Covering Wine Quality From 'Grape to Glass'

Southeastern Wine Symposium to feature keynote by executive director of Ontario VQA

by Linda Jones McKee
Attendees at the 2017 Southeastern Grape and Wine Symposium. Credit: Surry Community College

Dobson, N.C.—The theme of the seventh annual Southeastern Grape and Wine Symposium at Surry Community College in Dobson, N.C. is “Achieving Quality from Grape to Glass.” The symposium, which will be held Nov. 7 at the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology, will feature Laurie MacDonald, the executive director of the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) Ontario, as the keynote speaker. The VQA program is credited with playing a part in the way people in Canada and around the world look at producing quality wine.


MacDonald has served as executive director since 2000 when the voluntary VQA standards were transitioned into a regulated system, and consequently has experienced first-hand the history of the VQA. As Ontario’s wine authority, the VQA is the regulatory agency responsible for maintaining the integrity of local wine appellations and enforcing winemaking and labeling standards. In her talk, “Building a Quality Wine Program,” she will look at the challenges of establishing the program and key factors of its success. She will also discuss how the wine industry uses the VQA as a consumer brand to support consumer confidence and to run its collective marketing programs.

The symposium program will include two sessions on viticulture, two on enology and three on business and marketing topics. Fritz Westover, owner of Westover Vineyard Advising in Houston, Texas, will review how timing vineyard tasks with specific grapevine phenological stages can improve fruit quality, vine balance, labor efficiency and a vineyard’s bottom line. The question of whether to remove or not to remove leaves in the fruit zone will be analyzed by Cain Hickey, assistant professor of viticulture at the University of Georgia.

The first enology session will be presented by Matt Ridge, winemaking consultant and technical representative for Laffort USA in Lodi, Calif., who will discuss the multitude of different parameters in winemaking that influence the mouthfeel and structure in red wines, such as tannins, polysaccharides, glycerol, alcohol, and residual sugar. After the “North Carolina wine lunch,” Tom Payette, a wine consultant from Rapidan, Va., will talk about “pH: the most important measurement in winemaking.”

Representatives from Iron Heart Canning, which has its corporate office in New Hampshire and a branch in Asheville, N.C., will lead the first business and marketing session: “Understanding the importance of quality in wine canning.”

Two marketing sessions will feature talks by Elizabeth Slater, a nationally-known authority on marketing wine, wineries and wine regions. She will speak first on increasing the quality of a winery’s customer service utilizing a three-step process that should take people from "guests to customers to converts." Slater’s second session will look at: “Making the sale through an enhanced understanding of customer service.”

A grand tasting following the symposium will include wines from North Carolina wineries and the southeast. According to the Wines Vines Analytics' winery database, the southeast region — including Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia — is home to 777 wineries (there were 579 wineries in the region in 2013 and 700 in 2017). The tasting is open to the public for a non-conference rate of $25.

For information about the symposium and online registration, visit surry.edu/wine. The full conference registration cost, which includes the grand wine tasting, is $120.

Four workshops will take place on the two days before the symposium. On Monday, Nov. 5, the N.C. Winegrowers Association is presenting a “Business Valuation and Transition Workshop” that will include three speakers from N.C. State University. Andrew Branan, extension assistant professor who focuses on farm and land succession, will speak on the legal document and tax framework of third-party business transfer, intra-family succession, and “ultimate” disposition of assets; Guido van der Hoeven, extension specialist in agricultural and resource economics, will talk about business valuation; and Rod Rejesus, extension specialist and professor of agricultural and resource economics, will discuss crop insurance options. The cost for this workshop is $25 and includes lunch.

A second workshop on Tuesday, Nov. 6 will be presented by Scott Laboratories on sparkling winemaking.

Two additional workshops will be presented by VESTA (the Viticulture & Enology Science & Technology Alliance) before and after the symposium. The “Wine Sensory Analysis” workshop is scheduled for Nov. 5-6 and will be guided by Zoran Ljepovic, director of sales and winemaking consultant at AnA Selection by Canadell. The “Wine and Must Analysis” workshop will take place on Nov. 8-9. The workshop will be presented by Barry Gump, professor emeritus of wine chemistry at California State University, Fresno and current professor of brewing science at Florida International University. Gump is also the VESTA enology chair. There is a separate charge for the VESTA workshops and individuals must enroll through VESTA at www.vesta-usa.org/events.

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