PROSSER, Wash. — It’s not often that a textbook becomes a bestseller. It’s even more rare for the same book to be selected for a prestigious prize, as well. But that is exactly the situation with “The Science of Grapevines: Anatomy and Physiology” by Markus Keller, the Washington State University Chateau Ste. Michelle Distinguished Professor of Viticulture. The popular book was pre-selling well on Amazon even before Elsevier’s Academic Press of Burlington, Mass. published it last year. And now it has won a Jury Award as best viticulture book of the year from the Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV; International Organization of Vine and Wine).
For over 80 years, the OIV has annually honored the year’s best books focused on the topics of viticulture, enology, wine and vine economics, wine and health, wine history, and wine in literature and art. Usually one, rarely two, and sometimes no award is given in each category. To be considered, a book must make a thorough and original scientific contribution that is of international relevance. Nominated books are assessed by a panel of specialists relevant to the topic of the book, including university professors, journalists, scientists, or historians.
“I estimated annual sales to be maybe 500 copies,” Keller said, pointing out that the rapidly increasing popularity of wine is not necessarily tied to people’s interest in the science of wine grape production. “But ‘The Science of Grapevines’ sold over 1,300 hard copies, not counting e-books, in its first year, which is amazing to me.”
The perennially humble Keller may be amazed, but his colleagues are not. Stuart Weiss, a former Stanford University researcher, and current chief scientist and founder of Viticision, a viticultural consulting group, said, “Markus did a fantastic job of collating and synthesizing the voluminous scientific literature on the grapevine, putting it in the broader context of plant physiology. It is an invaluable service to the viticulture community, the wine industry as a whole, and the broader scientific community. It is my ‘go to’ book for questions and answers.”
This isn’t the first time WSU viticulture and enology faculty have been honored with the OIV award. Charles Edwards, a WSU food scientist focusing on wine microbiology, was a co-recipient of a 2007 OIV award for “Wine Microbiology: Practical Applications and Procedures.”
Awards are given each year at a ceremony in December at OIV headquarters in Paris.