Would You Like a Bit of Science with Your Wine? Sharing Data with Winemakers at the Wine Science Forum

Winemaking is an intricate and complex combination of craft and science. Finding ways to help scientific research sustain the winemaker’s craft is critical to ensuring better quality in one of humanity’s favorite drinks.

Sharing useful data regarding winemaking is the goal behind the Wine Science Forum, created by Nomacorc. The event brings together wine professionals from California, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, and Chile; hundreds have attended sessions of the Forum since the first presentation in Napa in March 2013.

Called variously the Coloquio Ciencia y Vino, Seminari Enologici, Forum Wein und Wissenschaft, Rencontres oenologiques, and Wine Science Forum, the meetings have provided a forum for scientists from universities and research centers, as well as winemakers and specialists from the wine industry, to present the results of recent research and projects—mainly on topics relating to oxygen management and what it means for winemakers as they ferment, age, and bottle wines.

As Malcolm Thompson, Nomacorc’s vice-president of Strategy and Innovation,
explained at the first WSF in Napa, the Forum largely evolved out of Nomacorc’s own IMG_8579
decade-long research on oxygen management. Even wines sealed with a reliable closure—one that offers uniform oxygen transmission rate—don’t always behave as expected based on what was known at the start of this process.

“We knew there was more to the oxygen management story than just the closure OTR itself,” said Thompson. “From that point, we made a decision to go deep, and initiated what became a really significant global research activity focused on oxygen management, specifically how oxygen ingress through the closure, in combination with a variety of other factors related to winemaking, influenced wine quality and wine development.”

Over the last two years, the WSF has addressed many of these factors, always with a focus on practical applications for winemakers, providing answers to questions thatIMG_3574 pop up in cellars at various stages of the process. Past speakers include highly respected researchers and partners in research projects involving Nomacorc, like Vicente Ferreira, Andrew Waterhouse, Fulvio Mattivi, and Dominik Durner. Members of Nomacorc’s enology department, including Stéphane Vidal, Maurizio Ugliano, and Jean-Baptiste Diéval, have also been present at every one of the sessions. Representatives of major wine companies, like Constellation in California and Domaine Laroche in Burgundy, have participated to show how they’ve applied principles of oxygen management in their own operations.

Session topics have covered practical considerations (use of neutral gases, inerting of headspace at bottling, CO2 management) and more purely scientific subjects, like the formation of various aromatic components or the ways in which tannin and anthocyanin can combine in red wine to affect color stability and oxygen resistance.

For technically-minded wine professionals, the sessions offer an opportunity for mastering principles and hearing testimonials of specific methods used in wineries. For winemakers, the WSF is an opportunity to learn more about when oxygen should be let in or kept away from the wine, and what effects it can have on wine style, quality, and ageability.

Interested in finding out what was presented at those Wine Science Forum sessions? Videos of all the presentations from the California events are available here, and a wider selection of videos in various languages is available here as well.

About the Author

Rémy Charest is a Quebec City-based journalist, writer, and translator. He has been writing about wine and food since 1997 in various Canadian and American print and online publications, includijng Le Devoir, Le Soleil, Coup de Pouce, EnRoute, Palate Press, Punch Drink, WineAlign and Châtelaine, and has been a regular radio columnist for Montreal's CJAD and CBC/Radio-Canada. He is additionally a wine judge for national and international wine competitions, notably the National Wine Awards of Canada and the World Wine Awards of Canada organized by WineAlign.

Rémy Charest Photo Credit: Jason Dziver

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