|The Institute of Grape and Wine Science (IGWS) is a joint venture between Stellenbosch University and the South African wine industry, established in 2012, to deliver world-class teaching, research and technology development. The institute is responsible for knowledge transfer services to the South African wine industry and to ensure that research and devel-opment in wine sciences is relevant and of high standards.
To this end, a strategic initiative was conducted to align current activities with the envisaged future of the Department of Viticulture and Oenology (DVO). The Viticulture, Oenology, Chemistry and Sensory Evaluation hubs of the DVO at Stellenbosch University have come together to establish what is needed to best address the training and research requirements for industry partners.
One of the immediate needs identified is to increase human resources. Four staff members have recently been employed or have had their contracts renewed under the IGWS umbrella. Valeria Panzeri (MScAgric in Oenology) assists the fast-growing sensory sector. Her main fo-cus will be training of undergraduate students and industry members.
Anne Alessandri (HonsBScAgric in Viticulture) continues as the liaison officer for the six month internship program for the fourth year students, working with industry partners to con-tinue to grow and improve this exciting initiative, while Anneli Bosman (studying towards an MScAgric in Viticulture) has been re-appointed as a junior lecturer in Viticulture. Stevie Kry-nauw, an IT project coordinator, will specialise in developing a knowledge sharing and infor-mation management platform.
These department hubs have recently outlined their plans for the next cycle of funding, and their goals are outlined below.
The Internship Program
This program is completing its third harvest and the response from both the students and the industry has been positive. The internship starts when the students are in their 3rd year, with winter pruning, followed by a short period of work on the farm in September for spring vine-yard practices. It, however, starts in earnest in December once the students have completed their third year.
Each year has seen improvements to the program based on industry feedback and student input. The IGWS is aiming to improve the program, as well as create the opportunity to provide information to the industry by increased website presence, a student publication and an an-nual internship conference.
In its aim to produce sought after professional graduates of a world-class standard, the IGWS will continue with their research throughout the internship process in order to quantify the standard of the graduates through feedback from the South African industry and the interna-tional wine community.
The Viticulture Group
The overall goal of the viticulture team is to ensure world-class teaching and research in viti-culture as a core component of the broader wine sciences. Mining and packaging of knowledge generated in research projects, for application in the industry, is an important addi-tional goal.
Ultimately, the viticulture component aims to be a “hub” for scientific excellence, networked with the rest of the world and core to the South Africa wine and grapevine industries. At the moment, the viticulture group recognises its limitations: limited capacity and low momentum. The immediate strategy is to consolidate three current focus areas of strength: grapevine mo-lecular biology, remote sensing, and geographic information systems (GIS) with grape-vine physiology/practices. The five to ten year goal is to build on these strengths, extending them where necessary towards a productive unit for example, by developing a specific theme, link-ing these focus areas.
The viticulture group is now in a stage of reorganisation, with the goal of increasing outputs on all levels. In two to five years they hope to see the group working in a well-integrated team incorporating researchers, students-in-training and industry role players all to the advance-ment of viticulture.
The IGWS funding will help to facilitate this process primarily by investing in additional spe-cialised human resources required for the team to grow. This and the acquisition of additional laboratory equipment, will give the viticulture team the opportunity on more than one level to jump and not crawl forward.
The Oenology Group
On the Oenology side, the aim is to establish world-class experimental and commercial cellars to facilitate training and research while exposing students to the most up-to-date technology. The long-term goal is to be on par with the best internationally recognised research and teaching cellars. The experimental cellar currently accommodates 40 – 50 undergraduate and postgraduate students during the academic year.
Every year about 20 – 30 tons of grapes are processed from which about 600 different wines are made. The experimental cellar plays a critical role in the DVO environment, as annually, research projects funded to the value of about R12 million, rely on wines made in this cellar to generate essential research data.
The IGWS is addressing the requirements in the cellar by funding the purchase of equipment such as an additional pneumatic press. More basic winemaking equipment will also be pro-vided to the cellar to reduce the bottlenecks formed during harvest. This will assist in optimis-ing the training of the undergraduate students, as well as the production of research wines in well-controlled conditions.
In the future, the cellar will acquire fermenters and maturation tanks for both red and white wines, together with advanced analytical equipment to do online measurements. Both the experimental cellar and Welgevallen Cellar will then be capable of supporting the training of up to 70 undergraduate and postgraduate students per annum and will be in line with indus-try requirements for their professional development. Integration between the university’s cel-lars and those of Elsenburg and Nietvoorbij will further assist in making this possible.
The Sensory Evaluation Group
The sensory group’s short-term goals include the installation of cutting-edge sensory hard-ware and software for use in the many research projects. The group plans to bring in technical expertise on short-term contracts for capacity building and in doing so, increase diversity in training and participation. The visibility and accessibility of sensory aspects will be enhanced through various publications (scientific and popular articles) and the continued improvement and growth of training courses for the industry, community partners and students.
The group also plans to develop novel sensory methodologies over the next three years, both for research projects and for the industry. This will be made possible by the potential expan-sion of current facilities and through collaboration with local partners (Nietvoorbij and Elsen-burg) in training and research ventures, as well as with established and new international partners.
The long-term vision of this group is to become a center for excellence in sensory research, research support and training, offering training courses in wine evaluation and sensory methodology offered on both international and national level.
The Analytical Chemistry Group
The analytical hub within the department is of vital importance to the success of all research projects. A highly functional analytical lab has to have standard basic equipment, but also specialised equipment, dependent on the environment and its requirements.
The vision for the analytical facility is to provide solutions in which the methods are an inte-gral part and not just methods alone. This means there is a need for people with the theoreti-cal knowledge to understand and solve analytical problems, together with the instrumental and human capacity to sustain the routine application of these solutions in the environment. Additionally, approaches for solving problems change with time and innovations – this means that the team should be highly knowledgeable and flexible to keep up with the trends.
The IGWS is investing in both the skilled human resources required for this to be made possi-ble, by increasing instrumental capabilities with the addition of mass spectrometry and other versatile detectors/equipment. All of this will result in faster analyses, higher throughput, more accurate measurements, consistent data, and reliable results – impacting in a positive manner on the quality of research, leading to an increased number of outputs (scientific and popular science articles) and to answering more questions that the industry partners have for the de-partment to solve as an integrated environment.
Large volumes of knowledge and information are annually generated in the environment through research projects, presentations and other activities. Stevie Krynauw will be respon-sible for organising these valuable information resources into a searchable and shareable format. The coordination of research interactions, outputs, collaboration between academia and the industry, as well as the transfer of information to the industry, will thus be greatly im-proved.
VinPro has been contacted by the IGWS to deliver packaged viticulture knowledge to wine-growers, consultants and viticulturists.
As stated previously, the vision of the IGWS is to deliver world class teaching, research and technology development as well as transfer services to the South African wine industry; and to ensure relevance and excellence in wine sciences and technology. The recent inroads made into finalising the budgetary requirements go a long way to achieving this vision.