OSU scientists help Oregon’s vineyards and wineries stay competitive

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Research by OSU vine expert Patty Skinkis is helping Oregon vineyards produce higher-quality grapes and a better bottom line.
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The Oregon Wine Research Institute focuses industry collaboration in research and Extension

The process of making wine is complex and OSU research is helping improve the process from field to market. OSU vine expert Patty Skinkis has found that using a cover crop in a mature vineyard produces higher-quality grapes and a better bottom line. For Oregon's 870-plus vineyards, that bottom line was nearly $94 million in sales of grapes in 2012. That's in addition to the $253 million in cases that the state's 463 wineries sold.

Skinkis also found that grapes from vines with grass 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 researcher James Osborne is studying how yeast impact the aroma of Pinot noir. His goal is to help winemakers select 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.

Source: Southern Oregon University 2011 Oregon Winery Census Report; National Agricultural Statistics Service

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