New international wine genomics project launched


On the occasion of the 9th Annual Enology & Viticulture Conference and Tradeshow sponsored by the British Columbia Wine Grape Council, Genome BC announced the launch of WineGen, a unique international wine genomics research and development program with an investment of $5 million.

The multi-national project is led by Drs. Hennie van Vuuren and Steve Lund of the University of British Columbia Wine Research Centre and Drs. Richard Gardner from the University of Auckland, and Michael Trought of the Marlborough Wine Research Centre in New Zealand. Other participants include Dr. Chris Owens from the US Department of Agriculture, Dr. Terrence van Rooyen, Niagara College in Ontario and BC wineries Calona Vineyards and Poplar Grove Winery.

"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 Genome Espana. Wine production in BC has expanded significantly over the last decade and has become one of the province's leading agri-businesses, with the BC Wine Institute reporting an overall increase in sales of 149% in the period 1998-2008. 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," said, Dr. Alan Winter, President and CEO of Genome BC.

The three countries represented in the project are growing contributors to global wine production and by combining this global expertise the team expects to identify changes at the molecular and biochemical level that effect three important aspects of wine making: grapevine cultivation, grape processing and fermentation by yeasts.

"The process of producing superior wines is a complex process involving many varying factors such as the inherent characteristics of the grape, the effects of environmental factors on berry ripening and flavour and the nature of yeasts as part of the fermentation process. Therefore, we are looking forward to participating in various aspects of the project and to the development of new biomarkers that will assist all New World wine growing areas," said Jeff Del Nin, winemaker at Burrowing Owl Winery in the South Okanagan.

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

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