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UF researchers helping Florida wineries ramp up sparkling wine production

Most Florida wineries use the labor-intensive champagne method. UF/IFAS is teaching Florida winemakers how to produce carbonated wine in a fraction of the time.

FLORIDA, USA — Whether you live in Florida or you’re just visiting, one thing is certain, you’re going to want a beverage to quench your thirst in the Sunshine State.

Cool drinks with the likes of craft beer, margaritas, mojitos, and Pina Coladas landed on several lists of Florida's top beverages.

Some may argue carbonated or sparkling wine should be on the list, especially since it's gained traction over the years. In 2019, the sparkling wine market saw a four-percent increase in the United States and it is expected to continue to grow, according to a 2020 study by IWSR Drinks Market Analysis

In the state of Florida, there are more than 30 wineries and most of them are no stranger to the sparkling wine market.

For example, Lakeridge Winery in Clermont, FL., started producing sparkling wine nearly 30 years ago. 

The winery produces sparkling wine with Florida's native grape - the muscadine.

"It's very limited what we can do because it takes an enormous amount of space and time to put your hands on this product,” said Jeanne Burgess, vice president and director of winemaking operations at Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards.

Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Muscadine grapes growing in southern Florida in a vineyard

Burgess explained it takes about four months to produce a batch of sparkling wine. “There's a 120 hand operations that go into making a bottle-fermented sparkling wine from beginning to end," she said.

To help Florida wineries ramp up their sparkling wine offering, food scientists at the University of Florida are researching how to produce carbonated wine in a fraction of the time.

Andrew MacIntosh, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food science and human nutrition, is working with Florida wineries to teach and encourage more of them to produce carbonated wine. About one in 10 Florida wineries currently carbonate wine, and they use the labor-intensive champagne method.

Credit: UFIFAS

MacIntosh is studying pressurized vessels, inline carbonation options, and counter-pressure bottling equipment for various-sized wineries.

“We're taking the winemaker's wine, carbonating it in about an hour, and giving it back to them,” MacIntosh explained.

“As part of the grant, I wanted to do some education by grabbing the winemakers and bringing them in to work with their wine and teaching them how to implement it."

Burgess explained Florida’s muscadine sparkling wines usually pair well with anything sweet.

“They're good with cheese but I prefer it with strawberries dipped in chocolate.  It's a dessert wine that you can enjoy with anything chocolate,” she said.

Part of the research includes sensory wine tastings. If you’re interested in taking part in the testing panel at UF, e-mail Katlyn Nau at knau@ufl.edu.

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