Laura Homich

My research centers around the compound rotundone (imparts a spicy, black pepper aroma) and how vineyard management practices affect the concentration of rotundone in grapes and wines.

Recently, researchers and wine industry stakeholders have shown increasing interest in the aroma impact compound rotundone which imparts the spicy, black pepper aroma in many grapes, wines, herbs, and spices. This compound has not been identified in many U.S. grown varieties, and the dynamics of its development have not been studied within the scope of the Eastern U.S. climate. While winemakers and experience tasters have anecdotally identified rotundone in the Noiret variety, its presence has yet to be confirmed. The concentration of rotundone present in the fruit at harvest directly relates to the amount of black pepper character in the resulting wines; therefore, growers must use techniques in the vineyard to manipulate this compound to the desired level. The effects of vineyard management practices on rotundone concentration and accordingly the sensory characteristics of the resulting wine have not yet been studied.

Therefore, my research aims to determine:

  1. the effects of cluster sunlight exposure and timing of leaf removal on rotundone development throughout berry ripening; and
  2. the relationship between the rotundone concentrations in the wines vinified from the light exposure and leaf removal treatments and consumer preferences and perception.

Understanding if and how cluster sunlight exposure and the timing of leaf removal impact rotundone accumulation in grapes and its concentration in wine could result in considerable savings in labor costs by reducing unnecessary efforts. Sensory analysis of Noiret (Vitis spp.) wines vinified from the field treatments will allow for determination of the correlation between the viticulture practices, rotundone concentration, and consumer wine preferences. Understanding these relationships will allow growers to choose the proper field technique for achieving the black pepper character in the wine that is most desirable to consumers.