Pinot Noir is second only to Sauvignon Blanc in terms of New Zealand wine production. Nonetheless, the variety remains a “minx of a vine” to grow and manage – a characterisation first made by Jancis Robinson, MW, and since echoed by many a winemaker and viticulturist.
Unleashing the production potential of premium Pinot Noir takes the spotlight in this large-scale research programme developed by New Zealand Winegrowers.
“Productivity, Quality and Pinot Noir” aims to grow returns for the New Zealand wine industry by reconfiguring the traditional productivity/quality “see-saw”. The industry seeks new methods to produce ten tonnes per hectare of grapes yet maintain the quality standards that are typically only achieved at six tonnes per hectare.
A recipient of Endeavour Funding in 2017 from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the Pinot Noir research programme will receive $9.3 million of Government investment over five years, combined with $1 million from New Zealand Winegrowers and additional in-kind contributions from industry. The programme will run from 2018-2022.
Researchers from a number of science disciplines will take an integrated approach to answering the overarching question of how to increase production of Pinot Noir while maintaining high quality in the finished wines. One avenue of investigation will explore consumer preferences, establishing meaningful measurements for quality that reflect consumer satisfaction. From there, the complex chemistry of premium Pinot Noir can be detailed through analysis – and that, in turn, will help researchers develop assays to guide vineyard management.
Another major focus concerns the biochemistry of red wine – particularly in terms of the relationship between secondary metabolites and yield. “Big data” will also play a major role, sorting and analysing the chemical markers and grape physiology with the results from consumer preference studies.
Each step of the way, researchers will be producing experimental wines using grapes harvested from the associated viticultural trials along with novel winemaking techniques.
Science partners include Plant & Food Research, Lincoln University, the University of Auckland, and participating wine companies.
New Zealand winemakers are already celebrated for the structure and elegance offered in different styles of Pinot Noir from the Wairarapa all the way to Central Otago. This research programme aims to support the growth of Pinot Noir export sales, grow returns for wineries and meet consumer preferences in new and established markets.