Could chardonnay and pinot gris benefit from sauv treatment?

August 29, 2018, University of Auckland
Could chardonnay and pinot gris benefit from sauv treatment?
PhD candidate Xiaotong Lyu, Professor Paul Kilmartin and Dr Leandro Dias Araujo. Credit: University of Auckland

New Zealand's Sauvignon blanc is famous the world over for its special tropical aromas but now Kiwi scientists believe they are on the verge of a breakthrough in recreating those special qualities in other wines including Chardonnay and Pinot gris.

The new research from the Wine Science programme team at the University of Auckland, including Ph.D. candidate Xiaotong Lyu, Dr. Leandro Dias Araujo and Professor Paul Kilmartin, will be presented at the NZ Winegrowers Romeo Bragato National Conference in Wellington today.

Some of the distinctive Marlborough Sauvignon that has proved so popular internationally was revealed through previous research at the University by Professor Paul Kilmartin. That research showed wine produced using machine – as opposed to hand – harvesting that macerates the fruit well, combined with good antioxidant protection straight after harvest, produces a type of Sauvignon that is high in a family of aroma compounds known as varietal thiols which give the local wine its distinctiveness.

But they now know that these varietal thiol compounds can be elevated in all New Zealand white wines when harvesting techniques regularly used with Sauvignon blanc are applied to other varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot gris.

Professor Kilmartin says a sensory panel at the University of Auckland's Goldie Wine programme on Waiheke Island where the University's postgraduate programme is based has already sampled a specially-produced Pinot gris.

"Our panel liked the wines and found that the Pinot gris they were asked to profile retained a distinctive Pinot gris character, typically more floral with light fruity attributes, even with the higher varietal thiols present," he says.

"But it's important to point out that one type of wine doesn't become another using this method – a Pinot gris doesn't change into a Sauvignon blanc—but another dimension is added to the wine by these potent aromatic compounds."

The research aims to give New Zealand winegrowers and producers a new tool to direct the style of wine they want to produce based on the quality styles needed for different consumer markets, Professor Kilmartin says. Varietal thiols produce different styles depending on whether they are higher in the or lower.

Explore further: Machines trump hand-harvest for Sauvignon blanc

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