wine science Tag

By Maegan Murray

Wine is a $2 billion industry in Washington state, but many students will not be exposed to the science behind the field as a possible career option until they reach college. Thanks to the Partners in Science program, however, one high school teacher had the opportunity to shadow and complete research alongside a renowned wine science researcher and professor at Washington State University Tri-Cities – the science behind the experience, of which, he is now introducing to his high school students.

Fred Burke, science teacher at Chiawana High School, sets up equipment for a smoke taint trial at the WSU Prosser Research Extension vineyards. He was paired with Tom Collins, assistant professor of wine science at WSU Tri-Cities, to complete wine research the last two summers at WSU Tri-Cities as part of the Partners in Science program.

Fred Burke, a teacher at Chiawana High School, had the opportunity to shadow and complete research with Tom Collins, wine science researcher and assistant professor of wine science at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

“This experience has allowed me to show my students how the nature of science is more than what they experience through a text book and allow them to experience the techniques and capabilities of it in a real-world setting,” Burke said. “It has not only allowed me to participate in research that will have an impact in the wine industry today, but it also it makes doing science a lot more fun for my students.”

Through the Partners in Science program, which is supported by a $15,000 grant from the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust, high school teachers are paired with a university professor in their field and the pair spends two consecutive summers completing research. During the end of each summer experience, the teachers prepare a presentation on their research and how they plan to implement what they learn into their classroom setting. The university professors also get the value of an additional hand in the lab and in the high school teacher’s second summer, an experienced lab researcher to help with their studies.

As part of his research experience, Burke worked with Collins to characterize wine grape varieties using sophisticated research techniques known as gas chromatography and mass spectrometry. For the techniques, the researchers use devices that allow researchers to look into the intricate chemical and other properties of each type of grape for classification and categorization. Burke also had the chance to work with Collins to start a study analyzing the impact of wildfire smoke on wine grapes, which could hinder the taste and overall quality of the wine.

Tom Collins, assistant professor of wine science at WSU Tri-Cities, prepares smoking equipment for a smoke taint trial to evaluate the effect of smoke on wine grapes at the WSU Prosser Research Extension vineyards.

“Both projects are relevant to the classes we’re teaching,” Burke said. “In environmental science, we’re able to look at how the smoke impacts not only the wine grapes, but also the chemical components and properties of the wine.”

The study of the impact of wildfire smoke on wine captured the interest of the Washington wine industry, with Collins stating that since they announced they were completing the research, he gets calls throughout the year on updates for the research, results they’ve tabulated and generally how they can protect wine grapes from the exposure. The interest grows each year as the summer wildfire seasons commence.

“We got three calls today, alone, regarding smoke taint,” Collins said. “The fact that Fred has been able to be a part of this project provides him with a great in-depth look at how lab and field research have a substantial impact on industry. The Washington wine industry increases exponentially year, with the mid-Columbia region being a hub for the industry. So this research is crucial for our area’s winemakers.”

Last summer during Burke’s first of two summers working with Collins in the lab, the duo set up experiments at the WSU Prosser Research Extension to test different amounts of smoke on grape vines. They are now in the process of analyzing samples collected from that experiment. Collins plans on continuing the study for at least the next several years.

“Just being able to look at all the parts that go into a real-life field of scientific study has been immensely beneficial,” Burke said. “I get to share that with my students and they benefit from that real-world application. Within their science classes, our students have to conduct procedures, collect data and analyze that data through labs and lessons. This real-world experience allows me to show them that what they’re practicing in class can be applied out into the field, as well as provide them with concrete examples of stuff we’re actively doing in the labs.”

Burke also had the opportunity to bring some of his classes out to the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center to see how the research is conducted and get an idea of how a research lab operates.

“Science in agriculture is kind of one of those unknowns for many of my students,” he said. “They see people planting and watering, but they don’t know the science behind it. This provides them with an in-depth look. It’s a career option that most of my students probably have never even considered.”

Burke plans to apply for a supplemental grant from the Partners in Science program, which would extend his research partnership time frame with Collins and provide Burke with dollars for science equipment for his classroom.

“It would provide us with more money for use in the classroom, which would allow my students to conduct some research of their own,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity.”

RICHLAND, Wash. – A team from Washington State University recently took home top honors in the research poster competition at the Worldwide Distilled Spirits Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, for research on a technique typically used to evaluate the characteristics of wine.

To determine the characteristics and compounds in wine, researchers combine a wine sample with a mixture of water and octanol, which is a fatty alcohol. As a result, different compounds from the wine separate and enter into two phases: octanol and water. The relative separation of the compounds into the two phases is known as the beverage’s hydrophobicity.

These two phases are then analyzed using mass spectrometry, a sophisticated technique that identifies the individual compounds within those phases. The identified compounds can help determine the astringency, or mouth feel, of the wine as well as the color and other sensory factors.

Wine scientists expand applications

WSU distilled spirits evaluation research team
Jim Harbertson, Caroline Merrell and Tom Collins (l-r) display some of their major findings in distilled spirit analysis application.

The WSU Tri-Cities team, which consisted of wine science postdoctoral researcher Caroline Merrell, associate professor of enology Jim Harbertson, and assistant professor of wine science Tom Collins, decided to analyze distilled spirits using the same process.

“It started off as ‘let’s see what happens when we apply this technique to a product other than wine,’” Collins said. “Spirits make sense for this analysis not only because of their similarities to wine, but also their differences. We expected to extract different things from the barrels for spirits than for wine, and I think we clearly see that with our findings.”

A measurement in wine is used primarily to evaluate phenolic composition, Harbertson said. The phenolic composition, derived from the grapes and barrels, affects the taste, color and mouthfeel of wine.

“But in spirits, the phenolics are only derived from the barrel, so the process provides an interesting piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Whiskey, tequila, rum, cognac

In their research, team members examined a range of distilled spirits including American whiskey (bourbon), Scotch whiskey, Irish whiskey, tequila, rum, cognac and Armagnac. The barrel type used in the aging process for these spirits significantly impacted the identified compounds, Merrell said.

“For instance, all the bourbons separated out together as part of the statistical analysis,” she said. “Bourbon is made in new, heavily charred barrels. Because bourbons use newly charred barrels, there is more extraction of different phenolic and flavor compounds during aging. All the other spirit types age in previously used barrels, which have already had substantial amounts of phenolic and flavor compounds extracted.”

Barrel selection insights

Their initial research shows the importance of barrel selection in making distilled spirits. The hope is that it will give the industry more tools for making alcohol, Merrell said.

“Our research gives the industry more insight into the effects of barrel selection for different types of spirits,” Collins said. “We had a fair amount of interest from distilleries after the presentation, and we look forward to opportunities to collaborate and explore these effects in more detail.”

The team hopes to expand their research beyond commercially available products. The plan is to acquire distillation equipment at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center to prepare, develop and analyze their own spirits.

To his knowledge, this is the first time anyone has used the hydrophobicity technique to examine the components of distilled spirits, Collins said.

 

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Washington State University and the Auction of Washington Wines are partnering to host the 3rd Annual Tri-Cities Wine and Music Festival on Saturday, June 10.

Arny Bailey and Friends band to provide classic rock at Wine and Jazz Festival

Arny Bailey and Friends band to provide classic rock at Wine and Jazz Festival

Ticket prices range from $85 per person for the festival to $950 for a weekend package for two that includes the Col Solare Vintner Dinner on Friday and hotel accommodations through the weekend. Several ticket packages are available online at the Auction of Washington Wines website.

Proceeds from the event benefit WSU  viticulture and enology research that helps the Northwest region stay competitive in the national and global wine market, while providing sustainable growth in the industry. Research projects funded through Auction of Washington Wines provide students with hands-on training and create a workforce to meet the growing needs of the grape and wine industry.
The Wine and Jazz Festival starts at 6 p.m. at the WSU Tri-Cities campus in Richland. The event will include classic rock from Arny Bailey and Friends, featuring Peter Rivera, formerly of Rare Earth, along with food from the Olive Café in Walla Wall and wine tasting from more than 20 Washington wineries. The festival is sponsored by Numerica Credit Union, Russ Dean RV and URock Radio.

Since its inception in 1988, the Auction of Washington Wines has raised more than $37 million. The distinguished fundraising events give wine lovers the chance to support the Washington wine industry and families in the communities around the region.

 

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By Kaury Baucom, Viticulture & Enology

RICHLAND, Wash. – Connor Eck, a senior at Washington State University Tri-Cities originally from Del Mar, Calif., has been named a national Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.

The fellowship provides learning and networking opportunities to teach students leadership and how to bring communities together for positive change. As a student winemaker in WSU’s Blended Learning program, Eck worked with local growers and winemakers to develop leadership skills, gain hands-on experience and exercise environmentally friendly winemaking practices.

“I aim to find a way to limit the amount of water used in the farming of grapes and during the winemaking process, while still producing a high-quality product,” he said.

“The cultivation of community-committed leaders has never been more crucial,” said Andrew Seligsohn, Campus Compact president. “Our country needs more people who know how to bring communities together.”

The fellowship, named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, chose 273 students for the 2017 cohort. It is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.
News media contact:
Kaury Balcom, WSU viticulture and enology communications, 509-327-7223, kaury.balcom@wsu.edu

By Kaury Balcom, Viticulture & Enology

RICHLAND, Wash. – The public is invited to the Washington State University Blended Learning Spring Release Party at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, at Budd’s Broiler, hosted by Anthony’s Restaurants.

Tickets are $100 and can be purchased online at http://gocougs.wsufoundation.wsu.edu/s/1613/index.aspx?sid=1613&gid=3&pgid=2956&content_id=2441. The event will include a social reception where guests can visit with WSU viticulture and enology students and faculty, taste the latest wines released from the Blended Learning series and enjoy a four-course gourmet dinner and wine pairing.

Blended Learning is a class that supports hands-on learning by pairing students with local growers and winemakers who collaborate on all aspects of the winemaking process. Blended Learning wines are sold through WSU Connections stores with proceeds supporting the VE program.

Newly released wines include:

2016 Sauvignon Blanc
Vineyard: Boushey Vineyards, Yakima Valley
Partner Winery: Wine Boss

2016 Dry Riesling
Vineyard: Bacchus Vineyard
Partner Winery: Washington State University

2014 Grenache
Vineyard: Milbrandt Vineyards, Clifton Hill, Wahluke Slope
Partner Winery: Wine Boss

This is the third year that Anthony’s Restaurants has hosted a fundraising event for the VE program. The events have helped raise over $17,000. Funds raised through this event will support the purchase of a pickup truck to haul grapes and equipment for student learning and research projects.

 

News media contact:
Kaury Balcom, WSU viticulture & enology program, 509-372-7223, kaury.balcom@wsu.edu