Friday, 08 February 2019

Oenology research is in the pink for researcher

LABWORX: Anton Nel in the Wellington campus laboratory. LABWORX: Anton Nel in the Wellington campus laboratory.

A recent trip to Mendel University in the Czech Republic has furnished Oenology lecturer Anton Nel with an expanded sample selection for his doctoral studies.

Nel, who is a lecturer at the Department of Agriculture’s new campus and also manages the laboratories in Wellington, is working on his PhD thesis about pinking (which is when white wine develops a pink colouration upon exposure to air).

His research visit was part of a collaborative agreement CPUT has with Mendel University in Brno, meant to expand on common research interests in the wine industry, explained Associate Professor Francois Lategan of the Department of Agriculture.

“Together with Mendel University we have developed a platform of collaboration in which research and curriculum development features as strong pillars. He went to do empirical research to further this component,” said Lategan.

Nel started his thesis, Pinking of South African Sauvignon blanc (Vitis vinifera L), research in 2016 and hopes to finish by the end of this year. One part of the study applies directly to what the winemaker can or cannot do about pinking while the scientific part tries to identify the compound that causes the effect.

“There’s a novel new part to this study. Does the pinking influence the sensory evaluation of the wine? In my studies I have found that people could identify a difference on smell, but when they tasted it they couldn’t tell the difference,” he said.

He tested more than 160 Czech wines form the four different sub-regions (Znojemská, Mikulovska, Velkopavlovická & Slovacka) and found that more than 50% showed the pinking potential: “And, they didn’t even know it, so for them that was an eye-opener.”

In addition to delivering six lectures at Mendel University during his visit, Nel used their Oenology laboratories to analyse the samples he collected of 11 different cultivars (for his South African samples he concentrated only on the Sauvignon blanc cultivar).

Nel did travel around as he collected his samples from wine cellars and got the impression that the Czech wine industry is not that different to the South African one, albeit it with a smaller commercial component. On the teaching side Mendel University’s Oenology programme falls under their Horticulture Department, but their teaching methods, lecturers and students were very familiar to him.

As for future collaboration plans, doing research at Mendel University has opened up all sorts of potential study avenues: “Immediately there were questions out of the study and immediately there were project planned, so there is scope for more cooperation. As soon as that comes online, more will develop from it,” said Nel.

Written by Theresa Smith

Email: smitht@cput.ac.za

Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.