The lead author of a 2015 study, which revealed previously unknown interactions between the impact of elevated temperature and water stress on grape quality and wine composition, has been recognised with the prestigious ASVO Dr Peter May Award for 2020.
The ground-breaking study, led by Dr Marcos Bonada, opened a window into warmer and drier futures for the Australian wine sector.
It concluded that the effect of water deficit leading to colourful and flavoursome wines rich in phenolic substances might not be maintained under higher temperatures. When the vines experienced higher temperatures in combination with water stress, wines were rated lower for tannin structure, berry flavours and colour saturation.
The study was considered pioneering, as most other studies at the time focused on either elevated temperature or drought separately and were carried out as pot trials in glasshouses. Dr Bonada’s work, however, investigated the combined effects of warming and water stress under realistic conditions in a Shiraz vineyard in the Barossa Valley.
Importantly, the research provided the Australian wine sector with indications of the shift in wine style that may be expected in a warmer climate, especially if management practices aren’t changed to better manage these conditions.
Dr Bonada – a Viticulture Research Scientist with the Department of Primary Industries and Regions research division, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) – said even as a child he was drawn to vineyards.
‘I was born and raised in Mendoza, Argentina. Mendoza is one of the world wine capitals and is well known worldwide for its Malbec. Although my family wasn’t involved in the wine industry I grew up in a neighbourhood surrounded by vineyards, so the most exciting adventure as a kid was to spend the time after school playing with my friends among the vines.
‘I suspect this impacted me subconsciously because I decided to study agricultural engineering at the National University of Cuyo!’
Dr Bonada graduated with honours in Viticulture and Oenology in 2005, and then went to work as a vineyard manager for an international company. Three years later, Dr Bonada moved to The National Institute of Agriculture Technology (INTA), where he says he discovered his deep interest in research.
‘I worked at INTA until 2011 doing research and development in viticulture, until I had the opportunity to come to Adelaide to complete doctoral studies at the University of Adelaide. I had the great privilege to work under the supervision of Victor Sadras, David Jeffery and Paul Petrie, and completed my PhD in 2014.’
Dr Marcos Bonada, lead author of the paper awarded the ASVO Dr Peter May Award for 2020
Dr Bonada returned to Argentina for a short stay, and then moved back to Adelaide with his family in 2015 to take up his current position at SARDI.
He and his colleagues at SARDI have since undertaken a number of innovative studies on vineyard adaptation to climate change. The team has investigated irrigation practices to sustain production during dry winters and the effects of manipulating pruning times to delay ripening to more favourable conditions.
The Dr Peter May Award honours the late Dr Peter May, who was the founding editor of the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research. You can read more about Dr Bonada’s study here: Bonada, M., Jeffery, D., Petrie, P., Moran, M. and Sadras, V. (2015), Temperature and water effects on grapes and wines. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 21: 240-253. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajgw.12142