SEATTLE – What role does science play in the quality of wine? Thomas Henick-Kling, director of the Washington State University viticulture and enology program, explores this and other questions in “Science in Your Glass,” the WSU Innovators luncheon, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle.
“Our understanding of all aspects of the winemaking process, from molecules to markets and from vineyards to bottles, underpins the wonderful success of the Washington wine industry,” said Henick-Kling. “This nearly $15 billion industry is an engine of job-creating vitality. I’m excited to be able to share some of the science that makes this all possible.”
The unique characteristics of Washington’s climate and soil contribute to the distinctive taste of its premium wines. But those same characteristics create challenges and opportunities for growers and winemakers specific to the Pacific Northwest.
WSU has partnered with state winemakers and growers since the 1960s to engage in cutting-edge research and provide hands-on education for a highly trained and discerning workforce. WSU researchers have helped growers site vineyards and manage irrigation regimes for optimum fruit quality. The university has developed environmentally sound pest and disease management techniques and is helping unlock the chemical mysteries of wine flavor profiles.
“In addition to discussing the science that goes into growing great grapes and making premium wine, I’ll talk about what I see as some of the major issues facing this rapidly growing industry,” Henick-Kling said. “I’ll also give an update on WSU’s vision for the Wine Science Center, a world-class facility that will help ensure that Washington wine continues to grow in market share and prestige in the global marketplace.”
Henick-Kling has been director of the WSU viticulture and enology program since February 2009. Before moving to Australia in 2007 to become director of the National Wine Industry Centre, he was a wine researcher and educator at Cornell University for 20 years. He was instrumental in establishing Cornell’s undergraduate program in enology and viticulture and in developing the program’s focus on premium rieslings.
His research has long focused on the basics of fermentation science: the yeasts and bacteria that convert sugars and acids into alcohol, aroma, flavor and rich mouthfeel. His research has contributed to the fundamental understanding of biological processes that enable winemakers to turn good grapes into great wine.
The Innovators lecture series highlights WSU research achievements and promotes informed discussion about matters of vital importance in the 21st century. Through lectures and panel discussions by faculty experts and industry leaders, WSU explores a variety of topics and inspires new visions for a vibrant future.