Justine Vanden Heuvel (right), viticulturist in the Department of Horticulture, was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor effective November 1, 2012.
Vanden Heuvel’s research focuses on the environmental and economic sustainability of wine grape production systems in cool climates. “My goal is to invigorate the rapidly expanding Northeastern grape and wine industry,” she says.
In collaborations with food scientists, Vanden Heuvel has studied the effects of viticultural practices and site characteristics on wine flavors and aromas of Vitis vinifera and hybrid cultivars. She has developed practical methods for growers to measure and manage grapevine canopies to optimize winegrape production and improve wine quality.
Vanden Heuvel has worked with economists to study the impacts of vineyard management practices on the costs of production and consumers’ willingness-to-pay for the resulting wines. “Our recommendations growing from this research help growers make money – not just great wine,” she says. She has also undertaken a series of studies on how vineyard floor management and other practices can help reduce disease and fungicide use and the movement of nutrients and pesticides from vineyard soils.
To put her findings into practice, Vanden Heuvel works with Extension educators in the major winegrape producing regions of Northeast to help growers improve their profits and reduce their environmental impacts.
Vanden Heuvel is also extremely active in teaching as the instructor for Viticulture and Vineyard Management (HORT/VIEN 3440), and co-instructor for Grapes to Wines (HORT/FDSC/VIEN 2204). She also co-teaches Sustainable and Organic Grape Growing and Winemaking (HORT/VIEN 3120). Students in that class planted and manage a block of about 500 grapevines at Cornell Orchards – a little more than half an acre – that is now certified organic by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York Certified Organic, LLC. “To our knowledge, we are the only university in the country with a student-run organic vineyard or a course devoted entirely to organic viticulture,” she says.
“We started the course in 2010 because viticulture and enology students told us that they wanted to focus specifically on sustainability issues,” says Vanden Heuvel. “That’s something you can’t just learn in the classroom. You have to go out in the vineyard and do it.”