WSU Enology Team Wins Best Paper Award for Work Addressing Issues Faced by Winemakers

PROSSER, Wash. — Washington State University scientist and extension enologist Jim Harbertson is the lead author of a paper that has won the 2009 Best Paper in Enology Award from the American Society of Enology and Viticulture.

WSU enologist Jim Harbertson taking samples of grapes for analysis. Photo: Brian Clark/WSU. Click for hi-res image.

“It’s humbling to be recognized by my peers and colleagues like this. Some great enologists have been recipients of this award. It’s exciting and professionally satisfying to be recognized and to join that group,” said Harbertson, who is based at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.

The award-winning paper, “Chemical and Sensory Effects of Saignée, Water Addition, and Extended Maceration on High Brix Must,” investigates several winemaking techniques under the conditions of high brix, or high sugar, situations. Winemakers often work with fruit that undergoes extended ripening and that may , as a result, have elevated Brix levels.

Harbertson’s coauthors on the award-winning paper are Maria S. Mireles, research technician, Prosser; Eric Harwood, USDA soil conservationist, Prosser; Karen M. Weller, scientific assistant, Prosser; and Carolyn Ross, assistant professor and sensory analyst, Dept. of Food Science, Pullman.

Sara Spayd, center, with Jack Loudermilk, left, Yadkin County Extension Director (retired) and Dr. Trevor Phistor, Assistant Professor (Enology-Microbiology, Food Science, NCSU). Photo by Suzanne Stanard, News Editor, CALS Communications Services, NCSU. Click for hi-res image.

“We thought this year’s enology winner was important because a lot of what winemakers do is based on unsubstantiated assumptions,” said ASEV best paper awards selection committee chairwoman, Sara Spayd. Spayd is a professor and viticulture extension specialist in the Department of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University. “The work Harbertson and his colleagues did is research a small winery wouldn’t have been able to do. Large wineries may have already done this type of research, but the information wasn’t previously available to others.”

“This work is very much the product of team work and partnerships with industry,” Harbertson said. “We’re especially grateful for the tireless efforts of Chateau Ste. Michelle winemakers Josh Maloney and Bob Bertheau, who made the wine at their facility at Canoe Ridge, and without whom this research could not have been completed.”

“This latest recognition of the excellent research carried out by the WSU – USDA viticulture and enology team makes us all very proud,” said Thomas Henick-Kling, director of WSU’s program in viticulture and enology. “It shows that excellent science focuses on applied projects and that excellent science is the basis for the progress in wine quality in the Washington state industry. Understanding the basic principals governing fruit ripening and flavor development during wine making are foundational for the regional industry to keep developing its unique, high-quality wines.”