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Pinot Noir provenance: Australian benchmarking to support growing, making, perception of quality, and marketing to add value to the Pinot Noir supply chain



The project was co-designed with industry to investigate if there were drivers of provenance which could be identified from premium commercial Pinot noir wines. The project sought to:

  1. Establish an evidence base to support claims of Australian Pinot Noirs as distinctive, unique and of high quality.

  2. Identify chemical profiles in Pinot noir wines which can be attributed to their region of origin, and to compare these to international Pinot noir growing regions.

  3. Identify and articulate key points within the value chain where the quality, unique character and sustainability of Australian Pinot Noir can be communicated and optimised.

This project addressed the above aims by firstly engaging with Masters of Wines, and reputable wine guides, by way of determining appropriate regions, wineries and wines to be sought for inclusion in this project. By targeting the top ten, and representative, regions from across Australia is a broad set of wines from the 2015 and 2016 seasons were generously provided by producers. This broad set of wines was analysed for chromatic and colour structure across the two vintages, with results indicating that parameters such as anthocyanins, pigment and hue could differentiate regions such as Southern Tasmania, Geelong, Mornington Peninsula and Northern Tasmania.

To complement the broad set of 2015 and 2016 wines, a comprehensive survey was sent to producers to determine site, weather, viticultural and oenological influences on wine profiles. A low return rate of the survey limited firm conclusions being able to be drawn, however it did not appear from the surveys returned that there was a single stand out driver of wine chromatic and/or colour structure. This really highlighted the complexity of producing premium Pinot noir wines and the need to understand the site and then respond with appropriate viticultural and oenological practices. From producers who were able to successfully complete the survey, a subset of five wines from five regions (Yarra Valley, Northern Tasmania, Southern Tasmania, Mornington Peninsula and Adelaide Hills) from the 2015 and 2016 vintages underwent further volatile compound analysis for known compounds which was then compared to wine from five non-Australian regions (Burgundy, Willamette Valley, Ontario, Central Otago and Marlborough). The most interesting finding from this analysis was the similarities between wines within each vintage, indicating that weather could be a driver of aroma profiles of Pinot noir wines.

The opportunity arose during the course of this project to collaborate with Dr Wes Pearson of the AWRI, to utilise the Pivot © profile method of sensory analysis, which had concurrently to this project been used in a project regarding terroir in Shiraz/Syrah wines (Pearson et al., 2019). A panel of 11 experienced wine professionals, evaluated 15 sample wines from the 2018 vintage, and colour, phenolics and volatile compositions were analysed. From the five regions used (Yarra Valley, Northern Tasmania, Southern Tasmania, Mornington Peninsula and Adelaide Hills), ethyl decanoate, ethyl 2-methylpropanoate, ethyl 2-methylbutanoate and decanoic acid were important contributors to differentiating between regions. The Pivot © profile method revealed that ‘red fruit’ aromas were associated with Mornington Peninsula wines along with ‘acidic’ and ‘astringency’ palate descriptors, whereas Adelaide Hills wine were described as having ‘brown’ colour Longo et al. (2020b).

The project was an excellent demonstration of collaboration between a regional agricultural research institute, being the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA) at the University of Tasmania and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI). TIA staff have a strength in understanding cool climate viticulture and oenology, thus a Pinot noir project was a natural fit and when coupled with the research excellence at the AWRI, including Metabolomics Australia, made for an effective research team. TIA is also very closely connected to the cool climate wine sector in Australia, and this project would not have been possible without the idea and support from industry, particularly in co-design from Louisa Rose at Hill-Smith Family Vineyards and Adam Wadewitz at Shaw + Smith. The inclusion of Dr Bob Dambergs, of Wine TQ, to the project team underpinned the strength in understanding influences on wine composition, and multivariate data analysis.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.