Scientists are researching ways to make tastier sparkling wines that mature faster and, as a happy by-product, are more cost-effective to produce.
The $1.43 million project conducted by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, funded by Wine Australia with in-kind support by Central Science Laboratory and several winemakers, is studying different techniques to speed up the maturation process and improve its quality, which could save winemakers time and money.
Project leader and viticulture and fermentation researcher Dr Fiona Kerslake said the team were also looking at ways to make better quality sparkling wines.
“We’d like to see if we can help produce different outcomes from different winemaking techniques that winemakers can take away with them and use them,” she said.
“Some of those outcomes are intended to increase the efficiency of the winemaking process, so with any luck hopefully reduce some of that maturation time without losing any quality and hopefully increasing the quality.”
Ms Kerslake said increased efficiency would save winemakers money.
“Sparking wines are really expensive to produce because of that maturation time. The longer you hold onto it and at a controlled temperature, the higher your costs are,” she said.
Kreglinger Wine Estates sparkling winemaker Natalie Fryar said they were studying autolysis, “the process whereby in sparkling wines, yeast impart flavour into the wines as they age in bottle” as well as looking at “increased temperature during ageing” and “enzymes that we could use during the secondary fermentation process”.
The practice of autolysis dates back to Roman times and is “believed to be a vital component in shaping the flavours and mouth feel of premium wines by imparting a creaminess and reducing astringency,” UTAS said on its website.
Ms Fryar said the research was exciting for wine producers and drinkers, but stressed “hopefully they won’t notice anything except their wines are getting better”.
Accolade Wines chief sparkling winemaker Ed Carr said the maturation process was costly.
“Certainly everybody’s keen to make it happen more quickly,” he said.
“There’s a cost involved in holding onto wines and storing it.
“We’re always looking at new technology. Anything that lets us understand it more will ultimately lead us to having more choices and be able to make better wine.”
The methods and processes of winemaking are closely held secrets, with a push on in Tasmania for the local sparkling wine method to receive similar protections to the iconic French Champagne brand.