Mudgee winemakers spent yesterday with researchers from the Australian Wine Research Institute, hearing the latest science that will help improve the flavours of local wine.
Organisers believe the event is the first in Australia to focus on the subject of tannins, the bitter quality in wine that comes from grape skins and seeds.
Researcher Keren Bindon spoke about tannin, while Geoff Cowey discussed brett, a yeast that generally contributes an unwanted flavour to wines.
The researchers spoke about the origin of these two elements, how to recognise them, and how to manage them to achieve the desired balance of flavours within a wine.
“If we understand the building blocks, then we can use those to make better decisions in the vineyard or in the winery,” said di Lusso Estate winemaker Julia Conchie.
“It’s about educating us with the most up-to-date research so we can make better decisions for ourselves.”
“It is really the cutting edge of technology in Mudgee,” said Mr Cowey.
He said no one in Australia had ever presented such an extended session on the subject of tannins, which has become a subject for research in the last 10 years with the creation of tannin-measuring technology.
“Tannin is one of the main components of a wine’s taste,” said Robert Stein Winery winemaker Jacob Stein.
“It has a big effect on consumer taste, on whether they like the wines or not.”
Mr Stein said wines of the Mudgee region were strong in tannin, making it important for local winemakers to understand tannin and how to shape it to achieve the quality of tannin they want in their wines.
“It’s all about optimising what you’ve got,” agreed Lowe Family Wines winemaker Liam Heslop.
He said an understanding of the ways weather conditions and vineyard techniques affected tannin would allow winemakers to make changes to reduce qualities of “greenness”, to improve the fruitiness of the wine, or soften the tannin flavour.
Sue Ridler of new winery Short Sheep said it was good to have facts and research to support things she had intuited as she began winemaking in recent years.
The Australian Wine Research Institute offers support and advice to winemakers, who are often working alone in small wineries like those in Mudgee, and can also visit with tests and field research or
Mr Cowey said the event had been designed specifically for the Mudgee region, after consultation with local winemakers showed that the problem of harsh or acidic flavours was one that they wanted explored. He said it was the first time a region had worked with the institute to instigate and drive a project.
The presentation was funded by the national Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation, which in turn is funded by levies paid by grape growers.
“Our managers are basically the stakeholders, the grape growers and winemakers of Australia,” Mr Cowey said.
Ms Conchie said the event had been a great success, attended by all local winemakers who weren’t already crushing grapes, as well as six drawn from Bathurst and Orange.
The event was brought to Mudgee by the Mudgee Wine Grape Growers Association and NSW Wine, and Ms Conchie said the local group’s volunteers were vital to the event’s success as they washed glasses between tastings and served the lunch prepared by Olive.a.twist catering.
“What’s happened today is a dream come true,” Ms Conchie said. “The quality of the speakers, the knowledge, is just phenomenal.”