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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Speaker Bios

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.

Krista McGuire is a microbial ecologist at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution within the Department of Biology at the University of Oregon. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 2007 and was a professor at Barnard College and Columbia University for eight years before moving to Oregon in 2017. In her research, she focuses on how plant-soil-microbial feedbacks influence nutrient cycling processes and how these patterns and processes change across human land use gradients. The projects in her lab span multiple systems including tropical rain forests, urban centers and vineyards, but are united by addressing fundamental questions in ecology that have implications for management and conservation.
Jeremy Weisz is a microbial ecologist in the Department of Biology at Linfield College. He received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina in 2006, and has been on the faculty at Linfield since 2010. His research focuses on understanding interactions that plants and animals have with their microbiomes, the microbes that live on and in them. He has been studying microbiomes on wine grapes since 2014, including a recent project on the impacts of farming practices on grape microbiomes, funded by the Oregon Wine Board.
Gregory V. Jones is the Evenstad Director of Wine Education, holds the Evenstad Chair in Wine Studies, and is a professor and research climatologist at Linfield College. He specializes in the study of climate structure and suitability for viticulture, and how climate variability and change influence grapevine growth, wine production and quality. He conducts applied research for the grape and wine industry in Oregon and many regions worldwide and has given hundreds of international, national and regional presentations on climate and wine-related research. He is the author of numerous book chapters and other reports and articles on climate and wine-related research.

More Resources from the Session

Download Slide Presentation – David Beck

Download Slide Presentation – Jeremy Weisz

Download Slide Presentation – Greg Jones