SEATTLE (March 9, 2021) – The Washington wine industry, five years into its stepped up investment in research, is well on its way to creating a world class research program, said an industry leader during the opening session of the virtual WineVit® wine convention and tradeshow on March 9. Wine grape grower Dick Boushey shared results of the industry’s investment in research that is detailed in the Research Program Five-Year Impact Report released today by the Washington State Wine Commission.
“Viticulture and enology research is part of our DNA,” said Boushey, as he recounted the efforts of Washington wine pioneers that created the foundation for today’s strong research program at Washington State University. Boushey is a member of the Washington State Wine Commission and chairs its Research Committee. He also serves on the Wine Research Advisory Committee, a subcommittee of the Washington Wine Commission that makes research funding recommendations.
Boushey noted that consistent funding of viticulture and enology research at WSU began in the early 1980s when wine industry leaders convinced state legislators to create a stable source of funding for research by annually allocating a small portion of state taxes collected on the sales of all wines (a quarter of a cent per liter) to be dedicated for viticulture and enology research at WSU. Today, the Washington wine industry, through the Washington Wine Commission, WSU and the Auction of Washington Wines also support viticulture and enology research at WSU.
The report highlights key research program milestones achieved since 2015, including the opening of the WSU Wine Science Center, (the Washington wine industry will contribute $9.4 million for construction), sustainably funding more than $1 million in research projects since 2017 and creation of the industry’s own research grant program.
The report also spotlights the strong research partnership with WSU and the important role WSU played in Washington’s growth as a world-class wine region. WSU shares the industry’s vision of creating a world-class research program and recently approved creation of a viticulture and enology department, four-year bachelor of science degree in viticulture and enology and requirement that the last two years of study be completed at the Tri-Cities campus and at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center.
The most important accomplishments in the report are the results from industry-supported research at WSU, said Boushey. “Washington Wine’s research program has benefited industry, the environment, our communities and wine consumers.”
Past research has helped growers and winemakers improve wine quality, reduce pesticide inputs by 80 percent and save $35 million annually, conserve up to 50 percent irrigation water through deficit irrigation strategies and make informed frost and cold protection decisions from a cold hardiness model.
Current research projects have significant potential for return on investment, he added. Several projects aim to optimize irrigation for white wines, by variety and as a tool to deal with climate change. Other project goals are to develop nematode management tools for replant situations and protect an estimated $44 million in annual replanting costs, buy time for growers dealing with phylloxera to prolong replanting with rootstocks, which costs $25,000 per acre, evaluate non-chemical methods to control powdery mildew, assess risk of smoke impacts to grapes and wine, develop grapevine virus management strategies, and more.
Research will continue to help address industry challenges in the vineyard and winery and move the industry forward.
Download a copy of the Impact Report here.
For additional information, contact Melissa Hansen, Research Program Director at [email protected].
About the Washington State Wine Commission:
The Washington State Wine Commission (WSWC) represents every licensed winery and wine grape grower in Washington State. Guided by an appointed board, WSWC provides a marketing platform to raise positive awareness about the Washington wine industry and generate greater demand for its wines. Funded almost entirely by the industry through assessments based on grape and wine sales, WSWC is a state government agency, established by the legislature in 1987. To learn more, visit www.washingtonwine.org.