Wine Science

University of Adelaide scientists lead innovative oenology and viticulture research that extends over the whole of the grape and wine value chain.

Viticulture and oenology students in Waite vineyard

70 percent of Australian wine research happens at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus. Our winemakers are innovators and cultural leaders within a sector helping drive the nation’s economy.

We aim to create better wines by 

  • Improving winemaking processes;
  • discovering new yeast strains to improve fermentation;
  • learning about people’s wine preferences;
  • improving vineyard management;
  • understanding grape ripening processes;
  • mitigating the impact of climate change and smoke taint; and
  • assessing new grape varieties for suitability in our climate.

Professor Vladimir Jiranek

Head of the Department of Wine Science

Research profile

Research strengths

  • Wine chemistry and microbiology

    Science in a barrel

    Uni of Adelaide Winery - Waite campus

    Our wine science research is aimed at understanding the wine-making process and how it can be manipulated to improve the quality of wines. Our research expertise spans the entire wine production chain, from viticulture to sensory studies.

    We combine expertise in wine chemistry, microbiology and biotechnology to assess the relationships between grapes and wine sensory attributes. 

    Our researchers investigate the sugar:flavor nexus in grape berries during ripening; and analyse challenging compounds arising from grapes, fermentation and ageing.

    We test new and improved yeast strains to advance winemaking and other biotechnology processes. We aim to unravel the chemistry behind traditional Aboriginal fermentation processes and uncover new yeast species.


    Lead researchers

    Researcher Focus areas
    A/Prof Chris Ford Organic acid metabolism
    A/Prof Paul Grbin Wine microbiology and biotechnology
    A/Prof David Jeffery Analytical chemistry: aroma, flavour and phenolic compounds
    Prof Vladimir Jiranek Wine microbiology and biotechnology
    Dr Richard Muhlack Winemaking and beer technology and process engineering
    Prof Kerry Wilkinson Wine chemistry and smoke taint
    Prof Rachel Burton Australian agave spirits
  • Sensory science

    What qualities make a good wine?

    Kerry Wilkinson Renata Ristic sensory lab

    Wine scientists at the University of Adelaide are experts in aroma and flavour chemistry.

    We undertake important research into consumer behaviour and perception of wine quality through interactions between wine and food and how grape quality affects the end product.

    We also explore the impact of climate change and smoke taint on wine composition and quality, and seek new interventions to minimise the negative effects of extreme weather events on grapes and subsequently, wine.

    We investigate volatile compounds and their precursors in grape and wine samples – and their appeal to consumers - such as potent thiols associated with citrus, smoke and coffee aromas in certain wine styles. 

    Our researchers combine wine and forensic science expertise to create methods to tackle wine fraud and authenticate the origin of wines, to ensure the integrity of the global wine industry.

    We also explore new wine styles and grape varieties; and collaborate with industry to provide recommendations on the viability and marketability of potential new products and packaging.  

    Lead researchers

    Researcher Focus areas
    A/Prof Sue Bastian Consumer behaviour; wine and food interactions; grape berry and wine quality
    Dr Dimitra Capone Aroma and flavour chemistry
    A/Prof David Jeffery Aroma and flavour chemistry
    Dr Renata Ristic Wine consumer emotions and perception of grape and wine quality
    Prof Kerry Wilkinson Chemical and sensory analysis of volatile and non-volatile components
  • Viticulture

    Growing our economy

    Viticulture grapevine breeding Waite campus

    Our viticulture research explores the growth and management of grapevines and berries including physiology, nutrition, water relations, stress tolerance and chemistry.

    Our scientists are pioneering new technologies for assessing vine performance and vineyard management. Our experts in soil science improve our understanding of soil processes and functions, leading to improved methods for soil management and vineyard health.

    We’re also interested in sustainable agriculture. Our horticulturalists and viticulturists assess new grape varieties for suitability for growing in the Australia’s changing climate.


    Lead researchers

    Researcher Focus areas
    Prof Amanda Able Post-harvest physiology
    Prof Timothy Cavagnaro Soil ecology and sustainability
    A/Prof Cassandra Collins Terroir, vineyard management; grapevine reproductive biology
    Dr Roberta De Bei Vineyard physiology, water stress, near infrared applications, carbohydrate metabolism, vine balance and digital/precision technologies for information-driven vineyard management
    A/Prof Chris Ford Organic acid metabolism in grapevines
    Prof Matthew Gilliham Transport and signalling; nutrition and stress tolerance (salinity)
    Dr Vinay Pagay Environmental factors affecting flavour and aroma compounds in winegrapes
    E/Prof Eileen Scott Grapevine pathology
    E/Prof Stephen Tyerman Plant physiology, solute and water transport, signalling
    Prof Kerry Wilkinson Grape and grapevine chemistry; smoke taint

Waite Research Institute

The Waite Research Institute drives innovation to secure a sustainable future for Agriculture - by creating high-quality, nutritious and climate-resilient products. We do this through close partnerships with the agriculture, food and wine sectors.

Waite Research Institute

Wine science news



Slowing the sugar rush to yield better grapes

Scientists have found a solution to manage the accelerated rate at which grapes ripen in warmer climates, which can result in poor colour and aroma development.  



Wine Industry Mentor Program announces new participants

Sixty-two early career professionals have been announced as the latest recruits to the Wine Industry Mentor Program.



Smokescreen: New tool for the wine industry to prevent smoke taint

Scientists and industry have teamed up to lead trials of new smoke taint protection technology, designed to save wine grapes from the crippling impact of bushfires.



Students tap into new world wine expertise

Viticulture and oenology students team up with industry to learn innovative ecommerce and sales strategies.



What is Xynisteri? The Cypriot grape variety that tolerates a hot Australian climate and also delivers on taste

A Cypriot grape variety that tolerates the hot Australian climate also delivers on taste, say scientists.



These University of Adelaide winemakers are the pick of the bunch

University of Adelaide graduates have been shortlisted as the best emerging talent across Australia’s wine landscape.