By Andy Young

A project which will investigate the molecular interactions between different types of fining agents and wine has won one of the 2015 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

Dr Julie Culbert has won the $22,000 Viticulture and Oenology study grant, which is sponsored by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA).

With the grant Dr Culbert will now use supercomputer modelling to identify the fining agents best suited to removing volatile compounds associated with common faults and taints in wine.

While the Australian wine industry goes to great lengths to ensure the quality of its final product, taints can occur as a result of pests and diseases or contamination of winery equipment, often at a huge financial cost. In 2006-07 alone, bushfires in Victoria were estimated to have cost that state's wine producers around $100 million.

Dr Culbert hopes her research will find a more time- and cost-effective way of identifying which absorbents should be used.

"This project aims to determine the binding interactions between wine components and various adsorbents, thereby improving the selection of adsorbents for specific fining or taint removal applications," Dr Culbert said.

"While computational modelling techniques are yet to be explored by the wine sector, they have been commonly used in other fields such as the pharmaceutical industry.

"I'm looking forward to being able to help deliver financial benefits to the Australian wine sector by improving both the efficiency of these processes and the quality of finished wines."

AGWA’s research, development and extension portfolio manager, Liz Waters, said the Authority is "delighted" to support innovative researchers like Dr Culbert.

Waters said: "This project’s focus on using a new approach to designing an innovative winemaking tool will further improve the quality of Australian wine."

Dr Culbert expects to conclude her research in December 2015 and a full report of research outcomes will be available on the AGWA website following completion.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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