Demand for wine with less alcohol and fewer calories has driven the industry to explore how growers can produce grapes that will deliver a full flavoured, well-balanced, low-alcohol drop.
Australian Research Council Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production director, Professor Vladimir Jirnek, University of Adelaide said wine is a fashion led industry, and consumer tastes continue to change in response to various issues, like reducing alcohol intake, but still wanting to drink wine.
“We are investigating lowering the alcohol content of wine,” Professor Jirnek said.
“Consumers are managing their alcohol intake, and our research is about the management of wine alcohol in the context of changing consumer perception.”
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) grape physiologist, Suzy Rogiers, is working with University of Adelaide, CSIRO and Charles Sturt University (CSU) researchers and PhD students to explore underlying processes which affect sugar build-up in grape berries.
“Berry sugar content drives alcohol levels in wine and plays a role in the way consumers sense the aromatic and flavour aspects of wine,” Dr Rogiers said.
“We are exploring how we can manipulate and balance sugar levels by targeting potassium levels and looking at the effects of cell death on the grape berry.
Cell death has been targeted because it leads to higher concentrations of sugar in berries through water loss and affects the amount of juice which can be extracted.
Researchers are working to identify the processes which cause grape berry cell death so viticultural practices, such as canopy management, which may delay or enhance cell death can be applied and assessed.
A complementary project aims to use membrane technologies in the winery to both lower alcohol content in wine and better balance yield and wine quality to boost profits.
Assisting with promoting the research was Professor Lisa Given, CSU Wagga Wagga.
“We are looking at research adoption in the wine industry and how the connection between actual research and the consumption of wine is made,” Professor Given said.
“It is all about building a better product for the consumer.”
The projects are part of the Australian Research Council Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production at the University of Adelaide with the support of wine industry partners including Treasury Wine Estates and Wine Australia. Research is being conducted through the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre, an alliance between DPI, CSU and the NSW Wine Industry Association.