Virtual wine tasting becomes a reality

University of Adelaide students of oenology and viticulture are blind tasting wines in the familiar surrounds of their homes as part of their online learning.

”We wanted to ensure students’ receive the wines in the same condition that was intended by the winemaker when they bottled them,“ says associate professor in Oenology and Sensory Studies, Sue Bastian from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine at the University of Adelaide, the course director who runs the online tutorials.

“Wines are carefully prepared by specialised staff using protective food grade CO2 gas and out of necessity supplied to students by post, home delivery or from organised collection points in consideration of their health and wellbeing.

‘In previous years students tasted the wines at the Waite campus but with the COVID-19 pandemic preventing face-to-face contact, they are following their course remotely and will attend the tutorials virtually. Some students have even stated that they find the virtual tasting lab more intimate and less confronting.”

Experts from South Australia’s wine industry are assisting with the students’ learning experience by attending the tutorials. They include well known wine writer Tony Love, Peter Godden, Manager, Industry Engagement and Application from the Australian Wine Research Institute and Anna Fisher from Zonte’s Footstep wines.

McLaren Flat winery Zonte’s Footstep has supplied the wine for tasting, and in her virtual tutorial, Anna Fisher will explain what is involved in creating the unique taste of different wines.

“As part of the blind tasting students learn that there is strategy behind the creation of every wine that defines them,” says Anna Fisher, Co-owner of Zonte’s Footstep.

“When we create a wine its taste evolves for a reason – we try to tell a story through its character that is unique to our winery and the region.”

Jordan Pickles is in the fourth and final year of his course in viticulture and oenology.

“The virtual tutorial showed me how the taste of a wine can be used to give the product a unique story to tell and stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace,” says Jordan.

“My learning experience would have been diminished if I had not had the wine to sample while the virtual tutorial was being delivered.”

The University of Adelaide is continuing to deliver lectures and tutorials online, including those in oenology and viticulture, during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“Lockdown caused by the pandemic has meant that we have had to find innovative ways to deliver this year’s wine courses but this has not stopped the students gaining an insight – albeit remotely – into how the individual character of a wine is created,” says Associate Professor Bastian.

Virtual reality immersive wine making and tasting experiences are also being planned.

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