International Symposium focuses on pinot noir


CORVALLIS - Representatives from some of the most highly respected winemaking regions of the world will gather in Portland to discuss the art and science of Pinot noir wine production and compare the results from Oregon, France, California and New York.

Subtle, complex and notoriously difficult to produce, Oregon's premier wine will be the subject of the Pinot noir Fourth Joint Winemaking Symposium, on Tuesday, June 25 at the Oregon Convention Center. The symposium precedes the 53rd annual meeting of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, June 26-28, which will bring 2,000 wine makers, growers and wine scientists to Portland.

Pinot noir, the great red grape of French Burgundy, has been grown in France for more than a millennium. Today Pinot noir constitutes nearly half of the wine grapes planted in Oregon, and is considered by many to be the crown jewel of Oregon wines.

Elegant and enigmatic, Pinot noir develops its trademark complexity only from grapes grown in a very few wine growing regions, such as the Willamette Valley and the cooler regions of western Oregon, coastal California, Burgundy, and more recently upstate New York.

The grape is finicky and temperamental to grow. Thin-skinned and sensitive to variables of site and climate, Pinot noir requires very gentle winemaking and lengthy aging in oak barrels. As a result, the wine is a reflection of both its environment and the winemaking practices.

"Western Oregon, and particularly the Willamette Valley, has developed an international recognition for the great quality of its Pinot noir wines," said Barney Watson, extension specialist in enology (winemaking) at Oregon State University. "This success has been due to the passion and hard work of Oregon winegrowers, their collaboration with winegrowers internationally, particularly Burgundy, and to their support of viticulture and enology research at OSU."

Watson helped to coordinate the symposium, along with Christian Butzke of University of California-Davis, Pascal Durand of the University of Burgundy, and Thomas Henick-Kling from Cornell University.

Watson has spent much of his career working with Pinot noir. Collaborative research projects conducted by OSU's Department of Food Science and Technology and the Department of Horticulture include testing Pinot noir clones, and evaluating vineyard management and winemaking practices to optimize Pinot noir wine quality in Oregon.

Through his work, Watson has forged collaborations with winemakers and scientists in Burgundy and elsewhere, exploring the intricacies of Pinot noir. The upcoming symposium reflects these collaborations. Entitled "Optimizing Pinot noir Typicité and Quality", the symposium is the fourth in a series which has alternated between the United States and France since 1997.

"Typicité" is a French term that means the coming together of the climate, soil, vineyard and practice to define the expression of a wine. The symposium will focus on recent advances related to Pinot noir grape and wine quality including clonal and site selection, vineyard and winemaking practices, and cooperage and aging in each of the regions represented.

Prior to the symposium, Watson will lead the international delegation on a tour of Oregon's world-famous wineries and vineyards and a visit with OSU enology and viticulture researchers. The symposium will end with a tasting of Pinot noir wines from all the represented regions demonstrating the topics of discussion of the meeting.

The Pinot noir symposium is open to non-members of ASEV for $450. For more information about it and the meeting of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture, visit the event web site at: www.ASEV.org.