Wine Symposium Focus: Alternative Varieties
ASEV's national meeting set to convene June 18-22 in Portland
Registration is now open for the conference scheduled June 18-22 in Portland, Ore. In addition to the session about alternative varieties, the conference also will feature a Willamette Valley vineyard technical tour and tasting, more than 140 reports about ongoing research projects and a review of the late Ralph Kunkee’s pivotal research into microbiology.
Glenn McGourty, the University of California Cooperative Extension viticulturist for Mendocino and Lake counties, and Dr. James Wolpert, the University of California, Davis, extension specialist, organized the June 19 symposium covering alternative varieties. The session is intended to bring awareness to vine types that make fine wine but are not the well-known “international varieties” of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. The discussion will cover varieties suited for warm and cold climates.
Wolpert said it might be a tough sell to pitch alternative varieties in Oregon, a place where Pinot Noir is firmly entrenched and there could be little interest in other cultivars. But for a small producer, a unique type of wine could be a good tool to separate oneself from the pack. “The challenge is, people don’t recognize these varieties,” he said. “Different can sometimes be good, and sometimes it can be bad.”
McGourty and Wolpert will start the session discussing their own research experiences before passing the microphone to the Greek consulting enologist Haroula Spirinthroupoula, who will discuss Greek cultivars, and Richard Mayson, author of “The Wines and Vineyards of Portugal,” to review Portuguese varieties. The University of Palermo’s Antonino Pisciotta will offer an overview of the important varieties of Sicily.
A panel discussion will review the challenges introducing new varietal wines to the market as well as obtaining distribution through the three-tier system. The panel will consist of Nick Dokoozlian, viticulturist with E. & J. Gallo; Earl Jones, owner of Abacela Winery in Southern Oregon, and Randall Graham, owner of Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, Calif. The symposium will close with a wine tasting.
In light of the challenges in marketing, Wolpert said there’s still great potential to use alternative varieties as blending grapes “so people won’t have to learn the name.” Merlot struggles as a varietal wine in California south of Lodi. Winemakers could find that other grapes like the Italian variety Malvasia Nera are better suited for central California and could provide tannin and color.
On June 20 and 21, the conference will feature research reports, seminars and supplier displays. Martin Goffinet, a senior research associate with Cornell University, will deliver the keynote speech about grape anatomy on June 20. Keynote speaker Elizabeth Waters of Australia’s Grape and Wine Research and Development Corp. will discuss wine stability on June 21. Dr. Roger Boulton, a UC Davis professor, is the other keynote speaker and will receive the ASEV’s merit award.
The conference concludes June 22 with a historical overview of the contributions of Ralph Kunkee who taught at UC Davis for more than 30 years. Kunkee specialized in yeast, malolactic fermentation and other aspects of microbiology. He passed away in November.
Experts from UC Davis, Oregon State University and Washington State University will provide insights into Kunkee’s contributions to wine science as well the future of his work.
All of the conference sessions will take place at the Portland Marriot Downtown Waterfront Hotel.
For more information about the conference including hotel reservations, registration fees and applications to become a member of ASEV, visit: asev.org.