Grape and wine science is only valuable if it's communicated to those in the field, says Bragato Research Institute Chief Executive Jeffrey Clarke.
Sophie's paper - What is the relationship between the use of Sulphur Dioxide and Biogenic Amine levels in wine? - was deemed the best work by a new Master of Wine by The Institute of Masters of Wine.
It was "an excellent piece of research", says Judge Christian Seely, managing director of AXA Millesimes, Quinta do Noval's owners. "At first sight, the very rigorous scientific approach seemed somewhat alarming, but it turned out to be compulsive reading, fascinating, with some original insights and thought-provoking ideas. Extremely well researched and rigorously argued, I thought it was outstandingly good, and for me was without question the best of the papers submitted."
Sophie could not travel to London for the ceremony, but attended via video link, saying she was "overwhelmed" to receive the award. "This was a daunting paper to research and write but the significant public interest element and importance of this topic to the industry was undeniable," she told award attendees.
In the October 2021 edition of Winegrower Magazine, Sophie noted that while S02 is frequently blamed for wine intolerance, clincial studies demonstrate that sulphites are a health risk to 3% to 10% of diagnosed acute asthmatics, with their reaction almost a;ways respiratory Meanwhile, symptoms of biogenic amine (BA) toxicity "mirror" those of wine intolerance, "including headaches, nausea, rashes, and flushing", according to her report. "It is evident that BA presence in wine is indeed a demonstrable threat to human health and safety that needs consideration and management."
The report concludes that "the issue of BAs need to be brought into the open, and the industry needs to do its part to ensure that wines being sold are safe for consumers to drink".
Sophie says there's been a great deal of interest over the past year in the findings of her report, and that interest has been renewed, "from all over the globe", since the award announcement.
Sophie was raised in Gisborne and Central Otago, and was a lawyer before the wine industry attracted her to Marlborough for the 2011 harvest. In 2013, she and her husband Matt Thomson founded Blank Canvas, crafting small-batch fine wines from single vineyard sites. They also run a consultancy - Lock, Stock and Barrel - offering wine industry services from vine to bottle. Sophie has expertise on the quality and subregional diversity of New Zealand wine, and sits on the Appellation Marlborough Wine (AMW) committee and the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association executive.
To read Sophie's report, go to mastersofwine.org/rp