The Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference is held every three years (since 1970) and has become the largest gathering of grape and wine producers in Australia. It is an event designed to bring producers, suppliers and researchers together in a learning, networking and social environment. The 15th AWITC was held at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, 13-18 July 2013. The program was developed to address key issues facing Australian grape and wine producers and to provide opportunities for delegates to learn about new technologies, processes and services available to assist grape and wine production, and offer a glimpse of what’s over the horizon. The event comprised formal sessions, a trade exhibition and a poster display held over four days and an extensive workshop program which was held over six days. Over 1,000 attendees and another ~1,000 trade exhibition visitors embraced a range of activities on offer at the event.

The formal sessions were presented by 51 speakers, including 18 international presenters. Delegates were able to attend 10 formal presentations, two ‘Fresh Research’ sessions and also a student forum called ‘In the wine light’. Time was allocated in the program for delegates to view the 163 technical posters, many of which provided insights into research in the pipeline and potential innovations to be applied in the future.

The workshop program comprised 44 workshops with 25 of these workshops including tutored tastings. ~1,240 tickets to workshops were taken up, with topics covering a wide range of aspects of the grape and wine production business.

The trade exhibition featured national and international suppliers to the grape and wine industry, and covered nearly 3,000 m2 of exhibition space. It is the largest gathering of industry suppliers in Australia and many exhibitors take the opportunity to launch new products and services at the event. Conference delegates and visitors took the opportunity to meet with a large number of suppliers under the one roof, to see the products in action and to place orders.

The formal conference program was divided into 10 sessions and two ‘Fresh Research’ sessions. Readers are encouraged to consult the proceedings of the 15th AWITC for full details of the presentations, rather than relying on the brief highlights of each presentation for information. Proceedings will be distributed to delegates early next year.

Session 1 – The global scene: customers and consumers, challenges and competitors
Session 2 – Trends and new opportunities in the global market
Session 3 – Rein in the sugar and spur on the flavour
Session 4 – Flavour masterclass
Fresh research Session A
Fresh research Session B
Session 5 – Extracting the full value
Session 6 – Nurturing our natural assets
Session 7 – Grapegrowing in challenging climates
Session 8 – Cool things coming over the horizon
Session 9 – Future vineyards and wineries
Session 10 – Creating value

Webcasts of all formal presentations are exclusively available to delegates at until 1 November 2013.

Session 1 – The global scene: customers and consumers, challenges and competitors

After a brief welcome from the Chair of The Australian Wine Research Institute, Peter Dawson, and the Chair of the Australian Society for Viticulture and Oenology, Dr Paul Petrie, the conference program was formally opened by Nobel Prize Laureate, Professor Brian Schmidt on Sunday, 13 July. In his opening address, Brian, himself a small winemaker from the Canberra District (Maipenrai Vineyard and Winery), told delegates that the Australian industry has a technical edge that helps to make it a highly competitive industry, despite the high Australian dollar; that the most valuable discoveries haven’t been thought of yet; and that researchers need to have the time to follow their instincts in what is fundamentally a creative process. He said that good research needs continuity and a long term plan; failure is a part of innovative research; and to get good outcomes the research process needs to have time to overcome failures.

Session 1 commenced with a brief overview from Session Chair, David Lowe. The first session speaker was Professor Kym Anderson from The University of Adelaide. Kym’s presentation looked at wine industry cycles and noted that the industry is at the bottom of its latest cycle – its fifth since 1850. He spoke about how the future is fundamentally different to the past as globalisation and the opening of world markets has changed what countries consume (more imports and exports than ever before). Kym’s model for future industry profitability focused on the ‘real exchange rate’ (RER) and increasing consumption by China. Kym showed how volatile this is with an example – between 2011 and 2018 if there is a 70% increase in consumption in China and if there is no change to the RER, then Australia will lose market share and wine prices will decrease. If there is a depreciation of 15% in RER then there will be a growth in value of Australian wine. In both scenarios, China will account for a larger percent of the Australian market (bigger than US and UK by 2018).

The second speaker in Session 1, Paul Evans from the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, provided an overview of the Australian wine industry. He considered there are good reasons to take the ‘glass half full’ view of the industry, although there are still structural and profit challenges ahead. The industry continues to compete internationally, and global supply is coming into balance. But, he noted that with the current vintage coming in at 1.83 million tonnes the industry still has a structural mismatch between supply and demand. Paul noted that internationally it’s not as simple as saying we will get back the market share if the exchange rate drops; there have been some fundamental changes in the markets (such as the US market shifting to lower priced wines). Paul considered that the industry needs to reengage the consumers and gatekeepers (and he acknowledged the upcoming Savour event as an excellent example). Paul commented that the WFA board are considering a number of suggested actions from their expert review and a report is being finalised for industry consultation but some figures from it were:

    • 81% of 2012 production was not profitable
    • 100% of A grade grapes were profitable
    • 97.3% of B grade grapes were profitable
    • 18.2% of C grade grapes were profitable
    • None of D or E/F grade grapes were profitable
    • There is an oversupply of C&D grade grapes
    • C&D grade oversupplied in cool and warm regions
    • E&F are at unsustainable prices

Don St Pierre Jr., ASC Fine Wines (China) rounded off Session 1 with his presentation on ‘Taming the Chinese market – preparing for the second wave’. Don gave an insight into the China market and wine importing business from his business perspective (ASC being the largest importer by value into China). Don explained there has been a huge increase in the number of wine importers in China – 4,200 in 2012 compared to 500 in 2008. He gave examples of the confused nature of the industry in China through the explosion of importers combined with a lack of consumer understanding. With the domestic premiumisation strategy taking place price is no longer the number one challenge but the real challenge now is to increase brand awareness. France currently has 48% of the market in China while Australia has 13% (which has fallen from around 20% in 2000). Don mentioned the Chinese government’s austerity campaign, which has had a dramatic impact on hospitality and wine sales. Don showed the importance of the Chinese government in supporting the local industry – and how their intervention can influence the market markedly in a small time frame. Wine consumers in China are moving closer to branded products.

Session 2 – Trends and new opportunities in the global market

George Wahby, Chairman of Wine Australia, chaired Session 2 and introduced the first speaker: Jonathan Breach, Accolade Wines Australia. Jonathan’s presentation focused on wine’s role in modern society. He noted the increased popularity of lower alcohol wines which currently make up 1.3% of the UK market with potential to be 10% of the market. Jonathan pointed out that the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC is the legitimate body for monitoring alcohol advertising and advised industry not to respond to ARRB, whose code is in conflict with ABAC. He advised producers to join the Drinkwise labelling initiative; and also highlighted that many producers might not be aware of their obligations with their social media communications – such as age restricted access to wine producer Facebook pages. Jonathan encouraged industry to have a proactive partnership with government and the community.                                                                                                           

Professor David Hughes’s presentation (from the Imperial College London) was titled ‘Expanding export markets for Australian wines’. David opened his presentation by saying “Where do you go? Well, you go where the people are.” There are currently 7 billion people on the planet – so where are the market opportunities? David referenced Rabobank’s report entitled ‘The road less travelled’ which identified the most attractive markets for branded wine are USA and Canada; China and Hong Kong; Japan; Switzerland; Korea; Scandinavia; Germany; Netherlands; and the UK – although he noted that the UK market remains difficult for profitability with increased pressure on low prices. And the report identified the top emerging markets for branded wine being China, Hong Kong and Korea plus the four ‘hidden gems’ of Mexico, Brazil, Poland and Nigeria. David outlined shopping innovations in the UK including online shopping such as virtual ‘pop-up shops’ (click and pick up approach) where customers can select what they want to buy at the pop-up shop (say whilst waiting for a train) and then pick up the groceries at a store on the way home. He presented results of a ‘straw poll’ of 30 young (average age of 27) professional, well educated Chinese as to their knowledge and consumption habits of wine. He concluded this group will be a ‘tough nut to crack’; a minority drink wine but have limited knowledge or experience (they need education and guidance); the majority could not name any Australian branded wine, but believe imported wine to be superior to the domestic Chinese product; and quality, brand and taste are the three most important factors in purchase decision. David stressed that the Chinese have different flavour preferences and gave the example of ‘green tea’-flavoured Oreo cookies.

‘A growing segment of consumers- capturing Gen Y’s interest in wine’ was the title of Leah Hennessy’s presentation (from REV New Media, USA). Leah noted that there were 70-77 million millennials in the US (with a ‘millennial’ being someone born between 1978 and 1982). In marketing to this group she considers the three important issues are: Education (ask why); Aspiration (social accessory) and Authenticity (step outside of the wine paradigm). She encouraged the industry to analyse the data – know your customers and understand ‘why’ they do what they do. Aspiration is important and the wine millennials buy must say something about them – it is a social accessory, like a tattoo. In promoting wine, says Leah, treat it like wine and not beer. She reminded delegates that millennials are not our parents. Millennials are experts in personal branding, and anything they engage with is seen as an extension of them. She encouraged delegates to actively think how they can ‘help’ millennials. Make it clear ‘who you are’. Find your voice from a personal (not a sales) perspective. She encouraged producers to be revolutionary, and to put wine into the lives of millennials and not just leave it positioned in the vineyard or winery. Leah advised that producers should function as a user in all (new) platforms and events should be authentic and not tirelessly repeated year after year. She encouraged producers to think of social media as a form of communication but not advertising.

Andre Eikmeier (Vinomofo) gave a ‘colourful’ presentation ‘Wine online – insights into the opportunities of online channels’. He echoed David Hughes’ sentiment that winemakers need to put their product where the people are. Customers want to be sold to, but only after a relationship has been developed. He noted that the way we consume has changed, thanks mostly to the online environment and social media because consumers have a voice again. Andre encouraged producers to be human and recognise how important trust is in the buyer/seller relationship – particularly important in the online environment. He advised producers to share their knowledge, passions and discoveries. Andre spoke about the benefits of genuine sales which help to move product into customers’ hands quickly. He questioned why the industry was creating ‘online only’ brands, when there should be no distinction between the purchase decision online vs within a traditional bricks and mortar environment.                                                                  

Justin Kosmina from Treasury Wine Estates closed Session 2 with his presentation entitled ‘What are consumers drinking on-premise?’ He noted that wine visibility increased purchase decisions. He commented that 20% of on-premise sales is sparkling wine, yet sparkling wine only takes up about 10% of listings. 80% of on-premise listings in Australia are brands from Australia and New Zealand. 80% of purchases are ‘wine by the glass’ (which falls to 60% in premium venues). Justin noted that with more premium wine offerings, customers are willing to spend more – a 50% price premium can be charged for wines with ‘regional appellation’, and customers trust in brands with which they are familiar. He noted that confident customers spend more on-premise and confident, well educated staff members are able to sell higher value wine.       

Session 3 – Rein in the sugar and spur on the flavour

Sarah Crowe from Bimbadgen Estate was the Chair of Session 3, and introduced the first speaker. In Associate Professor Gavin Sacks’ presentation (from Cornell University, USA), entitled ‘Lie back and tell me about your childhood – the role of the vineyard in determining wine flavour chemistry’, Gavin gave an overview of current knowledge of some of the known flavour compounds and precursors and how some are effected by cultural vineyard practices more than others. He noted how the carotenoids that are precursors to TDN formation in Riesling are affected by light exposure – particularly pre-veraison, so work in the vineyard at this time can lead to quite large changes in final TDN levels. Gavin also presented results of experiments looking at monoterpenes which showed that viticultural practices can change the levels by 20-30% only, yet within a region 50-fold differences can be seen – we don’t really know how to explain this. He further noted that concentration of volatile thiols in grapes and that in wine don’t correlate – and hence the final wine levels are difficult to predict. This highlights the need for more research to understand the complex relationships between berry chemistry and wine chemistry and wine sensorial characteristics. His team have looked at the relationship between late season sulfur sprays and h4S formation in wine.  They have developed a simple test to measure the sulfur residues on grapes. Gavin highlighted that the magnitude of the spatial variation in flavour compounds and pre-cursors was substantially greater than what can be achieved through vine manipulations. This is an extremely important observation for how we prioritise efforts to manage flavour potential in vineyards.                                                      

Professor Alaine Deloire from the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre gave a presentation titled ‘The use of berry physiological indicators to predict the harvest date in relation to the style of wine.’ In his presentation, Alaine introduced the concept of a time dependent (and site independent) concept of a berry aromatic sequence for red varieties that is initiated at the time sugar importation into berries plateaus. This knowledge has the potential to be used to predict ripening and better relate harvest decisions to desired wine styles. He noted that traditional methods (e.g. Brix) don’t necessarily predict how the wine will be perceived. Alaine presented a method for considering red grape maturity. Based on time after the sugar accumulation per berry has plateaued (not the sugar concentration by weight), they have seen – specific for different varieties – consistent peaks of flavour at certain times, which they have named ‘fresh’ and  ‘ripe’, and seen between these peaks a time of ‘neutral’ flavour. He presented details of a method for white grape maturity which is to look at the evolution of berry colour; they have found that colour correlates better than sugar to flavour compound development. Alaine noted that both methods can predict the maturity points 10 – 40 days before harvest.

In his presentation titled ‘Understanding and managing the timing of berry ripening and the flavour-ripe/sugar-ripe nexus’ Dr Chris Daviesfrom CSIRO Plant Industry showed that plant growth regulators (PGRs) have important, diverse and complex roles in regulating berry ripening and therefore viticultural practices could delay or increase grape ripening. A better understanding of the role of PRGs might lead to techniques that will allow ripening to be manipulated, including the possibility to advance or delay the onset of ripening and ensure that ripening is more synchronous, thereby, reducing variation in berry composition. In his presentation, he noted that berry ripening is a rapid and coordinated process where many genes are involved. Temperature is a major factor. He noted the timing of different PGRs effect the expression of others, e.g. ethylene early in berry ripening increases auxin levels which delays ripening. Chris noted that there are probably more PGRs that we don’t know about yet, hence a greater understanding of which are important post-veraison could lead to us to being able to use them to manipulate the ripening timing.                   

Andreas Blank, LVWO Weinsberg, Germany, gave a presentation titled ‘Targeting wine style: alcohol adjustment in white wine’. In his presentation, Andreas described how, since 2009 in Germany, alcohol adjustment by osmotic distillation has been allowed. This has led to a project looking at the technology and wine style – is there an alcohol sweet spot? Andreas noted they looked at comparing wines made from early and later-harvested grapes from the same vineyards, where the alcohol levels in a portion of the wines was later adjusted; upwards for the earlier-harvested wines to the same level found in the later-harvested wines, and downwards for the later harvested wines to the levels found in the earlier-harvested wines. They found that while adjusting alcohol by 2% didn’t change the perceived flavours in a wine, it did change the perceived taste and mouth-feel aromas. In his presentation he attempted to separate harvest date and its effects on alcohol, from the effects of alcohol itself on wine composition and sensorial quality. This research is important to develop combined vineyard and winery approaches to better manage both alcohol and flavour in wine.

Session 4 – Flavour masterclass

Dr Markus Herderich from The Australian Wine Research Institute was the Chair of Session 4. Leading off the session speakers was Professor Philippe Darriet from the University of Bordeaux. Philippe commenced his presentation titled ‘From compounds to sensory perception: what affects complexity and uniqueness of wine aromas?’, by noting from compounds to sensory perception there is a wide diversity of flavours and aromas in wine, and that these are a source of pleasure and a work of art. He noted the sensory keys that are important for categorisation of ideotype wines/memorised reference, such as: neatness (no off-odour); intensity and complexity (descriptors); fineness and elegance; typicality – uniqueness – gives wine identity which also depends upon the ‘reference set’ (i.e. experiences) of each individual taster. He noted that there was close to 1,000 volatile compounds identified in wine with >100 compounds in the head space, with premium wines being more complex. An important point made by Philippe was that the diversity of aromatic nuances is not an algebraic sum of the volatile compounds. He noted that perception is a very complex process which is strongly influenced by masking, synergistic and additive effects and is also affected by individual physiological characteristics within humans – stimulation of other senses are also important. Winemaking treatments have been linked to specific sensory compounds and thus characters in the finished wine for example: ethyl 2-mercapto(or sulfanyl)acetate is a malodorous thiol which imparts a baked bean/mustard character at low levels 300-500 ng/L, with its presence associated with hard pressed juice and ferments with low levels of nitrogen; ageing on yeast lees provides protection from oxidation and a reduction in compounds associated with oxidised wine; quality can be affected with contamination of 1% affected grapes (e.g. Botrytis – geosmin character); premature oxidation character in white wines – sotolon, methional, phenyl acetaldehyde linkages; premature oxidation in red wine – fig/prune flavours, loss of fresh flavours has been linked to 3-methyl-2,4,nonacedione (MND). Philippe commented that individuals vary greatly in their olfactory detection thresholds, with those respectively exhibiting the lowest and highest sensitivities commonly differing by a factor of 100. He noted that some specific compounds have been correlated to the ‘typicity’ of certain wine styles – for example, in the wines of Sauternes the premium wines (such as Chateau d’Yquem) have been shown to exhibit higher levels of four compounds which confer coconut, peach, fruity/minty/spicy and clove characters.

In her presentation titled ‘Understanding human perception and response during aroma evaluation and tasting’ Professor Andrea Buettner from Fraunhofer IVV (Germany) spoke about odorants’ interaction with human physiology and psychology, and showed x-ray vision of how humans assess aroma and flavour from liquid in the mouth (compared a person drinking beer with a person drinking wine). Her research examined whether or not odorants are getting to the olfactory bulb and how this differed between people. Human subjects were monitored via ‘nosespace’ measurements (i.e. taking measures through tubes or odour sticks inserted into those subjects’ noses), and biofeedback and behavioural response monitored through heart rate/breathing patterns/skin resistance/startle reflex (pupilography) / EEG. Importantly, Andrea noted that by sniffing heavily, less volatiles actually made it into the olfactory epithelium (through a dilution with air affect) and that normal breathing transported a greater concentration of odorants into the olfactory system. This effect was, however, dependant on glass size – a small glass resulted in more neutral air being inhaled and greater odour dilution, while a larger glass resulted in greater inhalation from the glass headspace and less dilution. She noted that the experimental system she had developed was a good means of pre-screening potential wine tasters and that skin resistance arousal was a good means of assessing a person’s liking of different volatiles – she gave the example of hops aromas as not being relaxing. Specific aroma compounds have been shown to elicit physiological responses – linalool acts on the GABA receptor in the same way as ethanol to elicit the ‘relaxation’ response. Andrea’s work investigated which substances trigger responses – how, where and when, looking at multimodal activation and sensate, including eye tracking. Andrea also introduced delegates to the word ‘Neurotrition’ which is the new multidisciplinary field which examines how foods activate the neural system.

Professor Charles Spence (University of Oxford, UK) gave a presentation titled ‘What role do vision and other senses play in wine appreciation?’ Charles noted a study undertaken some time ago showed that the type of music played in a store can strongly influence purchasing behaviour: when French music was played, wine purchased was 77% French/23% German, when German music was played this switched to 27% French/73% German. Classical music has been shown to increase the average spend, i.e. customers were more inclined to purchase a more premium product. Charles noted that customers are typically unaware of such effects and in fact would adamantly deny any such influences, if questioned. Combining these findings, it was suggested that the industry distribute classical Australian music to the wine shops of the world to drive preferences towards high value Australian wines. Charles also presented that different types of music were also shown to promote certain aspects of wines. For example, heavy metal music was shown to accentuate the ‘heavy’ notes of wines. It is likely that it would be possible to design and play music to bring out desired ‘notes’ in wines, accentuating enjoyment of specific wine styles. Charles noted that other subtle cues have also been shown to influence purchasing behaviour, such as bottle heaviness. For every 1 GBP increase in bottle price, the weight of the bottle used was found to increase by 8 g. He then focused on sound as an important cue which is commonly underestimated. Examples include the sound of Champagne being poured (fine bubbles of quality Champagne vs coarse bubbles of inferior product) and the sound of a bottle opening (i.e. cork vs screw cap). Most people if asked would not predict that they would be able to correctly identify the temperature of liquids being poured into a glass, yet studies as well as a demonstration during the session showed that around 80-85% of subjects were able to use subtle cues such as viscosity to make a correct identification. He noted that the perception of certain aromas can also be influenced by other taste sensations. For example, sweetness resulted in increased sensitivity to benzaldehyde (almond character) in Western subjects, with decreased sensitivity to benzaldehyde exhibited in the presence of salt. This is presumably because Western subjects are accustomed to seeing this character in the context of sweet desserts etc. This effect is however culturally specific – Asian subjects who commonly see this character in a different culinary context will, in contrast to Westerners, have their perception of benzaldehyde increased in the presence of salt. The same rules apply however, the triggers are different between cultures. The reverse has also been demonstrated, in that some aromas can influence perceived texture. Charles’ presentation then focused on the orbitofrontal cortex (the reward centre) of the brain. He noted that some companies are considering trying to directly monitor activity in this part of the brain to correlate hedonic testing rather than surveying participants of focus groups etc. as the information is likely to be more accurate and less prone to bias/influence. The broader environment has also been shown to have an impact on the perceived qualities of wines. Charles termed this the ‘Provencal Rosé Paradox’ – a wine that tastes fantastic in its local context may look completely different, e.g. one dimensional and insipid, when tasted back home. He noted that general room lighting may also have an influence – one cellar door owner noted that when he changed the light bulbs to provide a darker environment, the perception of sweetness increased (this has also been demonstrated in a laboratory environment) and customers paid on average 50% more.

‘What do consumers really value in making wine purchase decisions’ was the title of Professor Larry Lockshin’s presentation from the University of South Australia. Larry categorised wine consumers as either low involvement (influenced by brand name, variety, country, region and typically purchasing wines <$15) or high involvement (influenced by brand name/negotiant, region, ‘special bottlings’, vintage, typically purchasing wines of higher price points). He noted that when customers are shopping in, say, a supermarket, they spend an average of 12 seconds at a category. 42% of customers spend less than 5 seconds at a category, and 85% of customers pick up only the item that they buy. Larry noted that for wine shoppers, 82% of customers spend less than 6 minutes in the store (total time including checkout/payment etc.), with the average time being 4.1 minutes. When shopping for wines, 8 in 10 ‘brand’ choices are habitual with 2 in 10 being a new trial. Note that in this context ‘brand’ refers to any cue such as variety/region/style. Larry advised that most wine shoppers tend to screen out ‘unnecessary’ distractions, focusing on the ‘brand’ that they had in mind on entry (again brand = style/variety etc.) unconsciously failing to notice or consider most ‘brands’. Larry commented that new or changed packaging represents a significant risk, and can result in reduced sales as customers struggle to identify the product they had in mind. As an example, Larry discussed a well-known juice brand (USA) that had invested $35 million in repackaging efforts, only to revert to the original packaging after one month following a marked decline in sales. Larry noted that it is important to recognise that people shop quickly, and that if changing packaging producers need to ensure harmony/recognition cues to aid recognition and avoid sales losses. Easy to find = easy to buy!

Fresh research Session A

Dr Mark Krstic from The Australian Wine Research Institute chaired this session. He introduced the first speaker, Benjamin Pike from The University of Adelaide. Benjamin’s presentation was based on poster #99 called ‘The effect of organic, biodynamic and conventional vineyard management inputs on growth and susceptibility of grapevines to powdery mildew’. The key out-take from Benjamin’s presentation was that research into organic and biodynamic viticulture practices continues to add more objective knowledge into this form of vineyard management which, while not mainstream, adds more devotees over time.

The presentation from Gareth Hill from Plant and Food Research (New Zealand) was based on his poster #96 called ‘Comparison of methods for quantification of botrytis bunch rot in white wine grape varieties’. The key focus of Gareth’s presentation was the utilisation of a mobile phone camera with an appropriate application that was calibrated to pictorially and objectively measure the degree of botrytis infection in white grapes. With field development, this method offers the potential for an effective and practical grower tool for botrytis bunch damage.

Anna Carew’s presentation (from the University of Tasmania) was based on poster #106 called ‘Microwave maceration of Pinot Noir: phenolically equivalent, aromatically distinct’. The key out-take from Anna’s presentation was microwave maceration of small-scale batches of Pinot Noir must showed this process to be as effective and quality comparable in extracting colour and tannin as a traditional ferment. Taking this process to a practical and affordable commercial process was not analysed.

Poster #153 authored by Dr Matteo Marangon, The Australian Wine Research Institute, titled ‘Proctase – a viable alternative to bentonite for protein stabilisation of white wines’ was the basis of Matteo’s presentation. The key out-take was, the use of proctase enzymes, following the flash heating of white grape juice to decouple heat unstable protein was shown to now be a commercially viable method to make white wines protein stable without the use of bentonite.

‘Attitudes, drivers of consumption and taste preferences: a focus on Chardonnay’ is the title of poster #57 and the basis of the presentation by Associate Professor Anthony Saliba from the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre. The key out-take from this presentation was an enlightening market-focused study that showed that while focus groups did point to some negative perceptions about Chardonnay, further experimental, quantitative and qualitative survey work did not. In a peer group situation such as found in focus groups, it had become popular to say negative things about Chardonnay. The conclusion is that consumers are influenced by industry, wine writers and other gatekeepers being negative about Chardonnay and consumers’ perceptions are largely echoed from anecdotal claims found in the popular press.

The presentation from Dr Simon Schmidt, The Australian Wine Research Institute, was based on poster #157 titled ‘Chardonnay clonal variation – a comparative genomic and phenotypic evaluation’. The key out-take from this presentation was the work of DNA extraction and genome sequencing of 15 Chardonnay clones with the aim to assess the genetic variation within, and compare the variation among, clones of Chardonnay available in Australia, and evaluate how this variation contributes to chemical and sensory variation in grapes and wines derived from the different clones. Sensory descriptors such as stonefruit, citrus and viscosity were important drivers of oenological variation, enabling a classification of clones into three groups. Genome assembly and comparative genomic analyses are beginning to shed light on the relationships between clones and how genetic variation gives rise to phenotypic variation in a clonally propagated woody plant species.

Fresh research Session B

Dr Paul Petrie, Treasury Wine Estates, chaired this session. He introduced Tim Pitt from SARDI, whose presentation titled ‘Can rainfall harvesting reduce soil salinity and increase the appeal of recycled wastewater for irrigation?’ was based on poster #119. The key take-out from his presentation was how central vineyard row mounding to redirect rainfall to the undervine area, and so leach away accumulated salt build up from drip irrigated area, was found to be effective.

Gerard Logan’s presentation (from the University of Auckland, New Zealand) was based on poster #59 titled ‘Clonal impacts of rotundone concentration throughout ripening in New Zealand Vitis Vinifera L. Syrah’. The key take-out from his presentation was rotundone (responsible for the black pepper aroma) concentration in Syrah, grown in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand, varied significantly by clone. Common clone selection practices for quality wine production impact upon rotundone concentration, and may be used to manage rotundone levels as desired in finished wines.

The presentation from Dr Keren Bindon, The Australian Wine Research Institute, was based on poster #67 and titled ‘From grape to consumer: relationships between grape maturity, wine composition and wine sensory properties in Cabernet Sauvignon.’ The key take-out from Keren’s presentation was Cabernet Sauvignon wines have been described as presenting a ‘dichotomy of sensory attributes’ and are notably distinguished by the presence of both green and fruity characters. While some evidence exists that a loss of green characters may be associated with wines made from riper grapes, grape ripening is a dynamic process in which multiple biochemical pathways interact to confer changes in berry morphology and the concentration of metabolites for extraction into must and wine. This study undertook a multidisciplinary approach incorporating a suite of chemical and sensory analyses, in order to better define the relationship between grape maturity, wine chemistry, wine sensory attributes and consumer liking response. The sensory attributes of dark fruit, hotness and viscosity increased in wines produced from riper grapes, while red berry and fresh green decreased. Many sensory attributes were strongly associated with the chemistry data. If those components, which are important to achieving the desired wine style, are better understood in terms of grape maturity, the ability to strategically manage wine style may be improved.

Dr Angela Contreras’ presentation from The Australian Wine Research Institute, was based on poster #28 and titled ‘Can non-conventional yeast be used for the production of wines with lower alcohol concentration?’. Her key take-out message was co-fermentation with an initial addition of a non-conventional wine yeast (AWRI 1149) followed by the addition of a conventional wine yeast (AWRI 1631) to finish the ferment, was shown to effectively and significantly lower the finished wine alcohol compared with a ferment using AWRI 1631 on its own. Other positive attributes were found in the lowering of acetic acid levels in the co-ferment wine and glycerol levels increased.

Poster titled ‘The effects of metals on the evolution of volatile sulfuret compounds during wine maturation’ (Poster #62) formed the basis of the presentation by Dr Marlize Viviers, The Australian Wine Research Institute. The key take-out from Marlize’s presentation was the addition of copper to wine to reduce negative volatile sulfur compounds, prior to bottling, were shown to in fact increase the likelihood of the re-emergence of these negative volatile sulfur compounds in packaged wine.

The University of Auckland’s Miguel Roncoroni, based his presentation on poster #18 titled ‘Identifying genes of oenological importance in commercial winemaking yeast’. The key take-out message was two commercial winemaking yeast (Enoferm M2™ and Zymaflore F15®) were crossed and 96 recombinant F2 progeny were dissected from the F1 generation.  One and two-dimensional genome scans revealed quantitative trait loci linked to many of the studied traits, including hydrogen sulfide release and the production of volatile compounds during fermentation. The approach used for this project has proven powerful and accurate for finding genes related to winemaking. The potential of this yeast cross has not yet been fully realised.

Session 5 – Extracting the full value

Dr Terry Lee chaired Session 5 and introduced the first speaker, Dr Imre Blank from the Nestlé Product Technology Centre (UK). Imre’s presentation was titled ‘Learning from other industries – insights from coffee on advanced sensory-analytical correlations.’ Delegates learned from the presentation that the coffee industry faces similar challenges to those of the wine industry in trying to predict sensory profiles of coffee from detailed compositional data on flavour and aroma compounds. Imre noted the importance of data handling which is critical in being able to make meaningful relationships between analytical data and sensory data. He commented that Nestlé was able to develop a model where 30 different flavour and aroma compounds were quite successful at predicting different styles of coffee. He showed work which extracted soluble compounds and then re-introduce flavour compounds back into coffee beans that were then roasted and assessed, and commented that a similar model could potentially be used in the wine industry with grapes.

Dr Mike Trought from Plant and Food Research (New Zealand) then gave a presentation titled ‘Using precision vineyard technologies to extract value’. From this presentation, delegates learnt that precision management data (e.g. EM38) could provide useful information about vineyard establishment, prior to actually planting the vineyard to try and optimise the variability of a particular parcel of land. Mike noted that ‘variation’ is not just spatial, but also temporal, and this can be just as important to manage, especially in relation to harvesting a parcel of grapes at the optimal time for compositional reasons. He noted that it was important to evaluate the economics of undertaking precision viticulture, in relation to differential harvesting, as sometimes the benefits might not be there for the grape growers. However, these benefits can be realised better by the wineries.

The next presentation was titled ‘Adding value in the winery’ which was presented by Rob Glastonbury from De Bortoli Wines. Rob noted it was important for businesses to understand that processes are not always perfect and there are always opportunities for improvement. He encouraged delegates to actively seek and be open to ideas that can improve your business. He noted specifically business data – critical to look at how data collection can be centralised and stored for optimal use in business. He encouraged delegates to add value through doing things that the customer will pay for. It is important to be fully aware of legal issues and that ‘no knowledge’ is no defence. Rob presented information about risk and compliance systems – audits, like ISO 9000 – integrated risk management systems actually required in a business; and the importance of having a single source of truth in terms of company performance data – gold standard data (ERP reporting).
He talked about the importance of keeping processes running, making processes reliable and making processes repeatable, and how to convert fixed operating costs into variable costs. He also talked about converting cost centres into profit centres, and gave wastewater as an example. Rob encouraged delegates to hunt down good ideas – look around, consider the possibility of Government funding programs (e.g. cleaner energy future program).

Robin Day from Domain Day was the next speaker with his presentation titled ‘Valuing and extracting quality – the scorecard and some big opportunities’. Robin considered that the industry is no better at valuing quality now than it was 10 years ago – as an industry we need to look at this much more closely. He considered that industry should be revisiting ‘fingerprinting’ style analyses such as mid- and near-infrared technology as a means of assessing grape quality in the field – it is more affordable and quicker for industry to implement. He considered that grades of quality have yet to be well defined. He presented two case studies showing the difficulties surrounding non-qualitative/qualitative assessment and payment for grapes based on style and quality. Robin then tabled a definition of wine style – which he defined as an aggregate of structural and flavour attributes which enable groups of wines to be identified with respect to similarities and to distinguish them from other groups of wines. He believed that definition is a starting point and work following in this area, needs to improve on that. He also talked about the ‘location and ownership of agricultural and market risk’, which appears to be something no-one in the industry is addressing and he believed that an industry forum needs to be held to address this issue. Finally, Robin considered that industry needs to look more closely at the red winemaking process and assess whether or not more value can be extracted out of the pressing from red ferments.

Session 6 – Nurturing our natural assets

Session 6 was chaired by Sue Bell from Bellwether Wines. The first speaker in Session 6 was Dr Michael McCarthy from SARDI. Mike’s presentation was titled ‘Managing problem soils to ensure grape specifications are met’. He presented results of work (undertaken to build resilience into production systems) in the vineyard where both sides of the mid-row were ripped. He noted that ripping did change soil physical characteristics however no significant positive benefits resulted in terms of yield. Although he noted that injected mulch tended to offset negative effects of ripping alone and there was long lasting rapid benefit from surface mulch application. Delegates were given the take home message of not to plant in marginal regions in an environment of climate change.

Dr Richard Muhlack from The Australian Wine Research Institute gave a presentation titled ‘Creating value from by-products – an industry review and insights into practical case studies’. Richard noted that increased pressure on margins requires new innovations.  Industry could look at both waste minimisation and waste utilisation as a means of improving profitability: waste products can add value in revenue and carbon terms. He presented brief details of an AWRI project which seeks to understand whether methane emissions from ruminant animals (such as cows) can be reduced through feeding the stock grape marc. He also gave examples of where biomass energy could have potential for the wine sector, which could result in potentially high economic benefit in reducing electricity costs.

Associate Professor Maarten van Helden from the University of Bordeaux (France) then spoke to his presentation ‘Ecosystem services and viticulture: finding common ground’. Maarten presented details of landscape ecology and functional biodiversity in viticulture, with his hypothesis: reduce pest insect pressure by increasing biodiversity to increase impact of natural enemies = functional biodiversity. He believed that hedging probably doesn’t work and is a much oversimplified approach.  With a landscape analysis, a higher level of monoculture equates to more pests. Management strategies presented included decreasing block size; plant hedgerows and connect vegetation remnants; and plant fallow blocks with annual crops. The take home message for delegates was that restoration of ecosystems is much more difficult than maintenance.

‘How will the carbon farming initiative affect the vineyard?’ was the title of Associate Professor Richard Eckard’s presentation from The University of Melbourne. Richard noted that climate change will impact on wine production and that through the annual greenhouse gas emissions inventory it was revealed that viticulture accounts for <1% of Australia’s emissions. He noted that the carbon farming initiative (CFI) was voluntary. Richard presented options which included reducing nitrogen fertiliser use; environmental plantings; and limited opportunity to increase carbon storage.  Indirect engagement includes assisting other industries to reduce emissions (i.e. feeding grape marc to cows = 20% reduction); biofuel; biochar etc. are also possibilities. He noted that CFI offset methods need to support policy and requires research with 12-15 year lag between concept to adoption.  Registered CFI methods are those which are well understood – i.e. landfill; methane; and environmental plantings.

Session 7 – Grapegrowing in challenging climates

Gioia Small from Treasury Wine Estates chaired Session 7 and introduced the first speaker, Dr Aaron Coutts-Smith from the Bureau of Meteorology. Aaron’s presentation was titled ‘Knowing the odds – managing weather risks in a changing climate’. Aaron presented details of ‘Meteye’ which will provide weather forecasts based on a 6 km map grid, and this can provide customised frost forecasts for specific vineyards. The improvements the Bureau of Meteorology is making to its forecasting services is putting more powerful tools in the hands of the wine industry to enable it to make better operational decisions.

Dr Peter Hayman from SARDI gave a presentation titled ‘Predicting and preparing for heatwaves’.  In his presentation, Peter discussed the sources of damage from a heatwave which lead to principles of maximising transpirational cooling (irrigation management) and minimising incoming radiation (canopy management). He also presented some of the challenges of implementing these strategies in cool, warm and hot regions; and covered suggestions on what to do before, during and after a heatwave.

‘Vine performance under modified climate scenarios – practical impacts on grape and wine production and composition’ was the title of Dr Everard Edwards’ presentation from CSIRO Plant Industry. Everard noted that growers would be best placed to design irrigation systems to cope with heat waves as opposed to average temperatures, and noted that increased CO2 could increase vine photosynthesis by 30%.

Jan van der Kaaij from Between-us (Netherlands) gave a presentation titled ‘Sustainability: the business of benchmarking – a market perspective’. Jan provided an insight into what is happening with sustainability and consumers in Europe and provided an example of a Spanish wine producer – Torres. Torres has undertaken a seven step process to determine their most important issues and develop targets and ambitions around those issues that create value and contribute to sustainability. Climate change was cited as one of the most important issues for Torres and they have responded by reducing CO2 emission per bottle by 20% compared to those of 2008 and developing underground storage for water, electric (bio-gases) and heat and cold coupling.

Session 8 – Cool things coming over the horizon

Liz Riley from Vitibit chaired Session 8, and introduced the first speaker Dr Anthony Borneman from The Australian Wine Research Institute. In his presentation, Anthony noted the spectacular fall in the cost of genomic sequencing, which had dropped 10-fold every 18 months.  This reduction in cost is opening up applied opportunities. Researchers are currently able to complete automated sequences of 24 yeast genomes overnight. He noted that this provides opportunity to link phenotypic outcomes to DNA differences. Anthony presented details of metagenomics, which assesses genomes of all organisms in an environment. He commented that the future includes the potential for personalised genomics and the potential to identify markers for taste (or smell) preferences.

‘New vines for new times’ was the title of Dr Ian Dry’s presentation from CSIRO Plant Industry. Ian noted that changes in germplasm will help meet future economic, climatic change and sustainability challenges. There will be opportunities to improve existing varieties by transformation and / or marker assisted selection techniques. He noted that current CSIRO focus is on identification of resistance genes to biotrophic diseases (such as powdery and downy mildew). He presented details of current work with Shiraz, Tempranillo, Portan, Carignan and Pinot Meunier with resistance genes incorporated through transformation.  He noted that marker assisted selection is currently limited to resistance genes, berry colour, flower sex, flavour compounds and open bunch architecture. Ian presented an example of the use of microvines which are natural grape mutants with dwarf stature and increased fruitfulness and provide opportunity for rapid grapevine breeding.

Professor Bruce Reisch from Cornell University (USA) gave a presentation titled ‘The US approach to accelerated grape cultivar development’. He noted that US grape industries (wine, dried and table) are willing to try new varieties with muscadine hardiness (diseases resistance, cold tolerance). He gave details of the Vitisgem project which includes documentation of top traits and 30 new DNA markers which allows acceleration of cultivar improvement. He noted that 10 years ago, technology provided up to five markers per chromosome with 2,632 currently identified. Current markers include disease resistance, flower sex, muscat flavour, seediness, nematodes and phylloxera. Bruce gave details of applying the technique of gene stacking for early screening of fruit traits.

In his presentation titled ‘Harnessing genomics to ensure a ‘Brett’-free future for Australian wine’, Dr Chris Curtin from The Australian Wine Research Institute noted that Brettanomyces was identified in 1904, associated with wine in 1933 and became synonymous with spoilage in the 1980s. He noted that ‘Brett’ is a fermentation survivor and has evolved in parallel with Saccharomyces, and its genome encodes 6,000 genes but with 800 genes unrelated to any other species. Chris noted that ‘Brett’s’ genome is usually triploid in structure but some strains are diploid. Chris presented details of the genomic approach which compiles reads (isolated sequences) into contigs in order to improve prediction of open reading frames (ORF) allowing subsequent identification of genes. What is of interest is that the sulfite pump has been characterised which is an aid to identifying sulfur-tolerant strains, and will assist in identifying how to manage these strains in the future.

Session 9 – Future vineyards and wineries

Dr Richard Hamilton chaired Session 9 as a ‘stand-in’ for Philip Laffer. Richard read Philip’s presentation titled ‘The evolution of the Australian wine sector over the last 50 years.’

Dr Nick Dokoozlian from E.& J. Gallo (US) gave a presentation titled ‘The productivity challenge for wine grapes’. Nick’s presentation focused on how supply can increase without increasing production area and environmental footprint, and that quality needs to increase with yield. Nick noted that in the Central Valley, three big steps in improved productivity have involved: virus elimination and clonal selection; irrigation technology; and trellising and canopy management. Areas that are holding back productivity include: the inability to use genetics; difficulty in applying precision agriculture; biggest problem – lack of acceptance of objective fruit quality measures, and historical view of yield versus quality.  He noted that arguably these measures exist but are not applied. Nick believes that areas where improvement can occur includes germplasm selection and genetic improvement; molecular physiology, genomics; and precision viticulture. Precision viticulture provides a great opportunity in immediate term – differential management is the key. In-field variability has the potential to improve yields more than any other practice (this includes precision irrigation and fertigation). Delegates were given the take home message to use precision viticulture to improve yield of low capacity vines and improve quality of high capacity vines through differential management.

The next presentation was titled ‘Vineyard operations of the future – exciting developments on the horizon’ and was given by Brett McClen from Brown Brothers Milawa Vineyard. Brett identified improved vine stocks, mechanisation, and irrigation as the ‘big movers’ in improved productivity.  He noted that labour was the biggest vineyard cost, and that the biggest potential would come from innovative equipment such as the robotic spur pruner – reduce costs (4-5 years away), cane pruning – mechanisation reducing costs by 30-50%, juiceliner, driverless tractors, and automated yield estimation. Brett noted that opportunities also existed in varietal diversity such as through alternative varietals bred for commodity wines and clonal diversity to give quality enhancement.  He considered that opportunities in the future could be found in automated disease detection, next generation of fungicides – nanoparticles, and smart dust to provide real-time quality data.

Professor Roger Boulton from UC Davis (USA) gave a presentation titled ‘Emerging technologies in the modern winery – key insights into developments on the horizon’. In his presentation, Roger noted that scarcity of water will drive engineering solutions in the winery and that integration of real-time data collection and analysis is where the future lies. Fermentation monitoring and wireless data networks allow winery systems management. He noted that most consumers want a ‘use by’ date on the label and he asked delegates, do they as producers want their products on the shelf after the use by date? Roger gave details of a winery of the future – a self sustaining winery – and noted that it is possible and already happening at Davis.

A practical case study was presented by David Williams from Rosemount Estates in his presentation titled ‘Practical case study: continuous improvement in the vineyard and the winery’. He noted that continuous improvement (CI) comes from cultural change and staff engagement and that consistent messaging is vital to people engagement. David presented examples of how CI has benefitted the Rosemount business and that to build capability in people drives improved effectiveness, efficiency and leads into productivity gains. He noted that it was important to understand the drivers of operational performance – operational metrics. CI requires thinking about how we work. David indicated that Rosemount had closely involved the staff in the decision-making process and that they were able to challenge the prices, make suggestions and understand decisions.

Session 10 – Creating value

The final formal session was chaired by Dr Dan Johnson from The Australian Wine Research Institute.  Dan introduced the first speaker, David Dearie from Treasury Wine Estates.  David’s presentation was titled ‘Wine – a luxury for dynamic markets’. He spoke about quality and how it was all important, even more today. He used spirits as an example of how hard they work to differentiate themselves – whereas the wine category tends to be a sea of ‘sameness’. A mixture of fine wine and fine art was exemplified by the Penfold’s Ampoule project – which had attracted high consumer interest and all Ampoules are now allocated. He noted the practice by some in the industry to strip out value through low cost production focus and he urged producers to move towards a value creation versus a value destruction paradigm. He said it was “everyone’s responsibility” to get value back into the Australian category. The industry should be concerned about the WET. David considered that building value protects the industry against real exchange rates. The industry must stop thinking about wine as a commodity and needs to address the ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. Is Big Bad? He noted the Chinese desire for luxury brands and pointed to the explosion of Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores in China and this market’s growth.

Brian Walsh’s presentation was titled ‘Capturing value in the marketplace – making wines that consumers want to drink’. Brian noted that value is not finite. Market leaders know what their customers want before they know it themselves and he pointed to Apple iPhones as an example. Brand owners have an obligation to increase the perceived benefits to their customers. He compared ‘wines of fear’ versus ‘wines of conviction’. ‘Wines of fear’ (convenience) is the globalisation of ‘safe’ wine, soft (sweet) and smooth, and generic; which have made wine accessible.  ‘Wines of conviction’ are differentiated, bold (and provocative), original and enduring. Brian used the example of the popularity of the vast range of international restaurants in Australia, challenging tastes and offering a variety of styles. He urged the industry to “seek inspiration, not imitation”. He noted that an easily imitated approach is to give consumers what they want (as in to meet the market requirements), but urged producers to consider the harder, more rewarding approach of teaching consumers what they want (aligned with your brand’s USP) and creating market opportunities. Brian also encouraged producers to integrate their approach, so they are not only finance-; market-; or production-driven, but a combination.

‘Price vs value: consumer perception of value’ was the title of Professor Charles Spence’s presentation from the University of Oxford (UK). Charles noted that consumers can’t pick the brand of a wine when tasting blind and he used the example of the Stradivarius violin. Expert violinists and critics, subjected to a double-blind test, can’t tell the difference of a Stradivarius instrument over another quality violin. The value of the Stradivarius comes with the brand equity. When asked, consumers will swear they can taste the quality of their preferred brand, but when tested blind, they can’t. That the enjoyment comes not from the product itself, but from other more ephemeral places in the brain. He questioned do you really taste the same wine sighted as when blind? He noted that professionals and also consumers, when told the price or pedigree of a wine, will have an increased enjoyment of the wine – which can be evidenced through looking at brain activity in the orbitolfrontal cortex of the brain – the part of the brain that codes pleasure. He used a quotation from Emile Peynaud which said “Blind tasting of great wines is always disappointing.” This was followed by the quotation from Prilaad which said “….from this apparent lack of correspondence, it is tempting to conclude that for visual judgements – extrinsic cues tend to be over-riding or masking the intrinsic merit of the wine.” Charles noted that the following tended to influence consumer enjoyment of a wine: reserve, rather than regular bottling; region; Parker points; tasting notes; brand; price; vintage; prizes/medals. Charles further gave examples of brand building undertaken in the spirits industry, where the emphasis is not so much on the taste, but on the experience of engaging with the brand. Packaging is important in this respect. Charles wanted industry to think carefully about exactly what does blind tasting tell you?  That consumers can’t tell the difference (mostly) between a premium and less expensive brand is not a cause for worry so much, but instead there is a need to focus on the value and the experience the consumer has when they have all the other product extrinsic cues – and by getting the marketing and branding right you really can increase the pleasure the consumer can take away from the product engagement. Great wine starts in the brain and finishes up there too.

The final speaker of the formal program was Todd Sampson. Todd is not only the Managing Director of Leo Burnett, but he is a regular panel member of Channel 10’s The Project and appears on ABC TV’s The Gruen Transfer. His presentation was based on the following abstract:

Creativity is one of the last remaining competitive advantages companies have today. This presentation is a celebration of the power of creativity in solving any problem – big, small, social, political, economic or environmental. It works from the premise that ‘creativity has the power to change the world, but fear has the power to stop that from happening and the most successful leaders and organisations of the future will be the ones that can successfully balance both’.

The presentation is built on real life experience and explores innovative ideas, cultural change and problem solving. It weaves together real stories about the creation of Earth Hour, being a CEO of a leading company and climbing Mount Everest unguided.

The consistent take out has been ‘that has inspired me to think differently about how we work’, ‘it makes me think about the impact I can have as an individual’, ‘it encourages me to be braver and try harder to make a difference within my company’.

It is ultimately a combination of creativity, idea generation, leadership, culture change, earth hour, problem solving, innovation, bravery and adventure all wrapped up into one real life personal journey. It offers practical advice in a unique and plain speaking way.