Viticulture and Enology

Jun 14, 2013 Debra Cheung


To serve the California grape and wine industries. The Department of Viticulture and Enology is world renown for innovative research and scientific leadership in the study of grapes and wine. The breadth of expertise enabled by our multidisciplinary organizational structure has allowed the department to address important and challenging research problems with great efficacy and creativity. We have several internationally recognized areas of scientific preeminence, due to our collaborative focus on specific programmatic goals.


Total 14.75 (3.35 I&R, 8.65 OR and 2.75 CE), additional 0.25 FTE resides in the College of Engineering; no faculty will reach age 65 within the next six years.

Major Programmatic Thrusts of the Department

  • Grape breeding and genetics. Application of novel molecular technologies for the analysis of parentage of existing varieties and generation of methods for determining critical disease resistant phenotypes of grape rootstocks and scion varieties.
  • Grapevine environmental biology. Impact of environmental factors on grapevine and berry development, and on fruit composition, flavor and nutritional chemistry.
  • Fermentation technology. Yeast and bacterial fermentation physiology, kinetic modeling of microbial processes and the integration of this information with commercial scale fermentations and the design of fermentation facilities; yeast and bacterial gene expression under fermentative conditions and developing both genomic and proteomic analyses.
  • Flavor chemistry/sensory science. Development of methodology for the sensory analysis of wine, complemented by our expertise in the chemical analysis of wines where we apply innovative methods for analysis of volatile aroma compounds as well as complex macromolecules that control the flavor of wine.
  • Phytochemical nutrition. Understanding the health effects of grape and wine constituents with links to food and plant chemistry, nutrition and in the medical sciences.

Program Impact/Ranking

Viticulture and Enology is currently the only program of its kind in the United States, and is generally considered the leading university program in the world.

Extramural Grants and Gifts

Annual direct expenditures $2,026K (FY98-99), primarily from industry grants and California commodity commissions.

Teaching Programs of the Department

Undergraduate degrees in viticulture and enology, fermentation science, crop science and management. Master of Science in horticulture and food science. Undergraduate numbers have increased from 45 (FY94-95) to 96 (FY98-99) and graduate numbers from 41 (FY94-95) to 70 (FY98-99).

Outreach/Extension Roles

Department serves all facets of grape production: dried fruit (raisin), fresh fruit (table grape) and winegrape industries and all aspects of juice and wine products including: table wine, fortified wine, distilled beverages (brandy, eau de vie) and juice concentrate.

Positions Needed to Improve Research, Teaching and Extension Goals

  1. Viticulture extension specialist. Replacement FTE for extension in raisin production and southern San Joaquin Valley winegrapes.
  2. Flavor chemist. Focus would be on characterization of the chemical composition of specific flavors and would use dynamic methods to study flavor as perceived by the human senses, with expertise in chemical engineering and chemical modeling of flavor and aroma development, interaction and perception.
  3. Two additional Cooperative Extension specialists in enology. Number of wineries in California is approaching 1000. Size, complexity and value of the industry justify two additional Cooperative Extension specialists in enology. The Fermentation Technology program has recently added a sub-area of using emergent PCR technologies to profile the microbial ecology of grapes, wineries and fermenting juice. Effective extension of these new research developments to the greatly expanded industry would require the additional CE positions.
  4. Grape functional genomist. Post-genome analysis would interface well with existing knowledge base of physiology; strong focus on grapes as a model physiological system provides a unique opportunity for exploitation of functional genomics of woody perennials.

Priorities (No Growth Scenario)

No retirements (FY99-05) are anticipated and thus no redirection is possible. Permanent loss of recent Christensen retirement (7/99) would be devastating to viticulture extension, with only two specialists (one is department chair) remaining to address a rapidly expanding table, raisin and winegrape industries (850,000 acres and $2.7B).

Priorities (Minimal Growth Scenario)

Priority would be for a flavor chemist to work with sensory scientist. Additional 1.0 I&R FTE would be proportionately distributed within the department, especially among faculty already teaching in amounts greater than their current appointment.

Projected Resource Needs and Strategies for Achieving

Laboratory space per faculty member is not only far below the college average but, having been built in 1959 and not updated since, is outmoded for modern-day research. Quality and quantity of teaching space is grossly inadequate. The teaching winery and classrooms (built in 1939) are outdated, poor quality, crowded and cramped, in short, a disgrace.

Improvement of department resources is justified. The industries are environmentally sound, economically viable and rapidly expanding. The department' student numbers, both undergraduate and graduate have doubled in the past five years, with a significant pool (as much as 30 percent) of international students. Because of the department' prominence, and the size and value of the industry, faculty play a significant national leadership role. By virtue of our uniqueness, academic linkages are international; requests for formal relationships have come from France, Spain, Italy, Australia and Israel in just the past three years alone.

Efforts have begun to seek replacement of the department' entire space: teaching and research winery, teaching laboratories and research laboratories, by a projected combination of gift funds and state funds. Additional efforts are on-going to augment department infrastructure (particularly SRAs and equipment) via a high-level external support group. Given the department' uniqueness and its preeminence nationally and globally, maintaining and enhancing excellence in teaching, research and outreach programs by developing critical infrastructure and resources would bring enormous prestige and great distinction to the college and campus.

Student News

Design It, Build It

Aug 21, 2015 Truscott donation allows landscape architecture students to dig in.

Student News - More Student News…
Research News

UC Davis Receives Unique, $1.5 Million Gift from Aggie Couple

Jul 07, 2016 Michael and Joelle Hurlston have pledged $1.5 million to endow a first-of-its-kind chair position.

Research News - More Research News…
Outreach News

Summer Internships

Jul 28, 2015 CA&ES students and Salinas Valley employers find common ground.

Outreach News - More Outreach News…
Web Editors

Content in this section is managed by Robin DeRieux. If you have any suggestions or need something changed, please contact her at