GCQRI Day One – Dr Ray McEachern

This was a talk about wine, and the title should explain things: “Examples of how research has been effective in addressing other commodities production and quality concerns.” Simply put: the result of research into wine quality.

Dr McEachern opened up with highlighting the massive changes in the wine industry in the last 20 or 30 years. He gave a few examples:

– Vinegar has now pretty much gone from wine
– Cold settling as part of fermentation is a new and near universal practice
– Reduction in the use of native yeasts, in exchange for specific flavour producing cultures
– Sterile filtration

He talked about how research has disproven the idea that low yield = high quality, citing examples in Australia where 8 tonnes/acre can be of the same quality as a yield of 1.4 tonnes/acre in France. He talked about the negative impact of fast growing vines. Very fast growing vines cause what he calls a “vegetative sink” on the plant – resulting in a vegetable taste in the wine. In higher yielding plants the growth is slower so the vegetable taste is reduced.

He talked about how the wine industry has worked to define quality – either using terms like “cassis” and rating the potential for “cassis” within certain varieties. There has been work to define and correlate certain compounds with mouthfeel.

My favourite quote of the talk was “When you have a great wine, no one has to tell you it is great.” I can’t emphasise enough how relevant this is to coffee.

There was some interesting stuff on how he classifies wine, but I suspect many here are more interested in me posting about coffee than about wine…

He did cover the way that funding is accrued for wine research. In the past much of it was from State and the Federal government. UC Davis was able to run 30 years of indepth research this way. More recently that has changed, with industry funding the majority of research work. How this is funded is something that will come up later (and many times over I am sure).

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