2024 International Cool Climate Wine Symposium

Copyright Greystone Wines

Copyright Greystone Wines

Jeff Sinnott, OWNZ President

The first International Cool Climate Winemaking and Viticulture Symposium was held in Oregon back in 1984.  Run by the Oregon Grapegrowing and Winemaking community, and under the auspices of Oregon State University, their symposium began what is now the world’s largest and most popular academic conferences dedicated to winemaking and grape growing in cool climates.

In 1985 when Dr Richard Smart was New Zealand’s Government Viticulturist, a position initiated by Romeo Bragato nearly a century beforehand, the NZSVO began the process of applying to hold the second ever International Cool Climate Wine Symposium (ICCWS) in Auckland in 1988. That symposium saw the international spotlight on New Zealand Viticulture and Winemaking research and featured some of our best and brightest.  I distinctly remember James Millton, wearing very trendy striped braces, talk about mealy bugs with typical fervour, and a young(ish) Larry McKenna talking about the potential for Pinot Noir in Martinborough - who would have thought! Then there was Richard extolling the virtues of converting “Sunlight into Wine” via his extensive trellis trials in the great wine growing region to Ruakura and his eponymous RKT2T.  Fast forward to 1996 and a group of intrepid Kiwi winemakers, including said Mr McKenna, some of your current board such as Dr David Jordan & yours truly travelled to Rochester, New York to attend the ICCWS held on the East Coast of the US for the first time. We were blown away by some of our gurus, such as Dr Mark Kliewer from UC Davis who gave one of his last addresses on the merits of clonal selection on Cabernet Sauvignon, and Dr Dennis Gonsalves drilling us on plant viruses. Richard - again - impressed talking on the importance of measuring pruning weights to measure vine vigour and capacity.

This lit the spark for the NZSVO, under the direction of Dr Bala to bid for and win the rights to hold the 2006 Symposium in Christchurch. Again it was the stuff of legends, Dr Denis Dubourdieu gave us the first peek into his work on Thiol aroma precursors in Sauvignon Blanc - now such an essential part of the New Zealand wine story. Our own Dr Mike Trought and Laura Nicolau talked about growing grapes on the climatic edge, Ch’ng Po Tiong gave us an insight into the preferences of Asian wine consumers, and who can forget Paul Dolan’s inspiring talk when he left the “pulpit” and spoke of his journey into organics for the then fledgling Mendocino Wine Group.  Richard was there, again, giving us a curry up about grape growing in cool climates and then there was Saakie Pretorious' famous comment about making wine on "the dark side of the moon”.

Well the dark side of the moon turned out to be Canada and that’s where the next Cool Climate Symposium is going to take place in 2020, at Brock University near Toronto. Here the world’s leading wine research and thought leaders will join for a week long meeting to reveal, discuss and debate the latest in cool climate grape growing and winemaking research and practice. No doubt there will be a strong kiwi contingent planning to travel to Ontario next August and we hope to join you there as we bid to host the next symposium in 2024. It will be 18 years since we held it last and given the previous two symposia have been held in the northern hemisphere we think it’s time for it to come south again; in Christchurch, in late January 2024.  We are currently in the early planning stages of our bid so watch this space for developments, we’re working on presenting a compelling case to bring the 9th International Cool Climate Wine & Viticulture Symposium back to these shores.  This time in a celebration of the flavours of Aotearoa, highlighting the uniqueness of our terroirs, our people, our food and our culture. And we might even bring Richard back again.