Optimizing fruit composition in the vineyard is crucial for enhancing BC wine quality and the expansion of BC wines in the national and international markets.

Dr Castellarin’s laboratory investigates the ripening processes in grapes and the biological mechanisms that determine fruit composition and wine “quality”. A major focus of Castellarin’s laboratory is to examine how grape composition evolves in the vineyard under different environmental conditions and how grape and wine quality can be improved through viticultural practices. This research aims to promote the development new practices to increase grape and wine quality in BC vineyards.

The major projects that the lab is currently running are:


  • Identification of the molecular and hormonal signals that trigger ripening in grapes

The physiological events and the genes that trigger the ripening process remain largely unknown. This study aims to deeply characterize the molecular and physiological changes associated to the onset of ripening through large scale metabolite and gene expression (RNA-sequencing) analyses. The project has been supported by Mission Hill Estate Winery, which provided the fruit for the analyses, and Genome BC. In a medium-long term, understanding the control of ripening will help developing new vineyard practices to modulate (accelerate or decelerate) ripening in the vineyard. Click here for more information on our results.




  • networkIdentification of the cis-regulatory code for transcriptional regulation in grapevine

Through a transcriptomic and bioinformatics approach we aim to identify major molecular regulators of fruit ripening and composition in grapevine.  Transcription factors have a role in transcriptional reprogramming through their interactions with cis-regulatory elements (CREs). Additionally, there are CREs which are enriched within specific biological pathways. Therefore, by building CRE driven gene co-expression networks we gain insight into the grapevine cis-regulatory code. A few of our results are seen here.



  • Impact of berry size on skin metabolismberrysize

Winemakers prefer smaller berries since key metabolites for wine quality are synthesised in the skin: a smaller berry has a higher skin content that results in an higher concentration of these metabolites in the wines. However, the size could directly affect the synthesis of these metabolites in the skin. We are evaluating the impact of berry size on the skin metabolism (gene expression and metabolite analyses) in order to determine how and to what extent berry size affects the compounds being synthesised in the berry. More information regarding this project can be found here.



  • whitegrape_deficitImpact of deficit irrigation on fruit and wine aroma and quality

Our studies have shown that major metabolites that determine red wine quality (tannins and anthocyanins) are increased under water deficit conditions. Deficit irrigation strategies are often used to increase grape and wine quality in red grape varieties. Very limited information is available on the response of white grapes to water deficit. We collaborate with wineries in the Okanagan Valley (BC) to evaluate the impact of different irrigation strategies on the aromatic profile of white grapes and wines. For more information regarding this topic, click here.




  • whiteImpact of crop size on fruit and wine aroma and quality

Adjusting the crop load in the vineyard is a very common strategy to sustain or improve fruit and wine quality. No information is available on the effect of these strategies on the grape and wine aromas. The focus of our collaborative research with the BC Wine and Grape Council is to evaluate how crop size levels in the vineyard affect the production of aromatics in white grapes.





  • img_2014Impact of canopy management (early leaf removal) on fruit and wine quality

Leaf removal before blooming is a strategy proposed to reduce cluster compactness and bunch rots, but this strategy might also stimulate ripening and improve fruit and wine quality. A field study was carried out in a Merlot vineyard. Our data indicate that this strategy is helpful to reduce bunch rots at harvest, but minor effects are noticed on the fruit composition. Sensory analysis on the wines obtained from the different treatments also indicates minor effect of early leaf removal on wine features. For more information, click here.