A UBC 2010 Pinot Noir is the first wine made at UBC’s Okanagan campus.
The winemaking is an experiment to better understand how nitrogen in grape fertilization influences the quality of wine.
Grapes used for the wine were harvested from a controlled field experiment in Oliver, B.C. Half of the vines were left untouched, while the other half of the vines — known as the controlled sample — received less fertilization (nitrogen).
“Nitrogen is important to the growing process as it not only impacts the grape-growing ability of a vine but also can affect the level of yeast metabolism in the winemaking process,” says Cedric Saucier, associate professor of chemistry at UBC’s Okanagan campus, adding that wine makers in the Okanagan are particularly interested in the question.
“The Okanagan has sandy soil which tends to be poor in nitrogen and dry, so growers must bring in both water and nitrogen to get quality grapes. However, there is no magic formula to determine how much nitrogen or water is required to ensure the vine is growing well,” Saucier explains.
“By understanding how nitrogen levels affect the final product, we can possibly help determine a guideline for fertilization requirements.”
The grapes used to make the wine were recently hand-harvested, hand-crushed and placed into a home-made fermentation tank prototype to ferment. The wine will ferment for seven to nine days before being transferred to bottles for the second stage of fermentation, which takes anywhere from two weeks to a month.
“We’re making the red wine with the seeds and skins; this differs from the homemade wine kits that people sometimes purchase from stores, which is why we needed to create a miniature prototype of a fermenter,” says Saucier.
Once ready, the Pinot Noir will be tested to see how the wine made from the controlled sample compares in look, taste and structure to the untouched sample. Saucier expects to have about 36 bottles.
Some of the wine will be put aside to age and some will be sampled for chemical analysis and tannins in particular.
UBC’s Okanagan campus is emphasizing research and teaching that contributes to the sustainability of the agricultural industry in the Okanagan region and its emerging leadership as a premier wine region of Canada. This experiment is a part of larger project funded in part by Genome Canada with colleagues at UBC’s Vancouver campus, and Simon Fraser University, the University of Guelph, US Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS), University of Washington, and the University of Victoria Genome BC Proteomics Centre.
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