Wine leftovers to turn to treasure in University of Auckland-led research

Waste from New Zealand’s wine industry is set to be transformed into high-value products in a NZ$9.8 million project led by the University of Auckland.

Grape marc, the stems, skins and seeds left over from winemaking, offer opportunities for food, paper, pharmaceutical, building and chemical products.

Professor Paul Kilmartin, an expert in wine chemistry, will lead the research program, which was awarded money last Friday by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund.

Food additives, chemicals for specialised applications, and paper products with fire-retardant and antimicrobial properties are among potential uses.

Professor Paul Kilmartin


“Our research team holds several patents and has developed leading-edge technological approaches that will be applied to grape marc components,” Kilmartin and colleagues said in a funding application.

Besides Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland scientists, the team includes researchers from Auckland University of Technology, Crown research institute Scion and the University of Canterbury.

The program will be “an example of how to create substantial new high-value product revenue streams for New Zealand companies while eliminating a primary industry waste stream as part of our future circular economy,” according to the funding application.

New Zealand’s winemakers, centred in Marlborough, have been grappling with increasing quantities of grape marc even as the industry aims for zero waste to landfill by 2050.

Kilmartin’s background in wine chemistry includes setting up the University’s postgraduate Wine Science programme in 2003, which is now located at the Goldwater Wine Science Centre on Waiheke Island.

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