The Mission of The Ohio State University/OARDC Enology research program is to serve the Ohio commercial grape-wine industry and more broadly the citizens of the State of Ohio by providing both basic and applied research on all aspects of grape and wine science using an integrated, interdisciplinary approach. We follow this through with an excellent extension program in disseminating key research and extension information via a number of extension related events.
In essence our mission emphasizes the importance of practical research in viticulture and enology ultimately enhancing grape and wine quality. Enology trials focus on research performed in the area of viticulture practices such as: specific crop levels, training systems, clonal and rootstock trials by examining their influence on wine quality from the vineyard. Specific enology studies focus on individual yeast and malolactic bacterial strains, white and red wine primary fermentation practices and pressing treatments, in addition to hyper-oxidation of Riesling and its effect on post bottle stability and aging potential to name a few ongoing studies. The OARDC enology program has also placed a significant amount of effort in both research and extension focused on oxygen pickup and sulfur dioxide interaction at various points of vinification and bottling.
As mentioned above, all of the information derived from our research trials is disseminated at various statewide workshops, meetings, site visits and the annual Ohio Grape and Wine Conference. The Ohio Grape and Wine Conference will host the 41st annual conference this year in February of 2015. This represents one of the longest running grape and wine conferences in the country.
Since Ohio is diverse in both climate and growing conditions, we have three separate research branches located across the state at Kingsville – Ashtabula Agriculture Research Station (AARS), Piketon (OSU South Centers) and Wooster (OARDC) Ohio. These vineyards consist of American, French-American and Vinifera research plots. Both Viticulture and Enology trials have been ongoing since 1960 at OARDC and are still going strong from these sites for the betterment our commercial grape and wine industry. We also perform selected research experiments on a commercial level with participating grape growers and wineries throughout the state.
Included in our research emphasis is the evaluation of new varieties for Ohio’s growing conditions. The purpose is to evaluate Vitus vinifera, French-American, and other American hybrid grapes for their growing requirements and winemaking potential in Ohio. Through these trials we can make more specific varietal selections to new and existing growers relating to specific sites and winemaking quality and styles. We are trying to help determine signature wine grape varieties in developing a reputation of excellence in Ohio. Much of our effort in this area is devoted to hybrid and Vinifera evaluation as of the latest research.
We feel it is also important to have a considerable amount of effort devoted in extension to the Ohio wine industry. This is observed through the numerous workshops, Laboratory training sessions and winery site visits we perform at no charge. The Ohio grape and wine industry is growing extremely fast with approximately 218 bonded wineries in Ohio. The OARDC enology program also performs a lot of off – site wintery consultations via phone and e-mail correspondence in addressing wine quality within Ohio commercial wineries. Currently, Todd Steiner serves as the main contact for enology extension throughout the state.
A number of years ago, the OARDC enology program implemented a wine analysis program in collaboration with the Ohio Grape Industries Committee (OGIC) in providing both chemical and sensory evaluation of commercial wines in addition to troubleshooting recommendations if needed or desired. This is being accomplished through the OARDC enology lab currently at no charge to our commercial wine industry. This effort addresses wine quality throughout the industry as being a vital part in the production of premium quality wines and provides excellent recognition of the Ohio wine industry as a serious wine producing state.
Interest in an Ohio Quality Seal program had been approached with commercial desire during the mid to late 1990’s. Initial groundwork had been laid with a preliminary rough draft being developed in 1999. After an idle period of little work being accomplished, serious discussion began once again in 2004 where further development and organization was accomplished through a joint venture involving the Ohio Grape Industries Committee (OGIC) and The Ohio State University (OARDC) - Viticulture and Enology program in forming the Ohio Quality Wine Program (OQW). Several key objectives were identified for the OQW program. The first objective was to establish a consistent, high-quality standard designation for Ohio wines made from Ohio grown grapes. In light of this, a second objective was identified through expansion of grape growing in Ohio to help meet the needs of our ever increasing number of wineries. A third objective was to promote awareness of these quality wines being produced among consumers and wine writers.
The program was initiated during the 2007 Ohio Wine Competition (OWC).
In addition to a number of rules and regulations in the program guidelines, two major rules had been established indicating that submitted wines contain a minimum of 90 percent Ohio grown fruit from Vinifera, Hybrid or American varieties. It was also emphasized by the committee that they wanted to set the bar slightly higher with wines achieving 15 points or higher (silver or gold medal) out of a 20 point U.C. Davis scorecard system as being eligible for OQW seal status. The wines must also pass chemical analysis based on TTB standards for alcohol, sulfur dioxide and volatile acidity.
The annual Ohio Wine Competition has been performed through the OARDC Enology program for nearly 30 years. It has served as a vital part of our quality control and extension program. In addition to any awarded metals granted toward an effective marketing program, we have also provided a complete chemical analysis of each wine submitted into the competition. These results along with the judge’s comments provide an extreme amount of valuable information to the commercial wine industry. As a result of these efforts, quality has come a long way with new records being set in the number of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals awarded in recent competitions. The 2014 Ohio Wine Competition was accomplished by the Kent State University – Vesta program. This was accomplished to help free up OARDC enology personnel for additional extension responsibilities to the growing commercial wine industry. However, we still play a vital role in consultation and flight setup for the competition.
A majority of the research funding comes through the Ohio Grape Industries Committee who is devoted to providing an up to date cutting edge research and extension program in Ohio. Research and extension coming out of The Ohio State Univeristy/OARDC covers a wide base of disciplines including Entomology, Plant Pathology, Weed Ecology, Viticulture and Enology. As you can see there is much effort devoted to helping the Ohio grape and wine industry improve and become competitive in the future.