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Bordeaux Science Team Exploring the Effect of Heat Treatments to Trigger Different Wine Sensory Characteristics

Walnut Creek, CA – After three years of trials, chemistry analyses, and multiple blind taste tests in various countries, recent discussions at the Ecophysiology and Grape Functional Genomics Research Unit (EGFV- University of Bordeaux, INRA and Bordeaux Sciences Agro) with wine genome scientists have led to a program that will further investigate the effects of Thermal Plant Treatment on wine grape berry composition and the resulting wines. “For several years now”, says Marty Fischer, CEO of AgroThermal Systems, “we have seen treated blocks produce more

complex, youthful wines with different aromas that have been generally preferred over wine made from grapes that were produced from the same blocks but without heat treatments. The answer may lie in ‘heat shock’ and the manner in which this leads to changes in vine physiology.”

Fischer has had discussions with Drs. Serge Delrot and Gregory Gambetta at the University of Bordeaux who specialize in how the wine grape genome functions and its role in creating wines responding to climatic and other inputs. “What had occurred to us, was by heating the canopy instantaneously by some 12-20ºF, our technique was achieving an input to the plant that it had never experienced before and that this instant heat increase might be activating pathways never triggered by the normal rise and fall in ambient temperatures” Fischer explained. The Bordeaux group acknowledged that this type of heat input would likely trigger differences in vine physiology. Dr. Serge Delrot, Director of the EGFV Joint Research Unit (University of Bordeaux, INRA and Bordeaux Sciences Agro), stated, “this level of instantaneous heating of the canopy and grape berry surfaces could create ‘heat shock’ leading to differences in aroma and other wine sensory characteristics. It is an interesting new approach to evoking different wine characteristics and plant behaviors that requires exploration and further study.”

AgroThermal is working with the EGFV Research Unit to establish longer-term studies of how instant heating of the vine triggers changes in fruit and wine composition. The initial work is due to begin with the 2015 crop year. Says Dr. Delrot, “To my knowledge no in-depth work has been done on the novel idea of instantaneous heat shock in grapes. It is a fascinating way to try to manipulate plant behavior and has implications not only for fruit production, but also for levels of production, blossom development and even the plant’s ability to react to disease and pest pressures.”

According to Fischer, AgroThermal Systems has seen these kinds of plant behavior not only in grapes but also in other produce items. “We are focused on wine grapes in our research and marketing efforts after years of work that show this technique works. In the beginning years of the technique, however, it produced some very interesting benefits for cherries, other orchard fruit, berries and even processed tomatoes. The idea is fascinating and will be explored as AgroThermal expands its business.”

AgroThermal Systems is based in Walnut Creek California and is a dba of Lazo TPC Global, Inc., a California Corporation. AgroThermal has pioneered the use of in-field heat treatment as a means to increase
yields, reduce pesticide needs and improve crop qualities. The company holds patents on Thermal Pest Control and has patents pending on Thermal Plant Treatment for agricultural crops.

The EGFV Joint Research Unit gathers a wide range of interdisciplinary skills, from ecophysiology to molecular
physiology, through biochemistry and genetics, in order to study the functioning of grapevine and the factors determining the quality of grape berries. It gathers scientists from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), teachers and scientists from the Bordeaux Sciences Agro and from the University of Bordeaux.

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