South Africa being second only to Australia when it comes to the incidence of skin cancer, we are the two countries that should be most diligent when it comes to using sunscreen and it seems that Australian winemakers are now just as meticulous when it comes to their grapes!
With summer here in all its glory and harvest time upon us, the effect of the heat on our grapes are on top of our minds. We all know the effect extreme heat and excessive sunlight can have on our ripening grapes – sunburnt fruit with excessive sugar resulting in unbalanced wines with a lack of acidity and too much alcohol.
While canopy management is traditionally employed to ensure protection from the sun, pretty much like wearing a hat, our Australian counterparts have come with an inventive new solution. They are now applying sunscreen to their wine grapes!
According to thedrinksbusiness.com “At Tyrrell’s vineyard in the Hunter Valley, where temperatures can exceed 45C (113F), spraying grapes with a sunscreen solution has become common practice.”
But how does this work?
It seems pretty similar to applying sunscreen to your skin. According to research published on www.agwa.net.au sunscreen products are applied to the vineyards by using a fan sprayer prior to the heat wave.
And the results?
According to this study where two different sunscreen products were used and compared to a control group of untreated vines, it seemed to have worked quite well. Do read the report, but the number of bunches affected by sunburn in the control (untreated) vineyards where 47% while the vineyards wearing sunscreen had only 15% and 22% of their respective grapes affected by sunburn.
Having quality grapes is the most important part of making quality wine, but does the sunscreen protecting the grape not have an effect on the taste? According to novasource.com a supplier of these sunscreens, the product is washed of the grapes in the normal post-harvest processes.
Washing grapes is however not always standard practice in a cellar. Generally, we try to keep water away as it collects within the bunch and waters-down the juice and sugar content.
I think we will be sticking with the traditional ways for now, but will keep an eye on the inventive Australians!