On behalf of the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), Dr. Keren Bindon traveled to Chile to present AWRI’s main lines of research and experience in the application of objective measurements in the vineyard.
The specialist was part of the Workshop on Strategic Program 3: Quality of Grapes and Wines, attended by 60 people from the Agricultural, Technical, and Grape and Wine Purchasing areas. On that occasion, Bindon was able to talk with the CRI´s team and other company collaborators about the progress that has been made in objective and scientific quality measurements of both grapes and wines.
After this enriching experience, Dr. Bindon comments Chile´s level in technology and investigation in relation to the global industry, how she sees the adoption of new technologies in viticulture, and what challenges are still pending in this area.
You work in Australia, but you know the wine industry´s level regarding technology and investigation around the world. How do you think Chile is, compared to other countries like the US or South Africa?
I think Chile is different in that its research is university-based. The CRI is an exception, since it is directly related to Viña Concha y Toro. The disadvantage of having university-based investigations is that professors working on grapes and wines are not working exclusively on that.
At AWRI, created on 1955, we only work with grapes and wines, so we have a big commitment to the industry. Actually, members elected by the Australian winemaking industry make up the Board of Directors. Viña Concha y Toro has made that effort of developing its own center, which tackles the whole process, from grapes to wines exclusively.
How do you think that viticulturists have valued more the investigation applied to the vineyard?
In one sense we have progressed, but in the other we are in the same place that we were ten years ago. At that time, we had many of the techniques that we have applied in objective measure studies already available to us. All those tools were available but they were not being used, and ten or fifteen years later are still not being used. Frequently, wineries don´t value the implementation of these tools, because they want fast and efficient solutions given to them, instead of adopting these new tools themselves.
With that said, presenting the work at technical conferences and around Australia, and to groups of viticulturists in small wineries, there is massive respect and interest in the work. Many producers want to adopt these tools and take it further. Therefore, I think that the discussion around the table is really that adoption is the key. We got the concept, but the producers have to adopt the knowledge and apply it.
Besides extension, has the AWRI tackled those challenges of adoption directly?
We are doing that through our commercial leg, a project team with engineers and scientists, which through consultancies help the producers and are able to implement new technologies in the vineyard and cellars. This way, producers have been able to raise the quality and quantity of their measurements, delivering more certainties and accessible to reliable data.
Considering the traditional nature of the industry, do you think there has been a shift into a more scientific approach to winemaking?
I think Australia is unique in that. Science has been a great influence in tradition of winemaking and viticulture. I lived in South Africa as well, and I think they are more similar to Chile´s case, with a very strong push to do thing as previous generations did.
Australia has been very technology driven, so that is why the Australian Winery Research Institute is a success, because there is a great demand for these types of knowledge. This allows us to be funded to do more of the same, and it is just a cycle of a need technology, more need, and uptake. I would say that in Australia it has been a success story for technology uptake and transfer. Is working well.