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Winemaking: Where art meets science Up Front

By Bryden Winsby H

umans have been fermenting grapes and other fruit into wine for millennia, and they have

written about it throughout recorded history.

You'd think that by now there wouldn't be much left to talk about, at least nothing original. Ah, far from it. Winemaking is at once a philosophy, a craft, an art and a science. Somebody, somewhere puts a new spin on it every day. Not all the spins are philosophical or scientific — unless you can argue there is some science behind the ability of certain sommeliers to tell merely from swirling a mouthful of Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Gris which winery produced it.

Much of the biochemistry remains mysterious. Oenology uses cutting edge technology to support a global wine industry that produces more than 18 billion bottles annually and is forecast to be worth $327.8 billion this year. I've heard it said that while researchers have a good understanding of the chemicals that convey bouquet and palate, just how those qualities are formed and imparted to the wine is still more art than science.

But even a seasoned winemaker can have things go sideways and, rather than run the risk, can turn to science. As the industry is continuing to grow here, this has led to the advent of several laboratories which, as Susan McIver explains in our cover story, provide analytical testing, mostly to smaller operations, that helps ensure they won't encounter nasty surprises along the way to their finished product.

The science of winemaking is the stuff of Gary Strachan's career. As our resident guru on the subject, he goes into detail this issue on Saccharomyces cerevisiae — 'sugar yeast' — commonly used in fermentation and one of the most-studied organisms of genetics. He's also got a piece on grape-growing and a book review on the world's fermented foods and beverages. Helping others avoid problems is one of the main reasons Christine Coletta and hubby Steve Lornie started the Crush Pad nearly five years ago. Associate editor Judie Steeves tells us not only how they’ve assisted in the launching of new wineries, they’ve

4 British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Spring 2016

built their own award- winning brand and recently added a distillery. Ms. Steeves also provides coverage of this year’s B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association convention, which included an

opportunity for attendees to meet and question (nicely, of course) Kim Grout, the new chief executive officer of the province’s Agricultural Land Commission.

Elsewhere, we’ve got a reminder to Ambrosia growers about the vote now under way on a proposed extension to the new varieties levy and an update on how tenacious Spotted Wing Drosophila vinegar fly has become. Still with bugs, you can read about a possibility that the Okanagan Sterile Insect Release program could expend its operations beyond codling moth control.

Meanwhile, Ms. McIver profiles longtime and widely known researcher Frank Kappel, who has been given permanent appointment as general manager of the Summerland Varieties Corporation (formerly known as the Okanagan Plant Improvement Corporation, or PICO). At the Summerland Research and Development Centre (formerly known as the Pacific Agri-food Research Centre, or PARC) there are two recent hires who prove, once again, that field labour is something women can do as well as men can, from pruning to removing blocks of old trees and replanting.

Enjoy your Spring!

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