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New International Wine Genomics Project Launched

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

23 July 2008 - New Zealand and Canadian wine researchers and vineyards will be working together on a CA$5 million (NZ$6.5 million) project to improve wine from New World areas.

The multi-national project is a collaboration between the University of British Columbia Wine Research Centre in Vancouver, Canada and the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology Wine Programme, led by The University of Auckland with HortResearch, the Marlborough Wine Research Centre, Lincoln University and winemakers across New Zealand. Other participants include the US Department of Agriculture, Niagara College in Ontario and wineries Calona Vineyards, Poplar Grove Winery and Burrowing Owl Winery in British Columbia.

The WineGen project will look to identify changes at the molecular and biochemical level that affect three important aspects of wine making; grapevine cultivation, grape processing and fermentation by yeasts. The three countries represented in the project are increasingly making strong contributions to the world's wine production, and it is envisaged the research will contribute to other New World wine growing areas.

According to Dr. Richard Gardner, Project Leader for New Zealand from The University of Auckland, "Our country's component of the research programme is looking at the distinctive aroma of Sauvignon Blanc. The collaboration will allow NZ researchers to access genomics technologies at UBC and to assess differences between grape growing areas in different parts of the world."

Dr Alan Winter, President and CEO of Genome BC, which is providing CA$1.5 million of funding, says, "Genome BC is very pleased to support this new initiative which builds on knowledge gained in a previous Grape Gen project, which was a collaboration with Genoma Espaa. Wine production in BC has expanded significantly over the last decade and has become one of the province's leading agri-businesses, increasing by 131% in the period 1996-2005. We look forward to the results the team will bring forward that will contribute to overall innovation of viticulture and enology and the advancement of Canadian wines on the international market."

A unique aspect of the Wine Gen project is the inclusion of social science research, led by Dr Michael Howlett at Simon Fraser University, Canada. The project will evaluate the existing interactions within the Canadian wine industry in the context of adopting and regulating innovative genomics-inspired technologies and interactions between industry, science, policy-makers, and the general public.

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