Centre's research to boost B.C. wine industry

Add British Columbia to the world's wine-producing regions which benefit from a major research university. The B.C. Wine Research Centre (BC WRC) at UBC has been established to address all aspects of wine and serve as a resource for the province's highly successful and rapidly growing industry.

"The BC WRC will conduct pioneering research in the science of wine-making and grape cultivation," says Moura Quayle, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences. "It will also develop highly qualified human resources with the expertise to advance the technological development and the international impact and competitiveness of B.C. wine."

Co-ordinating the multidisciplinary research will be Food, Nutrition and Health Prof. Hennie J.J. van Vuuren, who has been appointed to the newly established Blythe and Violet Eagles Chair in Biotechnology.

Van Vuuren has conducted international wine biotechnology research for 15 years. He holds patents which have been licenced to international wine companies. Former students from Bordeaux, the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa and Brock University have followed him to UBC to begin research.

Among the objectives of the BC WRC is to establish a centre of excellence in wine research and a wine library to evaluate and analyse young B.C. wines.

A networking system, WineNet, will be established at UBC to build on existing research strengths in biotechnology, soil and plant sciences, engineering, marketing, and other disciplines.

"The WRC will provide a focal point for wine research at UBC and leading experts will be invited to discuss issues bridging science, industry and society," says van Vuuren.

An undergraduate course in wine appreciation -- the first such course offered as an elective in Canada -- will teach students about wines from around the world. Wine courses at all levels are being designed for the public.

Van Vuuren's team will be the first to apply gene chip technology to study the expression of genes in wine yeasts. This novel approach will allow winemakers to maximize the aromatic complexity of wines and minimize the production of spoilage compounds by changing fermentation conditions. No genetic engineering is involved.

The BC WRC will be guided by an advisory council made up of members of the wine industry, the B.C. Wine Institute and UBC faculty.