OSU offers its "vine and wine" expertise in network

November 5, 2004

Noble fir tree indoorsCORVALLIS – Oregon State University is planning to provide Oregon's rapidly growing wine industry with a one-stop shop for the latest research and information in a new organization called Vine and Wine Intelligence Network, or VVIN.

About 50 OSU researchers and staff are taking part in this information network, which will serve the 250 existing Oregon wineries. With experts in everything from growing grapes to marketing and consumer research, OSU faculty and staff are on hand to help Oregon's wine industry.

Ulrich Orth, assistant professor of agribusiness and food marketing at OSU's North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, has coordinated OSU's expertise in areas key to the wine business – growing grapes, wine making, business management, as well as art and computer science. Orth is from Germany, where interdisciplinary cooperation in the wine industry is not uncommon, he says.

"In talking to people in the wine industry here, they were only aware of isolated experts at Oregon State," said Orth. "It was amazing that so few people recognized the breadth and depth of information available at OSU."

Given OSU's role as a land grant university, Orth believes the Vine and Wine Intelligence Network will be a valuable extension of that mission. OSU's wine network can provide research, courses, seminars, internship, networking opportunities, and consulting services, he pointed out.

And, by including the business aspects of the wine industry, OSU's network will distinguish itself, he added. While other wine centers exist in California and Texas as well as France and Italy, they typically focus solely on the grape or the wine.

"Our integrative character would be really new, and elevate OSU above what is currently available," Orth added.

Already contributing $200 million to the Oregon economy, the wine industry stands to benefit even further from the network and become an invaluable resource for Oregon's future. The wine industry has grown more than 30 percent in the past four years and the new network will make the exchange of knowledge between the academic world and industry even better, say those in the wine industry.

"Communication is one of the highest priorities for members of our industry," says Ted Casteel, Chair of the Oregon Wine Board's Research committee. "This network will help facilitate the transfer of information to people as they need it."

OSU's VVIN has garnered endorsements by Gov. Ted Kulongoski and OSU President Ed Ray, as well as local vintners.

"All of these aspects, from agriculture to wine making to marketing, should be addressed together to impact the needs of our industry and to be more relevant to our industry as a whole," says John Weisinger, of Weisinger's Vineyard and Winery in Ashland, Ore. Weisinger applauds Orth's involvement, calling his recent work marketing Oregon wines the most valuable research he's seen in the recent past.

"There is broad support throughout Oregon's most productive wine valleys, such as the Rogue, Willamette, and Columbia," says Orth.

Efforts are underway at OSU to turn the Vine and Wine Intelligence Network into a full-fledged, professionally-managed Center of Excellence, dependent on external funding.

"The center would act as a crystallization point to bring in other experts and make them available to Oregon," explained Orth.

Orth says that the majority of funding required is solely to pay an executive director.

"Forming a center is not about directing a lot of money towards building new facilities, it's about organizing the wealth of resources already available," says Orth.

VVIN has applied for funding from the U.S. Dept. of Education to enhance the future center's international perspective and networking opportunities for OSU students as well as those in Oregon's wine industry.

Visit the OSU Vine and Wine Intelligence Network.

Author: Virginia Gewin
Source: Ulrich Orth