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Student Focus

Cornell Students and Faculty Recognized by American Society for Enology and Viticulture

By Brynn Wilkins and Tim Martinson

The COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of the annual American Society for Enology and Viticulture (ASEV) national conference this past June. But the ASEV adapted its award and recognition program by moving it online.  Cornell students and faculty took home an impressive amount of accolades.

This year, the ASEV awarded 50 scholarships in support of students pursuing Viticulture and Enology degrees, including the Traditional scholarships (to many students) and the Presidents’ Award, which is awarded to only two students “who exceed the expectations of the traditional scholarship, demonstrating exceptional research and leadership qualities.”  In addition, the ASEV adjusted to COVID 19 by adding a new category with 3 awards for Best Student Video Presentation in both the Enology and Viticulture categories.

Rachel Allison
Rachel Allison

Leading the list was Enology Ph.D. student Rachel Allison, who studies the chemistry behind release of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) during bottle storage in professor Gavin Sacks’ program. H2S imparts off-oders often described as ‘rotten eggs’ to wines.

Allison received the prestigious ASEV Presidents’ award – and a $12,500 scholarship – one awarded to only two students  “who exceed the expectations of the traditional scholarship, demonstrating exceptional research and leadership qualities”. 

In addition to the scholarship, Allison won first place in the new Best Student Video Presentation Enology category for her presentation entitled “Glutathione Increases Formation of Unstable Copper-Sulfhydryl Complexes Capable of Releasing H2S During Bottle Storage.

Allison’s thesis research has identified H2S precursors that “differ considerably in their stability and are affected by wine composition”, according to Dr. Sacks.

“I’ve been impressed with Rachel’s creativity in developing new tools to analyze both H2S and its precursors” said Sacks. “She has a knack for translating her work into easy-to-understand visual presentations – which is the likely reason for her ASEV Best Presentation Award.”

Demi Perry

Also receiving video presentation awards was Demi Perry, PhD student in Gavin Sacks’ laboratory, whose presentation entitled “Effects of Pre-Fermentative Treatments on Juice Fermentation Kinetics, Color Extraction, and Volatile Composition,” received the second place award in the Enology category.

Students Ryan Fifield (MS), Demi Perry (PhD) also received traditional scholarships from ASEV, and 2020-2021 ASEV-Eastern Section (regional branch organization focused on Viticulture and Enology east of the Rocky Mountains) scholarships. 

Cornell emeritus professor Tom Burr and colleagues Marc Fuchs, Marcella Yepes and Cheri Reid were honored with the Best Viticulture Paper for their article entitled Elimination of the Crown Gall Pathogen, Agrobacterium vitis, from Systemically Infected Grapevines by Tissue Culture, which appeared in the society’s American Journal of Enology and Viticulture.

Congratulations to the award recipients – and thanks to the American Society for Enology and Viticulture for extending the recognition to our students and faculty.

Brynn Wilkins is administrative coordinator for the viticulture and enology major at Cornell University.  Tim Martinson is senior extension associate with the statewide viticulture extension program, based at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva NY.