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:
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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Looking back at the 2016 season
- Late summer/early fall disease control, 2016
- 2016 Post-bloom disease management review
- 2016 Pre-bloom disease management review
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.
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.
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:
- Understanding and Preventing Spring Frost/Freeze Damage – Spring 2016 Updates | Wine & Grapes U.
- Updates on Freeze Injury in Grapevines
- Evaluate cost-effective methods to decrease crop losses due to frost injury
- An update to studies on frost injury, by Maria Smith
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!
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.
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:
- 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.
- the chemistry behind fermentation and sensory training associated with wine tasting through analytical demonstrations and “aroma guessing” with aroma standards.
- and evaluating the end result (finished wine!) of some of our best research wines and commercial winery collaborators.
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:
(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.)
By: Denise M. Gardner
Note: Sensory descriptions of wines produced by the grape variety, Chambourcin, are based on individual observations, tastings, and a collection of notes obtained through various Chambourcin tastings including many different individuals.
At the Central Pennsylvania regional winery meeting held at Brookmere Winery, attendees and I had the opportunity to taste through a series of Pennsylvania-grown and produced Chambourcin wines. This was actually one of the first all-Chambourcin wine flights that I have been able to taste, and I was quite encouraged by what I was tasting in the glass. Paula Vigna, writer for The Wine Classroom via Penn Live, has since written an article on the tasting titled, “Chambourcin’s ceiling: Maybe higher than originally thought.”
Chambourcin: A Description
Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid wine grape variety that was bred by crossing Seyve-Villard 12-417 (Seibel 6468 x Subéreux) with Chancellor*, commercialized in 1963 (Robinson et al. 2012). Despite Chambourcin’s vigor and relative tolerance to disease pressure in humid climates, anecdotally the wine does often appear preferred by many Vitis vinifera winemakers.
As a wine, Chambourcin’s strength is its vibrant red color and supple, soft mouthfeel due it is relatively lack of course tannin on the palate. These features often make it a valuable red wine blending possibility, especially considering the relative consistency of obtaining Chambourcin fruit every vintage. However, the smoothness of the wine often is a frustration by many eastern winemakers looking for more depth and [tannin-related] mouthfeel in their red wines. When coupled with Chambourcin’s notorious ability to retain acidity, often above 7 g/L of tartaric acid (depending on where and how it is grown), the lack of perceived tannin can make the wine taste relatively thin and acidic.
The acidity associated with the Chambourcin grape variety often appears retained when grown in cooler climates. For example, in Pennsylvania, Chambourcin produced in North East, PA (Erie County) often has relatively higher TAs compared to Chambourcin grown in southeastern, PA (e.g., Berks County). From a grape growing perspective, all winemakers should expect this phenomenon. However, Chambourcin can retain a higher acidity even when grown in the warmer southern parts of Pennsylvania. Based on observation, the variety seems to maintain its acidity when it is not thoroughly crop thinned. As Chambourcin is an incredibly vigorous variety, and as you will see from the tasting, producers hoping to drop the acidity often crop thin grape clusters while on the vine.
When looking at the tannic composition of Chambourcin, it is likely that much of the tannin content associated with Chambourcin is lost during primary fermentation. Dr. Gavin Sacks at Cornell University is studying this situation associated with many hybrid wine fermentations. As Dr. Sacks discussed at the 2016 Pennsylvania Wine Marketing & Research Board (PA WMRB) Symposium in March, tannins come from 3 different components of the grape: the stems, the skin, and the grape seeds. During the fermentation process, anthocyanins (red pigments) and skin tannin is extracted quickly, usually before the product starts to ferment. Seed tannin is extracted more slowly, typically throughout primary fermentation and extended maceration processes. Dr. Sacks’ lab (Springer and Sacks, 2014) and previous research (Harbertson et al. 2008) have shown, grapes produced outside of the western U.S. generally have lower concentrations of tannin available in the grape. While available tannin in the grapes does not necessarily correlate with tannin concentrations in the finished wine, many eastern U.S. winemakers will add exogenous tannin pre-fermentation, during fermentation, and/or post-fermentation to help improve mouthfeel and potentially increase substrate availability for color stability reactions. However, even with exogenous tannin additions, Dr. Sacks has found that many of the tannins associated with hybrid fermentations end up lost during the fermentation process due to protein-tannin binding complexes that pull tannins out of the wine. The higher protein concentration associated with the hybrid grapes has been linked to disease resistance mechanisms that the varieties were originally bred for, and is more thoroughly explained in Dr. Anna Katharine Mansfield’s recent Wines & Vines article, “A Few Truths About Phenolics.”
Additionally, Chambourcin has been noted to have a relatively neutral red wine flavor, lacking a concentrated pop of fruit and using non-descript aromatic or flavor descriptors like: red cherries, red fruit, red berries, stemmy, herbal, or even millipedes. And yes, I have heard one or two consumers actually reference a millipede aroma when tasting Chambourcin.
Tasting Chambourcin Produced in PA
The official flight (Figure 1) of Chambourcin wines that I had put together included:
- Galen Glen Winery 2014 Stone Cellar Chambourcin
- Penns Woods Winery 2014 Chambourcin Reserve
- Vynecrest Winery 2014 Chambourcin
- Pinnacle Ridge Winery 2013 Chambourcin Researve
- Allegro Winery 2012 Chambourcin
Additionally, Brookmere Winery, Armstrong Valley Winery, and Caret Cellars (Virginia) added Chambourcin wines to taste. The formal wine tasting turned out to be quite a unique experience.
I saw a few over-arching sensory themes within these wines:
- Reduced acidity: While I did not personally measure the pH and TA for these wines, the perception of acidity was not as obvious, overly perceptible, or offensive.
- Soft, supple mouthfeel: Even with a couple of the wines that were perceived as “more tannic,” these wines were soft and easy-drinking.
- Use of oak barrels: Many of the producers were opting for some production in actual oak barrels as opposed to using oak alternatives. Type of oak ranged from French, American, and Hungarian.
- Higher alcohols: Alcohol concentrations for these wines ranged from 13-14%, likely due to extended hang time in the vineyard, allowing for an increase in sugar accumulation.
- Two emerging aromatic profiles: A couple of the wines were very fruit-forward and fruitier than what is normally expected from Chambourcin. The other wines were less fruit-forward, however, they did retain a fair amount of red fruit aromatics in addition to the complex aroma nuances: earthiness, tobacco, toasted oak, vanilla, and tobacco. Many tasters commented on the general concentration of aromatic nuance associated with many of the wines we tasted.
In general, the relative depth, cleanness, and fruit expression of these wines was impressive. Perhaps this tasting clearly indicated that although many winemakers struggle with finding the “right fit” or style for their Chambourcin, the level of quality associated with the wine has definitely improved within the last 5 years. At the very least, the level of quality associated with this flight of wines was encouraging for hybrid red wine producers.
Additionally, Brookmere Winery provided a real treat from their cellar library: a 1998 Chambourcin produced by Brookmere Winery (Figure 2) when Don Chapman owned the winery. If you appreciate older wines, then this Chambourcin would truly impress you. Not only did it express the “old wine” honey-floral character loved by many wine enthusiasts, but the red fruit aromas and flavors were still boldly expressed in the wine. The color was intense and dynamically red, and there was a fine perception of firm tannins on the palate. Overall, the tasting of this wine gave me the perception that not only did this wine still have plenty of room to continue aging in the cellar, but that Chambourcin, as a wine varietal, had positive potential for aging for more than 10 years.
Given that most of this post is based on my own experiences, perceptions, and information gathered from growers and producers pertaining to Chambourcin, I would welcome any additional experiences with the variety (as a grape or as a wine) in the comments section.
While this post has documented Chambourcin as a grape variety and a small snap shot of sensory perceptions from a handful of producers in Pennsylvania, next week’s post will focus on production techniques to improve the quality Chambourcin red wines.
For more information on upcoming regional meetings and the types of tastings to be held at those FREE events, please visit: http://extension.psu.edu/food/enology/events
- Northwestern PA (Erie County) – Individual Site Visits
- Southwestern PA (La Casa Narcisi Winery) – Talk on High Potassium Winemaking
- Southeastern PA (Vineyard at Grandview) on Thursday, July 28th – Berry Sensory Training hosted by Lallemand, with international wine consultant Dominique Deltei (Must register with Denise (email@example.com) as space is limited to 15 people.)
Harbertson, J.F., R.E. Hodgins, L.N. Thurston, L.J. Schaffer, M.S. Reid, J.L. Landon, C.F. Ross, and D.O. Adams. 2008. Variability of tannin concentration in red wines. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 59:210-214.
Mansfield, A.K. January 2015. A few truths about phenolics. Wines & Vines.
Robinson, J., J. Harding, and J. Vouillamoz. 2012. “Chambourcin.” pg. 218-219. Wine Grapes. ISBN: 978-0-06-220636-7
Springer, L.F. and G.L. Sacks. 2014. Protein-precipitable tannin in wines from Vitis vinifera and interspecific hybrid grapes (Vitis ssp.): differences in concentration, extractability, and cell wall binding. J. Agric. Food Chem. 62(30):7515-7523.
*Authors Note: Since the publication of this article, a few growers and grape breeders have alluded to the improperly reported parentage of Chambourcin. While it is generally reported and cited as such, it is understood among some wine grape experts that Chancellor is not likely a parent to Chambourcin. For more information on determining parentage of given grape cultivars, please refer to: http://www.vivc.de and search the cultivar name of interest.
By: Denise M. Gardner
Each calendar year, Penn State Extension works with the state wine industry to schedule “regional” meetings with local producers.
Regional meetings are kindly and financially supported by the PA Wine Marketing and Research (WMRB) Board and Pennsylvania Winery Association (PWA), as part of the annual operating expenses that are granted to the Penn State Extension Enology position each fiscal year. The financial support is, in part, contributed by each Pennsylvania winery in the annual assessment on the gallons of wine produced across the state, which are submitted to the PA WMRB. It is this funding mechanism that makes these visitations possible on an annual basis, and all Pennsylvania wineries are encouraged to attend.
These regional visitations by the Extension Enologist were designed to be convenient for local industry members in terms of location. While industry members, or perspective industry members are welcome to attend any of the meetings, the purpose of these meetings is for me to get out into various parts of the state while making traveling a bit more convenient for industry members.
Regional meetings are free for industry members or prospective members to attend.
All regional meetings are hosted at a local winery, and meeting locations are listed below and on the Penn State Extension Enology website.
Each region organizes their regional visits differently, and they are designed to be beneficial for that region of industry members.
Regional meetings all have a unique structure. Many are only a few hours long, offer a production tour of a local winery, and many include a tasting. In the past, regional meetings have included anything from question and answer sessions on a production tour:
To tasting bench trials created by some of the local wineries:
To hosting benchmark tastings on specific wine varieties:
To holding a short educational program on a topic of specific interest to that region.
Additionally, these visitations by the Extension Enologist offer several benefits to the local industry, including:
- meet with existing producers to discuss potential problems or challenges within the winery,
- visit with potentially new or new producers within the wine community,
- introduce new producers to existing operations to enhance networking and collaboration across the state,
- answer questions pertaining to wine production and quality, and
- review Penn State research updates pertinent to the wine community.
The tentative agendas for each regional meeting, in addition to their scheduled date, for 2016 are listed below.
- Central PA: Thursday, June 16th, hosted at Brookmere Winery
The program at Brookmere will include a production tour with a question and answer period by all attendees. Additionally, Denise will conduct an educational tasting on local Chambourcin wines produced across Pennsylvania. This was created by request from the regional producers in order to get a better idea of how Chambourcin tastes throughout the state.
- Northwestern PA (Erie County): Wednesday, August 3rd – To schedule a winery visit by Denise, please contact Andy Muza to get on the schedule.
This regional visit will follow the day after the “Stabilize Your Wine – Filtration, SO2, and Potassium Sorbate” workshop hosted by Cornell and Penn State Extension at the CLEREL Station in Portland, NY. This workshop requires pre-registration (see the attached link), and anyone is welcome to attend with paid registration.
On August 3rd, Denise will visit individual wineries to discuss winery-specific problems or to keep Denise current on what is happening in the winery. To schedule an appointment with Denise, please contact Andy Muza in the Erie County Extension Office.
- Southwestern PA: Thursday, August 4th, hosted at La Casa Narcisi Winery
The southwestern regional meeting will be held at La Casa Narcisi Winery and include a production tour. Denise will host a small educational session on high potassium winemaking with a tasting of the high potassium wines (i.e., Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) that were produced by Penn State during the 2015 harvest. Wineries are welcome to bring their own wines for feedback and welcome to stay through lunch, which can be purchased at the restaurant on site at La Casa Narcisi.
- Northeastern PA: Date and location TBD, but please reserve August 30th or 31st on your calendars
Currently, the date and final agenda for the northeastern part of the state is being discussed. But, please continue to check the “PSU Extension V&E News” listserv and Extension Enology website for updates.
More information, and updates, on each regional visit can be found at: http://extension.psu.edu/food/enology/events. Pre-registration is NOT required for anyone to attend regional meetings.
While there is not a Southeastern PA regional meeting currently scheduled, there are several events hosted in the southeastern section of PA that are conveniently located for those regional wineries. Wine Trails in the southeastern quadrant of PA are encouraged to contact Denise for specific visitations.
The most current workshop on the calendar includes the Sensory Defects for Fermented Beverages and Distilled Spirits workshop, held on June 9th, which will be hosted in Collegeville, PA (Montgomery County). Registration for this workshop is required, and details for the program can be found at the above link.
As is the past, the Penn State Extension Enologist acts as a resource for Pennsylvania wineries when production problems or questions arise. You can find contact information In addition to the list of educational programming designed for the local industry, Penn State Extension is filled with:
- Online resources via Penn State Extension’s website
- The “Wine & Grapes U.” blog site, which includes a yearlong calendar of local/regional/national events and local sales and job opportunities.
- Annual workshops including the Wine Quality Improvement (WQI) Short Course held every January, the upcoming Sensory Defects for Fermented Beverages and Distilled Spirits workshop, the PA Wine Marketing & Research Board Symposium, and many additional workshops that cover a multitude of topics. Previous workshop topics covered: micrbiological techniques for wine production, the use of sulfur dioxide in the winery, pre-harvest preparation, benchmark wine tastings, blending, and more!
- Wine Made Easy Fact Sheets, which can now be found on the Extension website! These are quick print outs designed to help winemakers in the winery. Visit the link for all of the topics currently published.
- The weekly “Penn State Extension V&E News” listserv, distributed every Friday to keep industry members current on research, real-time issues in the vineyard and winery, and upcoming events pertinent to this industry.
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.
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.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:
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By: Michela Centinari
Denise Gardner, Penn State Enology Extension Associate, and I visited the Lake Erie region, Northwest of Pennsylvania, on June 25 and 26, 2015. We first visited the Lake Erie Regional Grape Research and Extension center (LERGREC) and later met with wine grape growers and winemakers at the South Shore Wine Company. The second day I visited three vineyards with our hosts Andy Muza, the horticulture Extension agent in Erie County, Bryan Hed and Jody Timer, research technologists at Penn State that focus on plant pathology and entomology, respectively.
Regional visits are always a great opportunity to connect with growers and winemakers, discuss production issues, gather information on topics of interest for future educational workshops, and also to learn about grower/winery relationships.
The wine industry in the Northwest region of Pennsylvania is growing, both in size and reputation. Most of the growers I met are experienced juice grape growers transitioning to wine grapes. One of the growers pointed out that he chose, among his 200 acres of existing Concord vineyards, the very best location to plant and grow his Vitis vinifera wine grapes. He had a clear understanding of how site selection is critical to successful cultivation of V. vinifera varieties, and site selection is one of the key areas we discuss with growers upon entering the wine grape industry.
During the two-day visit, most of the discussion focused on winter injury sustained by V. vinifera, inter-specific hybrids and also V. labrusca/native grapevines (mostly Niagara) over the past two winters. The last two years provided record low temperatures in Erie area during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 winters, which have proved challenging for farmers (Figure 2). Variation in cold hardiness among grape genotypes, the impact of a diversified crop, and vineyard management practices to reduce/minimize future winter injury losses were discussed to great length.
Growers have been busy assessing the extent of winter injury, training suckers to be used as new trunks and cordons (Figure 3) and making re-planting decisions. One industry member pointed out that winter injury losses have forced growers to make strategic decisions in terms of variety selection. It was recommended that growers use this opportunity to substitute varieties that did not produce well with others that are more suited for the region and individual vineyard sites. In terms of crop diversification, the use of cold-hardy hybrid varieties released by the University of Minnesota may be a viable option for growers, but wineries should be consulted with regards to their interest in those varieties. Local market opportunities still need to be explored in Pennsylvania with regards to cold-hardy hybrid variety sales in the tasting room.
From a research prospective, these two consecutive severe cold winters provided a good opportunity to evaluate the cold hardiness of V. vinifera and inter-specific hybrid wine grape varieties at the variety evaluation planting established at LERGREC in 2008, as part of the NE-1020 multistate project. For more information about the NE-1020 trial, please refer to the article “NE-1020… What? The Top 5 industry benefits affiliated with the NE-1020 variety trial” by Denise Gardner.
During our visit we noticed, as expected, further damage to the cold tender V. vinifera varieties. Among the V. vinifera, Grüner Veltliner and Cabernet Franc are recovering better than Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir, which are either dead to the ground or showing a weak recovery (Figure 4a, b). Very good bud survival was observed in Chancellor (Figure 4c) which produced about 3-4 clusters per shoot despite the extremely cold events recorded over the last two winters. Overall, Marquette, a cold-hardy hybrid variety released by the University of Minnesota, has shown encouraging results. In addition to the cold sensitive V. vinifera varieties, a poor survival was observed in the NY81.0315.17 (Riesling x Cayuga White) selection (NE-1020 vineyard) and in Traminette at several vineyards within the Erie region (Figure 4d).
Protecting vines and fruiting potential from winter injury
Growers had several questions about best practices to protect trunks and the fruiting potential of the vines against winter injury.
Hilling up the soil around the vines in the fall and taking out hills in the spring is the most common practice used by growers to protect the graft union and some of the scion tissues above the graft union against low winter temperatures. A few growers showed concerns about the wet conditions of the soil in the fall/spring which makes this operation difficult. Heavy, wet soil may be thrown up under the trellis in large clods which can result in imperfect burial of the vine trunk, and makes the take-out operation difficult . Other growers mentioned using straw, or hay, or plowing snow (if there is sufficient snowfall) around the vines to insulate vine tissues. In the spring, it is critical to remove the soil around the graft union to avoid scion rooting, which defeats the purpose of rootstock and may result in vine decline .
Burying sucker canes under the soil or straw in the fall is a method that can be used to avoid winter injury and insure the retention of a ‘marketable’ crop the following year. A comprehensive description of the ‘burial cane’ technique can be found in: Winter Injury to Grapevines and Methods of Protection, Extension bulletin available for $15. Growers in Ontario and in New York State used this technique to protect some fruiting potential of the vines. As a brief explanation, shoots are grown on wires near the ground during the growing season and they are covered with soil or straw in the fall (Figure 5). Another option is to place canes near the ground after the vines go dormant. “A wire on the ground that is tensioned either permanently or temporarily is very helpful to hold canes near the ground” . The buried canes need to be extracted from the soil as soon as the risk of low winter temperatures is past.
The cane burial technique and its effects on vine bud survival and production have been examined at Cornell University with the help of cooperating growers of V. vinifera varieties. For detailed information on the study please check Understanding and Preventing Freeze Damage in Vineyards: Workshop Proceedings (21-38) .
The main finding in this study was:
- Sucker canes buried in the fall do avoid the freeze injury suffered by the aerial canes of the vines.
- After canes were unburied, buds appeared to suffer injury unrelated to freezing. Buried canes showed more “blind nodes,” they were less productive (e., significantly fewer clusters) than canes not buried. Buried canes also showed a delayed bud and shoot emergence compared to aerial, not buried canes.
- Cane burial is not a cheap operation: “typical extra costs per acre for cane burial in the Finger Lakes Region is about $400 to $500. This includes labor needs for laying out ground wire, wrapping them with suckers, hilling, and buried cane extraction, pruning, and tying in spring” .
- “In normal or warm years, burying cane can result in production and economic losses. However, in extremely cold winters, buried canes allow a “half crop” and no dead vines” .
- 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.
- Goffinet, MC (2007). Grapevine Cold Injury and Recovery After Tissue Damage and
Using Cane Burial to Avoid Winter Injury. In: Understanding and Preventing Freeze Damage in Vineyards, Workshop Proceedings. University of Missouri Extension. 21-38.