OSU helps state's vineyards and wineries stay competitive

Patty Skinkis and research cooperator in vineyard
OSU vine expert Patty Skinkis (right) is helping Oregon vineyards produce higher-quality grapes. (Photo: Lynn Ketchum)

OSU's Oregon Wine Research Institute addresses industry's needs

Oregon's wine industry is based on producing premium-quality wines, not mass quantities. If wineries want to compete with premium regions around the world, they know that research is necessary to keep them on the cutting edge.

They're getting help from scientists at OSU's Oregon Wine Research Institute. OSU vine expert Patty Skinkis is pursuing a 10-year, statewide study at 16 vineyards to see how pruning grape clusters affects the quality of Pinot noir wine. She's also measuring photosynthesis, soil moisture and nutrients to understand how vineyard management impacts the resulting wine. In a study she conducted on cover crops, she found that grapes from vines surrounded by grass-covered alleyways scored the highest in terms of phenolics, which affect how wine feels in the mouth, and anthocyanins, which are pigments that produce a more intense red — a desirable trait in Oregon’s famous Pinot noir and many other red wines.

That increased quality could translate into higher prices for Oregon grapes and for the wine made from them.

Meanwhile, OSU enologist James Osborne is studying how microorganisms in wine impact the aroma of Pinot noir. His goal is to help winemakers promote the growth of strains that can produce the aromas and flavors they desire.

Osborne and Skinkis are carrying on OSU's legacy of helping the wine industry. Past achievements of OSU scientists include isolating the first malolactic bacteria to grow at cold temperatures and low pHs; devising a lag growth phase crop estimation system that is now used universally; importing the Dijon clones and many varieties for the first time into the United States; and creating the first International Cool Climate Symposium for Viticulture and Enology in 1984.

Oregon was home to 1,056 vineyards and 725 grape-crushing wineries in 2016. Growers produced $168 million of wine grapes that year.

To learn more about how OSU is helping Oregon's wine industry, read this article in Oregon's Agricultural Progress magazine or watch this video.

Source: Southern Oregon University's 2012 Oregon Vineyard and Winery Census Report; National Agricultural Statistics Service

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