The students at Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) got their hands dirty this week as harvest season is now underway for the Niagara wine industry.
A group of third-year students pressed 300 kilograms of Pinot Noir grapes this week in the teaching winery and 300 kilograms of Gewurztraminer last week, giving them hands-on experience learning about the winemaking process.
“The theoretical knowledge that they are getting in class is very important,” said Steven Trussler, oenology and viticulture senior lab instructor with CCOVI. “But being able to see it in practical application is even more important, because they will be asked to apply that theory once they get out into the industry.”
The students are using the juice to make wine for their class projects. They are making both a red and white wine, and experimenting with different fermentations to see how it changes the final product.
For student Benjamin Whitty, who comes from a grape growing family that owns 13th Street Winery in St. Catharines, this isn’t his first harvest. But it is his first time making his own wine.
“Growing up with a farming background you learn more of the manual labour opposed to the science behind it,” said Whitty. “Doing all the analytical tests and making decisions based on that information is so important.”
Harvest began mid-September for Niagara growers and is one of the busiest times for the industry, and for OEVI students.
“It’s my favourite time of the year,” said Trussler. “The students are doing the same tests on the grapes as the local wineries right now, testing for things like sugar and acid levels. They are dealing with the same crop and perhaps challenges, and that really solidifies the connection CCOVI has with the industry.”
The grapes students are working with are donated by industry partners — grape growers and winemakers in the region. Those grape growers and winemakers also turn to CCOVI scientists to help them make informed decisions during harvest, through initiatives like the annual preharvest monitoring program, which tracks key indicators of ripeness at different vineyard sites.