet need a “make under?”

Your tasting room sheet is meant to inform consumers about what to expect from the wine before they sample it, but how much information is too much?

Tomas et al. (2014) conducted a study with seven New York State wineries (two had two tasting room locations) to determine if removing sensory descriptors, defined as “any adjective used to describe the flavor or aroma of the finished wine, both subjective and objective,” would have an impact on tasting room sales (http://bit.ly/1WPpqen).

The researchers provided an example in their article that included the descriptions of the climate where the grapes were grown and what the wine paired with, but eliminated the sensory descriptor: “Dry and full-bodied with decadent flavors of pink grapefruit, honeysuckle and lemon meringue.”

Jan 2016_Kathy_Image 1 TR

Data from the study indicated that both bottle sales and dollar sales were higher when the modified tasting room sheets were used.  The researchers concluded that sensory descriptors “may be intimidating to the inexperienced consumers, who may face further frustration if they try a wine based on its sensory description but cannot recognize the same attributes, or if their expectations are not met” (Tomas et al., 2014).  For visitors who have more experience with wine, and “may have existing sensory expectations,” such descriptions may have a reduced “effect…on their choice” of wine.

To charge or not to charge

Now, what about the tasting fee you might charge.  Do consumers avoid tasting rooms that charge a fee?

Of the consumers who participated in a 2012 survey conducted in Michigan, 29% indicated that they do “avoid tasting rooms that charge a fee” (http://bit.ly/1KS85eT).  The remainder (71%) who did not avoid tasting rooms that charge a fee to taste the wines “purchased an average of 7.68 bottles of wine” with a total of $135.78 spent “over the course of their trip.” Those who avoided tasting rooms that charge a fee reported that they “purchased an average of 6.58 bottles of wine” and spent a total of $97.82 “over the course of their trip.”

Customer service – why it needs to be good

As you well know, poor customer service can cause customers to flee a tasting room quite quickly, but how are consumers’ actions influenced by “good customer service?”

Byrd et al. (2016) surveyed North Carolina winery tasting room visitors about what prompted their visit and how important, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = very unimportant and 5 = very important), winery and regional attributes were in the decision to visit a wine region.  Eighty-six percent of survey participants rated “good customer service” a 4.39 and “winery staff are knowledgeable about wine” a 4.36, both a which were between “important” and “very important.”

When asked about future actions based on their tasting room experience, 91.2% of those who rated “good customer service” as “very important” responded that they would “likely:” 1) revisit the winery, 2) recommend the winery/vineyard to others, 3) visit any winery in the state in the future, and 4) purchase North Carolina wines.  The likelihood of “engaging further with NC wine and wineries” was lower for those who assigned a lower rating to the importance of “good customer service” at the winery.

Is your tasting room experience “all that?”

Have you ever wondered which aspects of a consumer’s tasting room experience contributes to his or her “overall customer satisfaction?”

In this study, conducted by researchers at Cornell University, tasting room visitors rated 24 attributes related to their tasting room experience (e.g. sounds in the tasting room, friendliness of pourer, availability of non-wine gift items) and their overall satisfaction with the visit on a scale from 1 to 5 (1 = poor and 5 = excellent) (Shapiro and Gomez, 2014).

The 24 attributes were combined (based on similarities) into five categories:

1) Ambience (e.g. tasting room cleanliness, lighting, sounds, view)

2) Service (e.g. pourer knowledge, friendliness, appearance)

3) Tasting protocol (e.g. number and variety of wines offered, tasting fee)

4) Tasting experience (e.g. customer’s ability to select wines tasted, waiting time)

5) Retail execution (e.g. wines and merchandise available for purchase, wine quality and price perceptions)

According to the researchers, “ambience” followed by “service” and “tasting protocol” contributed “to overall customer satisfaction” in the tasting room and that “level of customer satisfaction influences the decision to buy, the amount of dollars spent and the number of bottles purchased in a shopping occasion” (Shapiro and Gomez, 2014).

Jan 2016_Kathy_Image 2 TR

In addition, while their participants’ mean ratings for each of the five categories (e.g. ambience, service, tasting protocol) were between “very good” (a rating of 4 out of 5) and “excellent” (a rating of 5 out of 5), a one-point increase in the “ambience” score (for example, an increase from 4 to 5) increased overall customer satisfaction by 0.25 points.

A one-point decrease in “ambience” (for example, a decreased from 4 to 3) also had an impact as the overall customer satisfaction then decreased by 0.25 points (Shapiro and Gomez, 2014).  A one-point increase (decrease) in the ratings for the other four categories resulted in a small increase (decrease) in customer satisfaction.

“Welcome to X Winery.  We offer a free winery tour in addition to having some wonderful wines available for you to taste…”  

When you visit some big box stores or warehouse clubs you are often greeted by an employee who is checking your membership card, rolling a cart your way, directing you to a department, etc.  Part of the strategy is to deter theft, but in 2015, after a three-year hiatus, Wal-Mart brought the greeters back to a select number of store entrances to also “improve the profitability of its U.S. operations by making the stores friendlier…” (http://on.wsj.com/1Jet4MU).

According to a winery consultant, Patty Held, her experience at a winery on a busy Saturday was enhanced by the greeter who informed her about the tasting fee, the gift shop, and other activities she could participate in during her visit.  Ms. Held stated in her blog post that when the tasting room is busy, staff are most likely focusing their attention on pouring wines, ringing up sales, etc., consumers who just walked through the door could be “ignored by tasting room staff because they are busy taking care of the other guests” (http://bit.ly/1T8ESDR).

In an upcoming blog, Jen will provide more information on suggested do’s and don’ts for making customers feel welcome – especially during those busy periods.

Sit down and take a load off 

Could the addition of seating in your tasting room increase sales?

Based on data collected form wineries that responded to the 2015 Wine Business Monthly/Silicon Valley Bank Tasting Room Survey, “average wine purchases” where higher for those who were seated at a table or area other than at the bar when participating in a wine tasting.  If this seated tasting was “private or formal” the average wine purchase was $392, while the average purchase was $107 for consumers who participated in a “casual or group” seated tasting.  The average wine purchase for a customer standing at the tasting room bar was $75, while this dollar amount was $65 if the customer was seated at the tasting room bar.  In addition, “Seated customers are more likely to join the wine club than if they are standing at the tasting bar” (Penn. 2015).

Jan 2016_Kathy_Image 3 TR

According to the May 13, 2015 broadcast, 70.79% of visitors purchased wine from the tasting room if they were seated and the tasting was “private or formal” (http://bit.ly/1nbXzdp).

Why is the seated arrangement a benefit compared to standing?  The researchers believe that seating allows for personalization, “art of service,” one-on-one conversations, and relationship building between the customer and the tasting room staff (http://bit.ly/1nbXzdp).

Welcome Jen Zelinskie

I would like to introduce Jennifer Zelinskie, the graduate student who is continuing the consumer research funded by the USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program: “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (Grant 11091317).  Jen graduated from Penn State in May 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition Dietetics.  She has also assisted Denise in previous NE-1020 vintages, in which wines were made at Penn State using several wine grape varieties produced at the North East and Biglerville, PA research vineyards.  You can read more information regarding the NE-1020 variety trials here, and the Penn State student winemaking experiences here.

Jan 2016_Kathy_Image 4 Jenn

Jen’s interest in wine marketing, and hence some of the questions she will ask survey participants, does include understanding consumer attitudes about wine in relation to their nutritional intake and subsequent consumption and purchasing behaviors.   Jen has worked in the past for a winery in the vineyard and in the tasting room.  Currently, she is behind the tasting bar at a local cidery and assisting with building the business’s social media presence.  In the coming months we will publish blogs that describe outcomes from her recent consumer survey.  Welcome Jen!

References

Byrd, E.T., B. Canziani, Y.C. Hsieh, K. Debbage, and S. Sonmez. 2016. Wine tourism: Motivating visitors through core and supplementary services. Tourism Management 52: 19-29.  doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2015.06.009

Penn, C. 2015. 2015 WBM/SVB tasting room survey report. Wine business Monthly.  22(7):50-58

Shapiro, M. and M. Gomez. 2014. Customer satisfaction and sales performance in wine tasting rooms. International Journal of Wine Business Research. 26(1):45-60.

Thomas, L., M.I. Gomez, C.J. Gerling, and A.K. Mansfield. 2014. The effect of tasting sheet sensory descriptors on tasting room sales. International Journal of Wine Business Research. 26(1):61-72.

 

What is Enology?

By: Denise M. Gardner

By definition, (o)enology is the study of wine and winemaking (Robinson 2006).  The field of enology differs from that of viticulture, the science of grape growing, although the two are often intertwined in academic departments across the United States.

An (o)enologist is one that practices the field of (o)enology, and often understands the scientific principles associated with winemaking, including desirable characteristics associated with the grape itself.  Enologists tend to understand wine analysis and can make educated decisions during wine production based on the analytical description and, potentially, sensory description of a given wine.  Many enologists do not actually have a degree in “enology” per se, although enology degree programs exist throughout the world.  In fact, many industry enologists have a science degree in chemistry, microbiology, biology, food science or another related field.

I find myself often making the argument that an enologist is actually a food scientist that specializes in the production of wine.  While it may appear less glamorous in words, many enologists that have studied in the U.S. have Bachelors of Science degrees from institutions in which “enology” is embedded within the food science department.  While the art of crafting a quality wine is unique to the product, and can require years of adequate sensory training or experience, the equipment and production techniques associated with winemaking are also utilized in the commercial production of many food and beverage products.

Penn State Food Science undergraduate students learn pilot scale research winemaking techniques associated with commercial winemaking practices and enology.

Penn State Food Science undergraduate students learn pilot scale research winemaking techniques associated with commercial winemaking practices and enology. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

What does an (o)enologist do?

Being an enologist does not necessarily indicate that that individual is also the winemaker.  In the book, “How to Launch Your Wine Career,” the authors (Thatch and D’Emilio 2009) explain the two arms associated with wine production in California: the winemaker and the enologist.  For a head winemaker position, one typically has to work up the ladder from assistant winemaker, and may find themselves in several assistant winemaker positions prior to holding a head winemaker position.  The enologist position develops through a different ladder within the winery: from a crush (or harvest) intern to a cellar worker to a lab assistant and finally a cellar master before reaching the enologist position.  Note that this development may not always be the case in smaller, commercial wineries.

In larger wineries, many enologists focus on working within a winery’s lab.  Their primary duties could range from conducting daily wine analysis and monitoring quality control parameters of all of the wines, to training additional employees (lab assistants, lab technicians, harvest interns) in running analysis, to assisting the winemaker with specific tasks (e.g., setting up blending trials, recording data on blending trials, field trials, or wine trials, and accomplishing cellar tasks).  In smaller wineries, the enologist will tend to wear several hats, and may also be associated as the head winemaker for the establishment.

Understanding analytical techniques associated with the quality control of wine production is an essential component of being an enologist.

Understanding analytical techniques associated with the quality control of wine production is an essential component of being an enologist. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Is an enologist the same thing as a sommelier?

Enologists should not be confused with sommeliers, which the Oxford Companion to Wine defines as a “specialist wine waiter or wine steward.”  Sommeliers are typically employed by restaurants, distributors, or other retail entities to advise consumers on wine purchases at a specific establishment.  It is not uncommon for sommeliers to determine a wine list for a restaurant or to advertise food and wine pairings based on the restaurant’s menu and available wine selection.

Education in a sommelier certificate program focuses on introductory viticulture and winemaking knowledge; a broad overview of terms and basic production practices (i.e., how to make a white wine versus a red wine).  Their focus will feature global wine producing regions (e.g., regions within France like Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire, etc.), wine styles and the characteristics associated within specific regionally (terroir-driven) produced wines. Written knowledge is supplemented with educational tastings, and most sommelier and sommelier-like programs have a unique tasting method that is taught and practiced by all pupils.  Additionally, some sommelier programs feature education on the various types of spirits produced internationally and the sensory evaluation thereof.  Sommeliers understand how to interpret wine regions and what to expect stylistically from a wine that is presented to them.  Despite the depth of knowledge in these areas, sommelier training does not focus on actual production techniques.  A sommelier is not trained in a wine processing facility, nor taught the scientific component to winemaking, and their approach to wine tasting often differs from those in production.  I have often found that sommelier’s evaluation of a wine can supplement that of the winemaker in a positive way, and emphasizes how varied sensory perceptions of wine truly are based on one’s training and experience.

Wine sensory evaluation – an educational tasting session – hosted by a Wine and Spirits Education Trust class.  Flights of wine are chosen to emphasize regional and stylistic characteristics that are specific to a given region.

Wine sensory evaluation – an educational tasting session – hosted by a Wine and Spirits Education Trust class. Flights of wine are chosen to emphasize regional and stylistic characteristics that are specific to a given region. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

There are several organizations that train sommeliers.  The most famous and prestigious organizations for sommelier credentials include the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Masters of Wine (MW) programs.  Certification typically requires participants to pass several exams, written and oral (i.e., mock sommelier serving exams or blind wine tastings with adequate identification of each wine).  The Masters of Wine program also includes a written research paper on a select wine topic.

There is also a number of regional and local sommelier training and certificate programs, or wine education courses, available to interested parties.

Is it important for a winery to hire an enologist?

For a smaller, commercial winery (<10,000 cases), having an on-site enologist is beneficial for a winery, especially if the enologist is trained to make wine, run and interpret lab analysis, and adequately taste wines.  Essentially, their role takes can take the “guess work” out of winemaking.  An enologist’s skill and expertise can completely transform a winery’s brand and quality, especially if that individual is employed to accomplish two production tasks: enologist (i.e., lab analysis) and winemaker.  Additionally, a winemaker can also train to improve their skills in the lab to also act as the winery’s enologist.

How to become more affluent in enology?

In Pennsylvania, there are a number of ways that one can improve their knowledge in enology.  First, it is best to identify what you want to do.

  • Are you interest in making or producing wine on the production floor?
  • Do you have an interest in science and lab analysis?
  • Or are you looking into a broader knowledge for making wine and food pairings?

For the first two points, if you are looking to switch careers or already employed by the wine industry, but think you need a more in-depth background in the scientific principles associated with wine production and/or analysis, a good starting point is Harrisburg Area Community College’s (HACC) online viticulture and enology Associate’s Degree program: http://bit.ly/HACCVandE

Additionally, Penn State Extension offers several workshops, short courses, webinars, and educational events that are designed for the commercial wine industry: http://extension.psu.edu/food/enology

Penn State Extension Enologist, Denise M. Gardner, tastes wines with Wine Quality Improvement (WQI) Short Course attendees to diagnose wine defects/flaws within commercial wines.

Penn State Extension Enologist, Denise M. Gardner, tastes wines with Wine Quality Improvement (WQI) Short Course attendees to diagnose wine defects/flaws within commercial wines. Photo by: Michael Black/Black Sun Photography.

Sometimes, it is beneficial to enroll in broader food production short courses to enhance one’s baseline knowledge.  Such short courses include like:

Additionally, many other Extension programs feature wine- and grape growing-specific workshops tailored towards to the commercial wine industry.

How to broaden your wine knowledge

However, if you found yourself wanting a broader background in understanding wine regions, wine styles, and wine (in general), without getting into winemaking, then you may want to look into a wine education course that follows a sommelier curriculum.  Several are featured in Pennsylvania, and offer a wide range of expertise levels:

References

Robinson, J. 2006. The Oxford Companion to Wine. Oxford University Press, New York.

Thach, L. and B. D’Emilio. 2009. How to Launch Your Wine Career. The Wine Appreciation Guild, San Francisco.

Reflections: Winemaking at Penn State

By: Denise M. Gardner

I can officially say that I have now been involved with 5 harvests here at Penn State, with my first harvest in 2011.  Returning to Pennsylvania from California in 2011 could not have been a greater challenge to an incoming newbie, and I think it will forever be one of the most difficult vintages I have had the experience to deal with to date.  Not only did I manage to lose an entire lot of finished wine down the drain (long story…), but I recognized the need to bring PA-produced research wines to Pennsylvania’s growing wine industry during a daunting season from a weather perspective.  Additionally, I saw an opportunity to educate students on how to make wine while they helped me process fruit from the research vineyards.  In that first year, 5 lucky college seniors helped me process about 8 different varieties from the NE-1020 “multi-state evaluation of wine grape cultivars and clones” project, which was being financially supported by a multi-state SCRI grant.

Looking back today, I now see that the 2011 vintage provided me with a starting point to work with students and a series of winemaking lessons for future vintages that I continue to recall even today.

I was actually one of those bright-eyed students back in my younger days.  I stumbled upon Penn State Extension and Mark Chien by pestering local Extension educators on how to grow grapevines.  I still recall the many opportunities Mark, specifically, provided for me despite my age or lack of wine knowledge.  Mark taught me how to plant a vineyard, from site selection to digging holes for a trellis, how to monitor vine growth through proper pruning techniques, how to ferment grapes into wine, and the various stages involved in production that went beyond the basic texts on how to make wine.  I connected with industry members and was awarded an experience to intern at Lallemand in Toulouse, France before I reached my freshman year in college.

Figure 1: Extension Enologist, Denise Gardner, developed an interest in wine grape growing and production throughout high school.  Photos, from left to right, include an annual fermentation lesson during a high school agriculture class, building a trellis system at the local high school, grape vines after 2 years of growth at the high school vineyard, and a lesson from past Extension Viticulturist, Mark Chien, on how to properly prune grapevines at a PA vineyard.  Photos provided by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 1: Extension Enologist, Denise Gardner, developed an interest in wine grape growing and production throughout high school. Photos, from left to right, include an annual fermentation lesson during a high school agriculture class, building a trellis system at the local high school, grape vines after 2 years of growth at the high school vineyard, and a lesson from past Extension Viticulturist, Mark Chien, on how to properly prune grapevines at a PA vineyard. Photos provided by: Denise M. Gardner

When I arrived to Penn State in 2011, I had a memory of the opportunities Extension awarded me and a goal of working with students that may have an interest in wine production.  I still laugh when I recall a number of students that experienced a harvest at a local winery, only to tell me it was “the hardest thing they have ever had to do.”

While many may not make the connection, food science offers an incredible foundation of knowledge that is beneficial for winemakers and those whom wish to go into fermented beverage production.  Students engage in a series of classes to develop a foundation in chemistry, microbiology, and biotechnology.  Additionally, they learn important processing parameters that are affiliated with winemaking: sanitation, quality control practices, safety when processing, proper sampling techniques, and experimental practices to improve food/beverage products.

For that reason, the annual harvest and production of wine with use of undergraduate and graduate students’ support has blossomed into many positive ventures:

  • Since 2010, Penn State Food Science and several Pennsylvania wineries have sponsored student co-ops at wineries during vintage seasons. These experiences educate students in wine production, and specifically provided venues for “real world” experiences in the wine industry.
  • Undergraduate students have embarked on undergraduate research experiences pertaining to wine research within the College of Agricultural Sciences. Several of these projects have benefited the local wine industry.
  • Graduates from Food Science have started to “harvest hop” to the southern hemisphere for winemaking and production experiences internationally. Virginia (Smith) Mitchell, head winemaker at Galer Estate Winery, traveled to Australia in the winter months of 2013 while Allie Miller will travel to New Zealand for the 2016 harvest.  These experiences bring a global perspective and education that facilitate innovative changes to the growing Pennsylvania wine industry.
  • Several students have benefited from permanent placement in the wine and fermented beverage industries upon graduation, and many have committed to Pennsylvania operations. The experience gained through research winemaking here at Penn State is invaluable and leaves them with base knowledge in wine production.
  • Many students volunteer for Extension programming, which gives them the opportunity to present research and educational experiences to industry members as well as network with potential employers (you!).
  • Graduate research has flourished. Both Dr. Ryan Elias and Dr. Michela Centinari have several graduate students that are working on applied research projects which address winemaker and grower needs reflected in previous industry needs assessments.
  • Since 2011, the number of research wines being made has more than quadrupled. Today, we have outgrown the equipment I used in 2011 and outgrown our storage capacity for research wines.  The wines produced at Penn State are annually evaluated at regional Extension events.

With such a positive focus on student development and interaction with Pennsylvania’s grape and wine industry, the 2015 vintage was expected to be our best vintage yet!

The 2015 growing season did not leave much hope for Pennsylvania grape growers and winemakers, and I can recall a series of summer meetings in which winemakers from across the state asked me if I was prepared to deal with a lack of fruit and a bunch of rot in our research winemaking curriculum.  Luckily, as Michela will reflect upon next week, the season shaped up to be one of the best I have experienced in my time here at Penn State.

For 2015, we recruited 10 interested undergraduate students for the 2015 harvest season to assist with the research harvests and wine production.   This is double the quantity of students that typically enroll in an independent study experience associated with enology.

Students participate in regular wine processing operations, which can be seen in Figures 2 – 7: crushing, pressing, monitoring fermentation, and completing wines through malolactic fermentation.  Additionally, at the end of the semester, each enrolled student presents on a wine grape variety of interest.

Many students arrive with a genuine interest in fermentation science, or would like to get more experience in food production.  Many of them leave the fall semester with future undergraduate research opportunities, internships/co-ops at wineries, or develop an expectation to graduate with permanent placement in the fermented beverage industry.

Figure 2: The undergraduate students start each fall with a review of lab analysis techniques to learn how to properly analyze juice and wine, which comes in handy during the harvest season.  Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 2: The undergraduate students start each fall with a review of lab analysis techniques to learn how to properly analyze juice and wine, which comes in handy during the harvest season. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 3: Crush is an essential part of the independent study class and graduate student research.  Careful care is taken by the students to ensure that proper sanitation is taken, accurate yields are measured, and that treatments are adequately separated into replicate fermentations. Photos by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 3: Crush is an essential part of the independent study class and graduate student research. Care is taken by the students to ensure that proper sanitation is utilized, accurate yields are measured, and that treatments are adequately separated into replicate fermentations. Photos by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 4: Prepping inoculums for primary and malolactic fermentations is an important part of what the students learn how to do throughout the semester.  Here, Blair and Cara prep hydration nutrient and yeasts for inoculations. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 4: Prepping inoculums for primary and malolactic fermentations is an important part of what the students learn how to do throughout the semester. Here, Blair and Cara prep hydration nutrient and yeasts for inoculations. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 5: Students also learn how to properly inoculate wines for primary fermentation.  A: Marielle, Stephanie, Joe, Garrett, Gary and Blair inoculate Riesling wines; Photo by: Denise M. Gardner; B: Denise and Gary inoculate Cabernet Sauvignon musts; Photo by: Marlena Sheridan.

Figure 5: Students also learn how to properly inoculate wines for primary fermentation. A: Marielle, Stephanie, Joe, Garrett, Gary and Blair inoculate Riesling wines; Photo by: Denise M. Gardner; B: Denise and Gary inoculate Cabernet Sauvignon musts; Photo by: Marlena Sheridan.

Figure 6: Racking techniques without a pump. [From left to right] Liv, Maria, and Marielle rack Riesling juice into replicate fermentation carboys.  Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 6: Racking techniques without a pump. [From left to right] Liv, Maria, and Marielle rack Riesling juice into replicate fermentation carboys. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 7: Pressing [white/rosé] juice or finished [red] wine is always an experience. A: Gary, George, and Garrett press rosé to prepare for overnight settling, B: Stephanie loads the press with crushed white berries, C: Allie fills a carboy of finished red wine, D: Laura, Marlena, Gary, Garrett, and Blair preparing for red wine pressing, and E: Marielle sits in the splash zone for red wine pressing.  Photos by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 7: Pressing [white/rosé] juice or finished [red] wine is always an experience. A: Gary, George, and Garrett press rosé to prepare for overnight settling, B: Stephanie loads the press with crushed white berries, C: Allie fills a carboy of finished red wine, D: Laura, Marlena, Gary, Garrett, and Blair preparing for red wine pressing, and E: Marielle sits in the splash zone for red wine pressing. Photos by: Denise M. Gardner

I can’t wait to share some of the 2015 wines with the local industry at the March 2016 PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium or at future Extension Enology events.

As a general reminder, many of these projects are financially supported through the multi-state Grape Wine Quality Eastern U.S. Initiative SCRI grant (which partially funds the NE-1020 variety trial research program), the PA Wine Marketing and Research Board, and the Crouch Fellowship, among other grant agencies.

Here are just a few snap shots that depict everything that we are currently working on for the 2015 harvest season:

Figure 8: This year’s NE-1020 variety trial projects include yeast trials, an evaluation of tartaric acid additions to red wine varieties grown in high potassium vineyard sites (A), and pre-fermentation juice treatments in Vidal Blanc wines (B).  Photos by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 8: This year’s NE-1020 variety trial projects include yeast trials, an evaluation of tartaric acid additions to red wine varieties grown in high potassium vineyard sites (A), and pre-fermentation juice treatments in Vidal Blanc wines (B). Photos by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 9:  The Crouch Fellowship currently supports a project pertaining to the impact of spray-on frost protection products on grape and wine quality.  A: Graduate student, Maria Smith, gets ready for a full day of processing after a full day of harvest. B: Marielle and Cara monitor the red wine fermentations through daily punch downs, temperature logs, and Brix measurements.  Photos by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 9: The Crouch Fellowship currently supports a project pertaining to the impact of spray-on frost protection products on grape and wine quality. A: Graduate student, Maria Smith, gets ready for a full day of processing after a full day of harvest. B: Marielle and Cara monitor the red wine fermentations through daily punch downs, temperature logs, and Brix measurements. Photos by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 10: Graduate student, Marlena Sheridan, takes a photo of a cluster representation for her research project on red wine color stability. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 10: Graduate student, Marlena Sheridan, takes a photo of a cluster representation for her research project on red wine color stability. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 11: Graduate student, Laura Homich, enjoys time in the Noiret vineyard for her research project that focuses on the effect of canopy management practices on rotundone (black pepper flavor) development in Noiret grapes and wine.

Figure 11: Graduate student, Laura Homich, enjoys time in the Noiret vineyard collecting berry samples for her research project that focuses on the effect of canopy management practices on rotundone (black pepper flavor) development in Noiret grapes and wine. Photo by: Maria Smith

Figure 12: Graduate student, Gal Kreitman, prepares inoculates on Vidal Blanc in relation to a project on the influence of copper on thiol-containing aroma/flavor compounds. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 12: Graduate student, Gal Kreitman, prepares inoculates on Vidal Blanc in relation to a project on the influence of copper on thiol-containing aroma/flavor compounds. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 13: Another full year of research winemaking at Penn State – vintage 2015.  Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 13: Another full year of research winemaking at Penn State – vintage 2015. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

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