The Cool Climate Enology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University has launched its latest outreach program, TanninAlert.

Tannins are key components to manage in red wine production, as sufficient extraction of skin tannins is necessary to stabilize color and provide structure to the wine, but excessive extraction of seed tannins can result in bitterness and astringency. Because red wine is fermented on both skins and seeds, winemakers must balance extracting enough skin tannin, without extracting too much seed tannin.

While winegrowers previously had the ability to easily measure things like Brix (sugar levels), titratable acidity and pH before harvest, there was no simple measurement of skin and seed tannin in red grape varieties.

Thus, TanninAlert was developed in collaboration with the industry to fill the gap by providing winemakers with a measurement tool specific to red wine production.

The program, now available through CCOVI’s Analytical Services, measures skin and seed tannin separately in red grape varieties. Skin and seed tannin measurements are then compared to the CCOVI measurement database (dating from 2015 to present) and then classified as low, medium or high to aid in winemaking decisions.

Along with tannin measurements, winegrowers will also have access to the TanninAlert site, which includes reference skin and seed tannin ranges, a skin and seed tannin development database for current and past harvest seasons, and various protocols of wine production tested by CCOVI senior scientist in Enology Belinda. Kemp and his students during the development of the program. These protocols are adapted to the variety and tannin level based on the measurements, in order to optimize the quality of the red wine.

CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis said she is “delighted to add TanninAlert to CCOVI’s growing list of outreach program offerings.”

“The TanninAlert program demonstrates CCOVI’s commitment to addressing industry priorities and working collaboratively,” he said. “Once again, the Institute worked with industry stakeholders to develop a solution to an industry-identified challenge.”

Kemp, who will oversee the launch of the program, said she is excited that after so much work by so many people, CCOVI can now offer the TanninAlert service to the industry.

“The TanninAlert database was built from data collected from Ontario vineyards,” Kemp said. “It wouldn’t be possible without our collaborators, vintners, wineries and vintners, who donated fruit.”

For the launch of TanninAlert in 2022, growers can submit samples of Cabernet franc and Cabernet sauvignon to CCOVI for analysis. The price of the tannin analysis is $100 per sample, with a three business day delivery time for results.

As part of the launch of this innovative new program, CCOVI will offer a discounted rate of $70 per sample, with juice analysis for Brix, pH, titratable acidity and volatile acidity included in the price. Therefore, if samples are brought in for a juice panel test ($21), the inclusion of tannin analysis will be half price. There is also an opportunity for a bulk rate for multiple samples. For questions about tannin analysis samples, customers should contact

TanninAlert was started in 2015 as a partnership between Inglis, Kemp and CCOVI researcher Jim Willwerth, along with industry. The program initially focused on Pinot noir, Cabernet franc and Cabernet sauvignon with funding from the Engineering Research Council of Canada collaborative research and development grant program, Ontario Centers of Excellence and Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc (OGWRI).

More recently, TanninAlert has been expanded to include additional red grape varieties (Merlot, Gamay noir and Syrah) and to assess the impact of winemaking decisions based on skin and seed tannin levels. Funding for this expansion was provided by the AgriScience Cluster program of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) and OGWRI, through the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN-RCCV), which administers the national Grape & Wine Research Cluster.

For additional information on TanninAlert and the development of the program, view Inglis’ presentation on YouTube from the CCOVI 2022 lecture series.

Chart showing the TanninAlert measurement process.

Red grape varieties are sampled at different times from vine to harvest and the skin and seeds are separated to measure skin and seed tannin levels separately.

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