Grape and wine symposium fosters collaboration

Ingolf Gruen, associate professor of food science at MU, and Chin-Feng Hwang, associate professor of plant sciences at Missouri State University and adjunct professor at MU, discuss ways to collaborate at the wine reception.

From genetics to chemistry, economics and marketing to health, the science of grape and wine production offer myriad possibilities for collaborative research. The first Grape and Wine Symposium, sponsored by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource’s Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology, gave researchers from across Missouri an opportunity to connect and learn more about each other’s impactful research.

“The biggest benefit for me was to meet our colleagues from Missouri State University,” said Ingolf Gruen, associate professor of food science at MU. “This was essential for us to meet them, to chat, to establish potential collaborations. What they’re doing is very complementary to what we’re doing.”

Peter Hofherr, CEO of St. James Winery, uncorked the event with a history of the industry in Missouri–from Missouri’s role in rescuing the industry with its white blight resistant vines in the nineteenth century, its decline after prohibition and the present resurgence of the industry with nearly 100 wineries across the state.

Brenda Peculis, associate professor of biochemistry, said she was interested in the symposium on a variety of levels. “I didn’t know the history of wine making in Missouri, so the first talk was fascinating to me,” Peculis said.  “Jack Schultz’s talk about the diversification of plants and where they break off in gene duplication is related to a project that I have going in the lab now. It was great to connect with researchers and the presentations led to new ways to look at my own research.”

Attendees heard about grapes as a model research plant for genetic mapping, the sensory chemistry research at the ICCVE, health benefits of grapes and wine, genomics of grapevine disease resistance and marketing challenges and opportunities in emerging regions, such as Missouri.

Attendees sampled Missouri wines after the academic program.

“Wine seems to attract a lot of people to collaborate and we’re hopeful it’s going to make a huge difference in the industry as we go forward,” Hofherr said.

“There will be a lot more interactivity with consumers and a lot denser hospitality-wine industry and food and agricultural cluster niches, and that opens the door for a lot of rural Missourians to step forward and produce specialty products that grow and reflect their regions,” Hofherr said. “Missouri with its diverse geographies can grow just about anything. The multitude of products given the network that we’re building I think is going to be powerful for economic development for Missouri.”

The ICCVE is working to grow Missouri’s wine industry at its experimental wine laboratory in Columbia, at wine-grape cultivar plots at the Southwest Research Center, through extension outreach programs and industry partnerships across the state.

“The objective going in was to get dialogue going, raise awareness about  the center and the institute and hopefully some light bulbs will go off in some researchers heads,” said Marc Linit, associate dean of research and extension for CAFNR. “Once our viticulturists and enologists are working with people in the medical school, in arts and science, chemistry and biological engineering—then you know you have a comprehensive program and hopefully this will start that collaboration.”