Within the vineyard and the winery, a very small world, the microbial world, exists, but its larger function and impact is largely unknown. The functions of the Saccharomyces yeasts in producing alcohol and other organoleptic components of wine, and the contributions (positive and negative) of certain bacterial components, are becoming clearer. However, numerous other vineyard microbes have been identified in the soil, on the wood and leaves, and on the fruit. Indeed, many others can be demonstrated to exist in the wild even though they are not amenable to laboratory cultivation, but the contributions these other microbial populations, if any, have not been identified.
Furthermore, the firmly-held belief that farming practices contribute to the qualities of wine has not been fully rationalized in any scientific way. The impacts of farming practices (sustainable, organic, biodynamic) may contribute a substantial portion of their perceived influences through their role of regulating the shape of the microbiome.
Longitudinal (i.e., throughout the wine grape growing and winemaking processes) and vertical (i.e., throughout various terroirs and wine grape growing strategies) studies are called for to understand these impacts on the microbiome and how altering the microbiome impacts qualitative components of wine. Although the concept of “microbial terroir” has been discussed for more than a decade, questions such as where the most important microbial reservoirs reside, what the role of the non-culturable components of the microbiome is in the soil and the winery, and what the contributions of soil composition and farming practices are, among others, only beginning to be asked.
The goals of this session is to begin the discussion about these questions, introduce the current state of research in this area, and to encourage awareness of the potential impacts of our viticultural and enological practices on the microbiome.