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Wine Scientists Meet in North Carolina

ASEV-Eastern Section Conference looks at warm climate issues and red wine production

by Linda Jones McKee
asev-es meeting
Fritz Westover (from left) congratulates lifetime achievement award winner Helen Fisher, with the help of Andy Reynolds and Justine Vanden Heuvel on Wednesday evening at the annual meeting of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section.
Winston-Salem, N.C.—The number of wineries in North Carolina has increased dramatically in less than 10 years. In 2005 the state had 55 wineries; now, in 2013, there are 129, according to WinesVinesDATA. As in many states east of the Rockies, where the increase in interest in grapegrowing and winemaking has escalated rapidly, there are many questions concerning what grape cultivars should be grown where, how they should be managed in the vineyard and what are the best ways to maximize aromas, flavors and tannins in the winery.

For the first time, the annual conference of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture-Eastern Section met in Winston-Salem, and many of the talks addressed issues relevant to North Carolina vineyards and wineries as well as those across the East, where warm/hot climates prevail. The 38th conference, held Monday through today, began with a pre-conference tour of Surry Community College, which has certificate, diploma and degree programs in viticulture and enology, and three wineries in the Yadkin Valley southwest of Winston-Salem.

In addition to the technical sessions about enology and viticulture, the conference included a symposium regarding “Advances in Red Wine Production: Berry to Bottle,” featuring speakers from California, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington. Diego Barison of Novavine, who has both a family and professional background managing grapevine nurseries in the Piedmont region of Italy, discussed wine grape cultivars currently available in the United States and clones that will soon be coming into the country. The problem of canopy management in vineyards with excess vigor and large canopies was addressed by Tony Wolf, professor of viticulture at Virginia Tech. Wolf looked at VSP and two divided canopy systems—Geneva Double Curtain and Scott Dyson—as well as the effects of rootstocks, root-management systems and floor management of under-row cover crops on canopy size.

Michael Jones, fermentation specialist with Scott Laboratories, talked about the various problems that confront winemakers when starting and maintaining fermentations for red wines and methods for avoiding sluggish or stuck fermentations. The basics of phenolic compounds in grapes and wine were covered by Jim Kennedy, professor and chair of the department of viticulture and enology at the California State University, Fresno. He noted that phenolics are vitally important to the quality of any red wine, as they contribute to color, aroma, taste, flavor, body and texture. Red wine color and phenols were also discussed by Jim Harbertson, associate professor of enology at Washington State University, and Sara Spayd, extension viticulturist and professor of horticultural science at North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

Dr. Fisher honored
At the annual banquet Wednesday, Dr. Helen Fisher received the Eastern Section’s Life Achievement Award in recognition of her years of work as an associate professor of viticulture at the University of Guelph, Vineland Station, Ontario. Fisher, who received her Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1988, was the first woman to do extension work in horticulture in Ontario. In accepting her award, Fisher noted that in her years of working in viticulture in Ontario, she has seen the industry go from one of Concords, Sherry and bad hybrid wines to an industry that has matured and attained international recognition. “The industry has helped themselves,” she stated with conviction. “We didn’t let California run over us; the government helped as long as wineries went out, as an industry, to work together and promote themselves."

Seven $1,000 student scholarships were awarded this year. Recipients included Sarah Bowman of Southern Illinois University, DeAnna D’Attilio of Virginia Tech, Aimee Hasenbeck from the University of Arkansas, Cain Hickey from Virginia Tech, Dylan Rolfes from Iowa State University, Jennifer Savits from Iowa State University and Lindsay Springer of Cornell University. In the Student Paper Competition, two students received $500 awards: Lindsay Springer of Cornell University was recognized for the best student enology paper with an award sponsored by Lallemand Inc., and Lindsay Jordan of Cornell University was recognized for best student viticulture paper with an award sponsored by the National Grape Cooperative.

The results of elections for officers for the coming year were announced at the annual business meeting. Jodi Creasap Gee, Kent State University, Ashtabula, moves into the position of chairperson for 2013-2014, and Fritz Westover, this year’s chairperson, remains on the board of directors as past-chairperson. Lisa Smiley, owner of Cannon Valley Vineyards in Minnesota, was elected chairperson-elect. Two new directors were elected: Denise Gardner of Pennsylvania State University and Steve Menke of Colorado State University. Katie Cook, University of Minnesota, was re-elected for a second term as a director.

The next annual conference will be held in conjunction with the national meeting of the American Society of Enology and Viticulture in Austin, Texas, from June 23 to June 27, 2014.

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