The Washington State Wine Commission Board of Directors has approved a strategic research plan to carry forward the state’s viticulture and enology research program for the next four years.
“Research has been a pillar of Washington’s wine industry for decades,” says Steve Warner, President of the Washington State Wine Commission.
Washington’s wine research program dates back to the 1960s when Dr. Walter Clore, Washington State University fruit scientist, saw potential for the state to become a premium wine industry, Warner says.
“Today, research remains the backbone of a more than $6 billion industry made up of 58,000 acres of wine grapes and 970 wineries,” he says.
The $5.5 million, four-year research plan (July 2019 to June 2023) replaces and builds upon accomplishments of the initial Strategic Research Plan for the Washington Wine Industry that was approved by the Wine Commission Board in 2015.
The outcome of the 2015 plan is today’s industry-driven, industry-guided research program supported by all Washington wine grape growers and wineries with research results available to all in the Washington wine industry. Research priorities are developed from broad industry input with multiple and annual opportunities to solicit industry feedback and engage industry stakeholders regarding direction of the research program.
Total spending on viticulture and enology research in Washington has exceeded the million-dollar mark the last three years, representing 20% growth in research spending since 2015. Viticulture and enology research projects conducted by WSU scientists are annually supported by WSU, the Wine Commission, Auction of Washington Wines, and state taxes collected on all wine sold.
A new element of the strategic research plan includes a competitive grant program that will fund short-term demonstration and proof-of-concept research beginning next year. Industry feedback given to the Wine Commission has identified a void of vineyard and winery research that has rapid, practical application.
All types of research, from basic to applied, are essential in addressing industry challenges, but demonstration trials will be particularly helpful to small wineries and growers unable to conduct in-house wine or vineyard trials. The short-term research program will be open to students and faculty at Washington community colleges and state universities.
The plan also aims to drive the research portfolio by selecting a target focus (research initiative) each year and allocating at least 40% of the Wine Commission’s total research project funds available to the targeted area of study. A research initiative summit will be sponsored by the Wine Commission to engage the research and development community and encourage innovative new learning and technologies focused on the research initiative.
Dick Boushey, a grape grower from Grandview who serves on the Wine Commission’s board, says the long-standing research partnership between the industry and WSU has resulted in game-changing research that has helped the industry conserve water, reduce pesticide use, and improve wine quality.
“But we look for even more in the future as we support innovative research and technologies for vineyards and wineries that improve the quality of grapes and wine, keep the industry competitive, and raise the global awareness of Washington wines,” he says.
Boushey is Chair of the Wine Commission’s Research Committee and oversees its research program.
Under the new plan, the Wine Commission will have flexibility to directly fund research from a broad range of capable institutions, organizations, and individuals in addition to supporting the statewide grape and wine research program administered by WSU.
Learn more about the Washington wine industry’s research program at washingtonwine.org.