The University of Newcastle, Australia

Centre Director convenes third international wine studies conference during Fulbright program

Friday, 21 February 2020

Dr Julie McIntyre, an environmental historian and interim Director of the Centre for 21st Century Humanities, recently spent 3 months at the Shields Library, University of California in Davis to trace binational innovations in modernising wine production as part of the Fulbright Scholarship she was awarded.

Wine studies conference, University of California.
Wine studies conference, University of California.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship foreign exchange scholarship program of the USA, aimed at increasing binational research collaboration, cultural understanding, and the exchange of ideas.

Dr McIntyre’s Fulbright project titled ‘Making the Modern Wine Industry through American-Australian scientific exchange, 1955-1977’ focused on the 1955 visit of viticulturist Harold Olmo from Davis to Western Australia and the subsequent binational knowledge exchange and production in viticulture and oenology. Read an in depth article about Julie's Fulbright experience on the UC Davis Library website.

Julie’s time at Davis culminated in her convening the Third International Wine Studies conference, ‘Wine in the Anthropocene.’

‘The conference featured participants from six countries and 19 papers were presented. The event also actually succeeded in connecting people from Davis who did not know that each other was working on wine-related research,’ Julie said.

The conference was opened with a talk from Davis based plant scientist Elisabeth Forrestel titled Developing informed viticultural practices to mitigate climate change impacts on the wine industry. Elizabeth’s research program at Davis addresses questions about the evolutionary and ecophysiological basis of drought and heat responses in grapevine, and how irrigation practices mitigate stress responses.

Julie then gave a talk on Modern wine’s scientific intermediaries: viticultural extension officers in New South Wales, Australia, 1890s-1990s. A joint session between Julie and Elisabeth followed, discussing the topic ‘Integrating cultural, historical and scientific disciplines to tackle climate change impacts on the wine industry’. 

Winegrowing is a “canary in the coal mine” for the impact of climate change on agriculture. A history of viticultural extension offers not only a view of specialist industrialisation, it highlights the long-game of adaptive change resulting from relationships between the state, science and industry,’ Julie said.

The conference had many hands-on learning opportunities, including a tour of the Shields Library at Davis.

‘Its archive contains the world’s largest collection of faculty, professional and private papers on wine science, industry and culture. The Library also has unequalled manuscript collections of individual wine researchers, merchants, and writers, along with the archives of wineries, trade associations, and governmental agencies,’ Julie said.

Two day trips to Napa Valley wineries were included on the program and a session featuring an extended paper on the history of the Rioja region and then a tasting of Rioja wines.

‘We were excited to have Inés Baigorri, chair of the Association of Wineries of Rioja Alavesa (ABRA) and ABRA President, Saul Gil Berzal, fly in from Spain to lead the tasting as a sensory experience of the evolution and history of the wine of this unique region over recent centuries.’

Julie said ‘the most significant outcome of the conference is the new research connections forged between humanities and social science researchers and UC Davis scientists such as Beth Forrestel.’

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