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Green Light For NZ Reds

30 November 2000


It’s good news for red wine drinkers and even better for the New Zealand wine industry; New Zealand’s reds are right up there in the good-for-your-health stakes, according to the results of research carried out on Waiheke reds.

Worldwide research has long suggested that the antioxidants occurring naturally in red wine make a positive contribution to good health, and new research has revealed some unique advantages for New Zealand wines.

Chris Lush, winemaker at Waiheke’s Pensinsula Estate, says New Zealand’s temperate climate gives grapes more time to develop colour, flavour and the all- important antioxidants. “Most of the beneficial antioxidants found in the skins are the plant’s own natural compounds created to fight disease, so our climate with its mild temperatures and rainfall is perfect to encourage their production naturally.

“We also now know which are the top varieties and cultivars that will produce premium antioxidants, and what techniques we can introduce to the winemaking process to retain the most benefit. Cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, shiraz and cabernet franc are all big in the antioxidant stakes.”

Research covered two vintages on the Peninsula Estate and was carried out by University of Waikato post-graduate student, Blair Rountree, as part of his Master’s degree in Chemistry, with assistance from Technology New Zealand through its Technology for Industry Fellowships (TIF).

“The project with Peninsula Estate had great appeal to me because it had application in the real world, outside the lab,” says Blair. Now a lab technician in a dairy company, Blair says while the project sounds glamorous (‘six weeks on Waiheke during the summer, surrounded by wine’) once back in the lab it was down to the hard yards analysing hundreds of samples.

Nigel Metge, Regional Manager (Auckland) for the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology which administers Technology New Zealand, says this type of project is a perfect outcome for the aims of TIF, which introduces graduates to R&D in a commercial setting. “Investment in this sort of research, which helps companies extract better value from high quality products, is beneficial not only for the company and the graduate but also for New Zealand’s economic growth. In this case, we’ve got a boutique, niche product looking to add long-term value through research.”

Chris Lush says the winery wouldn’t have contemplated doing the research without Technology New Zealand. “It gave us the latitude to really throw problems at Blair to solve. His access to the university’s highly sophisticated and expensive equipment was important in validating the research and it allowed us to draw in some of the best minds on the project, including wine scientist and consultant Dr Reiner Eschenbruch.”

Grapes were monitored right through the winemaking process, from vineyard to extraction and fermentation, through to behaviour in the bottle with the outcome confirming many long-held expectations.

“We found that the most beneficial compounds are present in the skin and seeds and by improving methods to increase extraction we can influence the amount of antioxidants present in the wine. Our 2000 vintage is the first to incorporate some of the research findings, including a super-gentle fining process using egg whites instead of gelatine

“It has also given us a tremendous amount of confidence that our attention to fruit quality and ripeness in the vineyard, combined with strong extraction techniques means we are on the right track to produce medium to full bodied food and cellaring wines with good health potential. We can confidently promote our wines as ‘as good for you as you can get’ – and since we drink a fair bit of it ourselves, that’s nice to know.”

And for those who are worried about whether the goodness will still be there after cellaring, recent findings indicate that sulphur dioxide, used as a preservative, has a protective effect over antioxidants in the bottle.

-ends-

For further information: Chris Lush, Peninsula Estate, 09 372 7866, mobile 021 257 5011 Nigel Metge, Auckland office, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, 09 912 6730, 021 454 095

-- Carrara Communications Ltd Public Relations / Communications P O Box 128-183 Remuera, Auckland, NZ Tel: 64 9 579 7270. Fax 64 9 579 7807 mobile: 021 80 4749

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