Charles Sturt University
Charles Sturt University

Decanted Issue 2

Table of Contents

  • From the Director
  • Charles Sturt and NWGIC research ranked ‘well above world standard’
  • Congratulations
  • Research update: thresholds for bunch rot
  • Canopy temperatures and Semillon performance
  • Making wine for research
  • Study and international experience combine to broaden knowledge
  • Profile: Eddie Oczkowski
  • Profile:Xinyi Zhang

From the Director

Welcome to the June edition of Decanted.  In this edition you can read about the excellent work of the National Wine and Grape Industry researchers who are actively engaged with the grape and wine Industries to address research priorities.

From little things big things growThis research targeted at solving industry problems, creating efficiencies, and improving resource management throughout the value chain is funded from levies paid by grape growers and wineries, with matching funds from the Australian Government.  It is administered on behalf of the industry by Wine Australia.  Money for research that flows to universities, and often to other research providers, is supplemented with additional funds as cash and “in-kind” contributions by contracted research organisations.

In the case of the NWGIC, our recent strategic research agreement with Wine Australia valued at over $9 million supports a five-year agreement for research split approximately 28 per cent each from both the funding organisation and New South Wales Department of Primary Industries (one of our alliance partners), with Charles Sturt University funding the remaining portion.  This agreement represents remarkable value for money for Australian grape and wine levy payers since the funds provided from Wine Australian for the purpose of research is matched dollar-for-dollar by the Australian Government.  Effectively grape and wine levy payers get $9 million of research for $1.25 million of industry funds over a five-year period.  No other agreement in any agricultural industry is likely to provide this return on investment for the purposes of research that supports and targets a specific agricultural commodity.

Whenever I discuss research funding models with international partner organisations I am always left with absolutely no doubt that the Australian levy scheme for agricultural research investments is the envy of the world. Around $206 million is spent each year by the Australian Government matching levies invested on behalf of Australian producers who pay levies for research across a broad range of commodities. These amounts are supplemented by additional funding through Cooperative Research Centre’s, CSIRO and university block grants, generous taxation concessions, state and territory funds and of course funds from universities.

Change, however, may be just around the corner.  A recent review into Agricultural Research and Innovation (E&Y 2019) highlights the need for greater cross-commodity partnerships to drive a new wave of innovative research outcomes that will propel Australian agriculture into more globally efficient production systems.  Recommendations from this report focus on improving leadership within agriculture, changing funding and investment schemes, incentivising world-class innovation practices, establishing world class centres within regions of agricultural importance and developing data-centric production systems. If fully implemented, a complete paradigm shift in agricultural research may arise through changes in funding distribution.  The next decade of agricultural research and project funding will prove to be interesting indeed.

Professor Leigh SchmidtkeMeanwhile you can read how Australian grape and wine levies, ARC, Charles Sturt and NSW DPI funds invested in the NWGIC are used for supporting high quality research for the grape and wine industries of Australia.

NWGIC Director Professor Leigh Schmidtke


Full Newsletter

Direct article link

Charles Sturt and NWGIC research ranked ‘well above world standard’

Australian wine is world class and so is our research, with a new Australian Government report showing that National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) research is punching above its weight on the world stage.

Dr Regina Billones-Baaijens Work by scientists at the Centre has contributed to Charles Sturt University’s ranking of ‘well above world standard’ for horticulture production in the Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) 2018 outcomes.

ERA measures the quality of research produced by Australian universities against world standards and provides ratings of discipline areas in broad and specific fields of research.

NWGIC Director Professor Leigh Schmidtke said it is well-deserved recognition for viticulture and wine scientists who contribute significantly to the University’s ranking.

“This is the second consecutive rating for horticultural production at this level for Charles Sturt University in the ERA assessments and demonstrates the sustained high quality science undertaken by researchers at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre.

“Importantly the ERA assessments are conducted by a rigorous examination of outputs by independent assessors to measure the quality of research produced by Australian universities against world standards,” Professor Schmidtke said.

Read more about Charles Sturt’s ERA rankings on CSU News here

photo caption: Dr Regina Billones-Baaijens at work in the glasshouse


Full Newsletter

Direct article link


Charles Sturt Executive Dean of Science Professor Megan Smith and Xinyi ZhangNational Wine and Grape Industry Centre PhD student Xinyi Zhang has been awarded the Samson Agboola International Travel Grant by the Charles Sturt University Faculty of Science.

The prize is named in memory of Associate Professor Samson Agboola, and is awarded to a Charles Sturt Research by Higher Degree student who has demonstrated academic excellence and provided a significant contribution to the positive enhancement of the discipline of Food Science and or Chemistry.

Xinyi will receive $1000 toward her travel to France in June where she will attend Symposium International d'ÓEnologie de Bordeaux (Oeno) 2019 and In Vino Analytica Scientia (IVAS) 2019 to present her research ‘Changes in red wine composition during bottle aging: Impacts of viticultural conditions and oxygen availability’.

You can read more about Xinyi’s research in her profile here

Photo caption: Charles Sturt Executive Dean of Science Professor Megan Smith and Xinyi Zhang


Full Newsletter

Direct article link

Research update: thresholds for bunch rot

Dry conditions in the vineyard last summer meant that National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) scientists had to ‘think outside the box’ in the next stage of their research to determine thresholds for bunch rot contamination in grapes.

Professor Chris Steel and Dr Yu QiuThe research, funded by Wine Australia, aims to give growers and winemakers more knowledge about how bunch rot can impact a final wine – and how much is too much.

The research is focused on Cabernet Sauvignon and builds on an earlier project that examined Botrytis or grey mould contamination of Chardonnay grapes in 2016.

Postdoctoral researcher Dr Yu Qiu said the extremely dry conditions this year made finding naturally Botrytis infected grape bunches difficult.

“We sourced healthy Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and inoculated them with strains of Botrytis in the laboratory,” Dr Qui said.

“At the end of incubation these bunches were separated into different infection levels and made into wines. We will now use chemical and molecular analysis to discover markers to off-flavours in the final wine product.”

Lead researcher, Charles Sturt University Professor Chris Steel said, “Bunch rots reduce yield and can impact on wine quality by producing off flavours and taints. Growers are faced with making decisions as to when and if to harvest impacted fruit, and at the winery it can lead to the downgrading or possible rejection of fruit.

“This project will both determine the thresholds for bunch rot contamination that can be tasted in wine and provide grapegrowers and winemakers with tools to handle fruit when these thresholds are exceeded.”

The researchers are also examining the efficiency and accuracy of different methods for quantifying bunch rot infection.

This includes visual inspection, hyperspectral imaging technology, chemical (ergosterol and organic acid), and molecular (LAMP and qPCR) analysis.

Photo caption: Professor Chris Steel and Dr Yu Qiu


Full Newsletter

Direct article link

Canopy temperatures and Semillon performance

Research from the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC) has shown even a small increase in the canopy temperature can adversely impact the performance of Semillon in the vineyard.

Dr Dennis GreerThe research by Charles Sturt University senior lecturer in viticulture, Dr Dennis Greer compared canopy temperatures of 29.8°C, 31.5°C and 32.7°C in Semillon grapes.

“The 3°C difference in canopy temperature is comparable with what might occur as a result of climate change and this study shows such a difference can be detrimental to vine growth and development,” said Dr Greer.

“We found biomass accumulation for the leaves and stems were optimal at the coolest temperature regime and that berry expansion and sugar accumulation were also higher.”

“We also found that higher temperatures were detrimental to vine growth and reduced yield by 20%”

The research has been published recently in the New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science.

The research builds on the work of an earlier project examining the impact of hydrocooling, or sprinkler systems in the vine canopy, with studies carried out in the NSW Riverina in 2010/11 - 2011/12.

Photo caption: Dr Dennis Greer


Full Newsletter

Direct article link

Making wine for research

During vintage the Charles Sturt University Winery is a hive of activity as grapes are delivered and processed. But not all of them are destined for the bottle at the Cellar Door.

The Winery also makes research wines which are integral to projects at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre (NWGIC).

Winemaker Campbell Meeks said up to 150 research wines are made each year.

“60 kilograms of fruit per wine are fermented in 100 litre tanks under a strict research winemaking protocol.

“It’s not just the scale that’s different to commercial winemaking. Research winemaking is both intensive and precise, where winemaking conditions such as temperature are required to be standardised and the variables such as additives reduced to a bare minimum to show the effects of the treatment under investigation.

“The wine is then bottled and the various National Wine and Grape Industry Centre research teams are able to perform a range of chemical and sensory analyses" Mr Meeks said.

The results obtained are vital to a diverse range of NWGIC projects.  These include the evaluation of the suitability of new clones, measuring the impact of site differences and determining the impact of viticultural treatments.


Full Newsletter

Direct article link

Study and international experience combine to broaden knowledge

Walk the halls at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre and you’ll hear accents from all corners of the globe.

Diego Danus, Valentina Romat, and Luca Filannino Students and researchers come to tap into the expertise of our world-class researchers, to further existing research collaborations, gain insight into Australian viticulture and wine production and often to combine travel with study.

Three Masters students Diego Danus, Valentina Romat, and Luca Filannino, pictured,  share their experience at the NWGIC.

Diego Danus

Diego, originally from Chile is studying a VINIFERA European Master of Science of Viticulture and Oenology.

His study has already seen him spend a year in France and a year in Italy.

“I decided to come to Australia because of the relationship between Charles Sturt University and my French University Montpellier SupAgro,” he said. “I was also keen to keep traveling and to learn more about viticulture and oenology practices.”

“The project I am working on, ‘Evaluating and demonstrating new disease resistant selections for warm irrigated regions’ is very important to the future of the industry.

“These new varieties grant an opportunity to increase productivity and quality and simultaneously reduce the chemicals spray in the vineyards, and for this reason they have the potential to have a lower impact on the environment and a lower cost of production.

“I am enjoying working in the vineyard with the plants and grapes but also spending time in the winery making the best possible wines from the different cultivars. They need to be evaluated later, with a panel of experts, wine testing that is another very interesting and challenging part of the project.”

Diego said he’s also enjoying working at the Centre and gaining insight into Australian production.

“It is also important to mention that studying abroad gives you the possibility to meet new people and to understand how things are made in other parts of the world with different conditions and resources.

“I also value the contacts I have made over this time, the wine industry is pretty small and the fact that I have been able to work with the best, will open some future doors for sure”.

Valentina Romat

Valentina hails from a small city called Azul, in the centre of Buenos Aires province in South America.

She studied agricultural engineering in Buenos Aires before beginning her VINFIFERA Master of Science of Viticulture and Oenology at Montpellier SupAgro in France and then studying in Udine, Italy.

“I have always wanted to come to Australia, not only for wine and agriculture, but also to know and travel around the country,” Valentina said.

“Winemaking in Europe can be really different to what is done here, so I think is always better to be in the place where you want to learn about, and so far, it has been true.

“I also wanted to work on a thesis project, during the actual harvest time, and the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre has helped me to do that.”

Valentina said she’s been very busy during harvest and now very busy analysing data.

“I have harvested the grapes from each trial, and from that, done all the sampling preparation in order to apply different methods for measuring our parameters,” she said.

“I have also has the chance to help a little bit in the winery, so it has been really dynamic and fun.

“I think working in a research centre like this one will give me tools for my future, broadening my way of thinking and creating opportunities for the future,” said Valentina.

Luca Filannino

Luca has returned to the University of Udine Italy to continue his Masters in Viticulture, Oenology and Wine Business study after spending six months working with the researchers at the National Wine and Grape Industry Centre in Wagga Wagga.

He spent time in the glasshouse and laboratory working with NWGIC PhD student Julia Gouot on her research examining the impact of heat wave conditions on Shiraz grape physiology and composition.

Luca says it has given him a greater understanding of viticulture and wine production in the Australian climate.

“My family has vineyards in the Puglia region of Italy which is well known for elegant red wines such as Primitivo di Manduria, and more recently for Rose wines,” Luca said.

“Three generations of grape growers in my family sell grapes to a private winery so for this reason, in the long term I would like to make my own wines.

“I believe study and international experiences, like those gained here in Australia will expand my knowledge in viticulture and winemaking.

“I have enjoyed my time in Australia as it is very different to Italy, hopefully I will be able to come back at some stage,” he said.


Full Newsletter

Direct article link

Profile: Eddie Oczkowski

Eddie OczkowskiPosition: Professor of Applied Economics and Quantitative Methods

Organisation: Charles Strut University

Career Brief

Eddie has degrees in economics from La Trobe University and the Australian National University. He has been teaching and conducting research at Charles Sturt University for 30 years. His expertise relates to applied econometrics. Eddie has also held various administrative roles including, Head of School, Director of Graduate Studies and a Research Centre co-director.

Research and Teaching Activities and Interests

Research activities

His previous research interests have covered a diverse range of areas such as: modelling disequilibrium markets, bargaining in the coking coal trade, the demand for eggs, Australia's bilateral aid allocation, co-operatives, petrol pricing and marketing and HRM applications of structural equation modelling.

Eddie’s main interest in wine research relates to developing hedonic price models which seek to explain why prices differ.  In this context a series of issues have been investigated including: identifying price bargains, the impact of weather, the role of wine experts, community wine ratings and the use of different varietal names.

Teaching activities

Eddie has extensive teaching experience covering areas such as microeconomics, macroeconomics, managerial economics, cost-benefit analysis and business research methods. He has supervised and continues to supervise doctoral students in a variety of areas including, airline travel demand, the internationalisation of firms and succession planning.

Professional Links

Eddie is a member of the American Association of Wine Economists and publishes in its outlet, the Journal of Wine Economics.

A typical day for me includes …

Interacting with students through discussion boards, developing podcasts, replying to student emails, conducting online meetings, developing subject materials and marking and moderating assignments. On most days I can do some research.

My main project at the moment is …

I am currently involved with the Soils CRC looking at what consumers think about soils and the role that soil management practices may play to influencing farmland prices. In the wine space I am currently finishing off a project on the impact of wine show outcomes on prices.

My favourite part of my job is …

Thinking. I enjoy the opportunity and challenge of thinking of something new to do in the research space.

When I am not in the office I like …

Roaming Europe! Maintaining my backyard vines. Developing the lack of my oil painting skills.

My favourite wine at the moment is…

Anything cheap. My palate can’t tell the difference and for some wines price is a poor indicator of quality!


Full Newsletter

Direct article link

Profile:Xinyi Zhang

Xinyi ZhangSupervisors: Dr Andrew Clark, Dr John Blackman, Dr Nikolaos Kodoudakis , Dr Katja Suklje, and Dr Guillaume Antalick

Thesis title: Changes in red wine composition during bottle aging: Impacts of viticultural conditions and oxygen availability

Research summary

My PhD project focuses on the reductive-oxidative development of wine. This included the measurement of low molecular weight sulfur compounds and aldehyde compounds. The first stage of my PhD involved the development of two analytical methods to quantify total aldehyde compounds in wine.

The second stage involved wine production using grapes of different varieties, cultivated from different vineyards, and harvested at different maturity levels. The reductive-oxidative development of the wines prepared from these grapes was then followed after they were stored under a variety of oxygen regimes for different lengths of time.

The third stage was to make both white and red wines, with the addition of SO2 and Cu(II) at different concentrations to the juice/must before fermentation, and to examine if the treatments could influence the production of the compounds related to reductive and oxidative off-flavours.

Funding body

CSUPRS and ITP scholarship, and Wine Australia top up scholarship.

A typical day for me includes...

lab work, reading or writing articles.

My favourite part of my studies is...

working with wines.

When I am not studying I like to...

learn to play piano.

My favourite wine at the moment is...

Riesling from Heymann-Lowenstein.


Full Newsletter

Direct article link