Exploring the Microbiome
Within the vineyard and the winery, a very small world, the microbial world, exists, but its larger function and impact is largely unknown. The functions of the Saccharomyces yeasts in producing alcohol and other organoleptic components of wine, and the contributions (positive and negative) of certain bacterial components, are becoming clearer. However, numerous other vineyard microbes have been identified in the soil, on the wood and leaves, and on the fruit. Indeed, many others can be demonstrated to exist in the wild even though they are not amenable to laboratory cultivation, but the contributions of these other microbial populations, if any, have not been identified.
Furthermore, the firmly-held belief that farming practices contribute to the qualities of wine has not been fully rationalized in any scientific way. The impacts of farming practices (sustainable, organic, Biodynamic) may contribute a substantial portion of their perceived influences through their role of regulating the shape of the microbiome.
Longitudinal (i.e., throughout the wine grape growing and winemaking processes) and vertical (i.e., throughout various terroirs and wine grape growing strategies) studies are called for to understand these impacts on the microbiome and how altering the microbiome impacts qualitative components of wine. Although the concept of “microbial terroir” has been discussed for more than a decade, questions such as where the most important microbial reservoirs reside, what the role of the non-culturable components of the microbiome is in the soil and the winery, and what are the contributions of soil composition and farming practices, among others, are only beginning to be asked.
The goals of this session are to begin the discussion about these questions, introduce the current state of research in this area, and to encourage awareness of the potential impacts of our viticultural and enological practices on the microbiome.
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David Beck has a long-nurtured passion in wine. A scientist in a past life, when it came time to consider a next career, David chose farming wine grapes in Oregon, whose spectacular wines he admired.
David and his wife, Jeanne, operate the Crawford Beck Vineyard in Amity, Oregon. The vineyard is on a 48-acre farm and 16 acres are currently planted with vines producing ultra-premium Pinot noir, Pinot gris and Chardonnay. Strong advocates of sustainable farming, the Becks have obtained LIVE and Salmon-Safe certifications for their vineyard. David is also a strong advocate of advancing Oregon’s wine grape industry, and he has been active on the Oregon Wine Board, the OWB’s Research Committee, the Oregon Wine Standing Committee on Research, in his AVA, and in other wine-related organizations. He is particularly interested in research that enhances the efficiency of viticultural practices and improves the quality of Oregon wines.