Brock University: CCOVI introduces innovative program to assist industry with winemaking decisions


Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) has launched its latest outreach program, TanninAlert.

Tannins are key components to manage in red wine production, as sufficient skin tannin extraction is required to stabilize colour and offer structure to the wine, but over extraction of seed tannin can result in bitterness and astringency. As red wine is fermented on both the skins and seeds, winemakers must balance extracting sufficient skin tannin, without over extracting seed tannin.

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

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

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

Along with tannin measurements, winemakers will also have access to the TanninAlert site, which includes benchmarked skin and seed tannin ranges, a database of skin and seed tannin development for current and past harvest seasons and various winemaking protocols trialed by CCOVI Senior Scientist in Oenology Belinda Kemp and her students throughout the development of the program. These protocols are tailored to variety and tannin level based the on measurements, in order to optimize red wine quality.

CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis said she’s “thrilled 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 in collaboration,” she said. “Once again, the Institute has worked with industry stakeholders to develop a solution to a challenge identified by industry.”

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

“The TanninAlert database has been built from data gathered from Ontario vineyards,” said Kemp. “It would not have been possible without our collaborators — the grape growers, wineries and winemakers — who donated fruit.”

For the launch of TanninAlert in 2022, producers can submit samples of Cabernet franc and Cabernet sauvignon to CCOVI for analysis. Pricing for tannin analysis is $100 per sample, with a three-business day turnaround 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. So, if samples are being brought in for a juice panel test ($21), inclusion of tannin analysis will be at half price. There is also an opportunity for a bulk rate for multiple samples. For questions regarding tannin analysis samples, customers should contact [email protected]

TanninAlert was initiated 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 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Collaborative Research and Development Grants program, Ontario Centres of Excellence and Ontario Grape and Wine Research Inc (OGWRI).

More recently, TanninAlert 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 Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) AgriScience Cluster program and OGWRI, via the Canadian Grapevine Certification Network (CGCN-RCCV), which administers the national Grape & Wine Research Cluster.