SFE Scientific Research Presented at the OIV

This week Porto has been hosting the XXXIV Vine and Wine World Congress and the General Assembly of the OIV – International Vine and Wine Organization.  The OIV is an inter-governmental scientific and technical organization focussed on encouraging and disseminating the latest research in viticultural and oenological subjects.

Symington Family Estates is very proud that our team have presented research findings from three different projects at the Conference this week.  In addition, another major presentation was based in part on research conducted at one of our Quintas.

Charles Symington discussed our robotic lagares and the research on extraction of colour and phenolic compounds.

Charles Symington’s presentation Wednesday afternoon compared the use of Symington’s patented Robotic Lagares versus the traditional stone lagares.  Fundamentally, the robotic lagares were designed to preserve all the advantages of traditional treading which result in very high extraction of phenolic compounds and colour whilst solving the drawbacks of minimal temperature control and rising labour costs not just for the treading, but for the hours needed to fully empty and then clean a lagar.

Over the past 10 years since the introduction of robotic lagares Charles and Steve Rogerson, our research oenologist, have tracked colour and phenolic extraction for wines made in the robotic lagares and confirmed an ideal treading time of about 3 hours.  In addition, they have compared colour extraction in wines made by robotic lagares, versus wines made in auto-vinifiers, and found the lagar-made wines had substantially higher pigmentation, which is very important for vintage ports, destined to age for decades.

Finally, the value of the lagares has been proven by the critical acclaim for the wines made by this method:  Graham’s Vintage 2000 was our first vintage port made wholly by robotic lagar, and scored 98 points in the Wine Spectator.  Since then many of our robotic lagar wines have scored very highly and in 2007, our sister brand Dow’s Vintage Port scored a perfect 100 points.

Steve Rogerson, right, discussing his work with a colleague at the OIV Conference

In addition to Charles’s presentation, two more of our team created posters documenting their research, and were available during the day Tuesday to answer conference attendee’s questions about their work.

Steve Rogerson has conducted research into the use of enzymes to enhance bergamot scent and flavour characteristics in Touriga Nacional.  Bergamot is a type of small orange, with a fresh floral-citrus scent – you may know it from its use in Earl Grey Tea.  Steve made wines in both 2007 and 2010, in order to assess the levels of the relevant chemical components and tasters’ sensory impressions of bergamot character for both recently made and bottle-aged wines.

Paulo Macedo, whom many of you may remember from the blog as the wine maker at Quinta do Tua during harvest, spends the other 11 months of the year as a viticulturalist with responsibility for many Symington vineyards around Pinhão and in the Rio Torto, including Graham’s Quinta das Lages.  The Douro in the summer is an environment of high sun, heat and drought, and global warming won’t improve the situation.  In extreme conditions, leaves and grapes can dry out and if the temperature is very high for an extended period photosynthesis simply shuts down, which can delay the maturation of the grapes.

Paulo’s investigations have shown that the use of a foliar spray of kaolin (a type of diatomaceous earth) to reflect sunlight away from the leaves and thus create a slightly cooler microclimate, is effective in supporting photosynthesis and water retention.

Rui Martins presenting the VinePAT research conducted at SFE's Quinta do Vesuvio

Finally, Rui Martins and António Cesar Silva-Ferreira of the Molecular Biology and Ecology Research Center at the University of Minho in Braga, presented their work on the VinePAT, a device which uses high resolution spectroscopy to perform chemical analysis of the grapes in the vineyard, very like the analysis already done on musts and finished wines.  By analysing grapes throughout a vineyard parcel throughout the growing season and combining that information with geo-referencing they are able to develop maps which demonstrate which parcels or sections of a parcel have certain chemical characteristics.  This in turn could help the winemaker anticipate the style of the wine that might be produced from those grapes.  Much of their research was conducted at the Symingtons’ Quinta do Vesuvio, in a specific parcel of Touriga Nacional located in the valley near the house and train stop.

This kind of rigorous viticultural and oenological research, and the sharing of our findings with our winemaking and scientific colleagues, is an important part of Symington Family Estates’ commitment to the Douro region, which we take very seriously.

Which is not to say our experiments are without their lighter moments.  When Paulo Macedo was establishing his test plots, he sprayed some rows of vines with the kaolin, and others with a spray of copper sulphate (also known as Bordeaux mixture).  We didn’t anticipate the view from across of the valley of a vineyard neatly striped in white (kaolin) and blue (copper sulphate), which just happen to be the colours for FC Porto, the local football team!

If you are interested in receiving copies of Steve Rogerson’s poster “Industrial Trials Modulating Touriga Nacional Aroma Tipicity” or Paulo Macedo’s “Kaolin – A Protector Agent of Vineyards During Summer Stress” please contact us at blogadmin at grahams-port dot com (using the usual symbols, we spell it out here to avoid spam).