In five years, the Washington wine industry’s stepped-up investment in research has yielded a new wine science center, more than $1 million in annual funding for research projects and a head start in understanding how wildfire smoke affects grapes.

On March 9, the first day of the virtual WineVit, the annual meeting of the Washington Winegrowers Association, the Washington State Wine Commission released a five-year impact report for its research program. 

Research “is part of our DNA,” said Dick Boushey, a member of the commission and chair of its research committee. A total of 25 percent of the Wine Commission’s budget goes to research, he said.

Other speakers at the opening day of the conference discussed global wine economics, the challenges of the pandemic and some forecasts for the future. 

Among them, direct-to-consumer sales will stick around. The segment of the market that experienced such a huge surge due to the coronavirus restrictions will come down but probably not to prepandemic levels. Meanwhile, the U.S. wine industry will continue to face the challenges of competition from other forms of alcoholic beverages and a lingering oversupply.

“I think we collectively have some work to do,” said Danny Brager, an alcoholic beverage consultant in Mission Viejo, California.

The virtual conference will continue with sessions scattered throughout the rest of March. For the agenda, and to register, visit the Washington Winegrowers website:

by Ross Courtney