Wine and biodiversity. Australia’s icons to benefit from genomics research.

24 July 2015

Researchers will use the latest genomics technologies to provide the first definitive scientific explanation of wine terroir- described as the unique ‘sense of place’ captured in each bottle of the world’s leading wines.

Terroir is instrumental in selling a wine's story and capturing a price premium. It is thought that wine quality is largely driven by terroir, which is a combination of environmental factors, including climate, soil, topography and management that give a wine its distinctive character. The influence of terroir means that wines from a particular region are unique, incapable of being reproduced outside that area, even if the grape variety and winemaking techniques are duplicated.

Led by Dr Cassandra Collins and Dr Carlos Rodriguez Lopez in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, the researchers will investigate the interplay of genetics, plant physiology, environment (including climate, soil, topography and vineyard management) and wine quality. Their long-term aim is to provide information that can be used by the industry to maximise the expression of terroir in Australian wines, helping to secure the future of the Australian wine industry.

Genomics holds the key to securing a sustainable future for the wine industry by helping understand the influence of terroir on wine quality. Using genomics helps better understand the influence of terroir by comparing the same grapevine clones and/or varieties in different environments.

In the second project, researchers will reconstruct crucial aspects of Australia’s recent environmental history using the genomes of four iconic species to investigate why there is widespread, and possibly disastrous, lack of genetic diversity in Australia’s native animals.

Led by Professor Alan Cooper, Australian Laureate Fellow and Director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, the researchers will complete the first genomic reconstructions of the dingo, emu, red kangaroo and thylacine to generate evolutionary and population histories unavailable from the fossil record or other means.

This information will help us understand the vulnerability of current biodiversity to future threats. Importantly for the future of genomics research that will benefit biodiversity, the project will also involve a training program in bioinformatics’ to help build the next generation of researchers to operate at the interface of informatics and evolutionary biology.

“The grants represent the first step towards establishing a proposed South Australian-based genomics centre to accommodate a national hub of agriculture and environment research,” says Dr John Stephen, AGRF National Operations Manager and Adelaide Node Manager.

We would like to thank all program applicants for the time and effort and wish them all the best with their initiatives and projects.

Contact for this story:

John Stephen

National operations Manager/Node Manager Adelaide

Australian Genome Research Facility Ltd

Phone: +61 (0) 8 8313 7202

Mobile: +61 (0) 434 891 241

Email: john.stephen@agrf.org.au