Traditional Innovation

Source: Ag Annex, October 2012

The Canadian wine market is about to get a boost of innovation using a technological update of a traditional method.

Angels Gate Winery and Rennie Estate Winery are in the midst of developing a new grape-drying process thanks a collaborative investment from both the Federal Government the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. The process is derived from the natural process of drying the grapes that has been around for a long time, said John Young, the president of Angels Gate. The goal, he said, is to enhance and adapt that process to the Canadian market, its climate conditions and the local grape varieties.

Last year, Dr. Bernard Goyette at Vineland Research ran a small pilot project in collaboration with the two wineries to explore a new drying method. According to Young, the process was so successful that it has since been ramped up and there are currently 12-15 tones of grapes being dried by this new process.

“Dr. Goyette has developed a drying system that allows temperature, humidity and air flow to be controlled to maintain the quality and consistency of the grape-drying process,” said Young. “And we have already produced a phenomenal product using this process.”

Using this technology, a number of new opportunities will become available to Canadian wine growers and processors, most notably the production of a new appassimento-style of premium wine production. As well, since the process harvests the grapes earlier than normal for the grapes to ripen artificially, the risks of the grapes encountering bad weather, disease or predation are reduced.

“The other opportunity that exists for Ontario, which may even be more important over the longer term is that you can use this process to make a high-quality wine, but you can also back-blend it with other wines to make better table wines,” said Young. “You can have a lesser quality harvest this year or next and be able to blend some of what you made in previous years and really enhance the quality and consistency of the table wines.”

The next step of the research is to finish gathering and analyzing the data from the wineries. After that, Young hopes to discuss the possible opportunities with other wineries on moving towards a larger-scale drying facility that everyone can use as a co-operative venture.