Archive for the ‘Oenology’ Category

Grape harvest in the new world.

Grape harvest in the new world.

A first look at vintage quality down under, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers

Ready to taste the first wines of 2013? While vines are just flowering in Europe and North America, the Southern Hemisphere has picked, crushed and fermented this year’s crop. Australian vintners report that the 2012-2013 crop was small, thanks to dry conditions in the east and storms in the west. New Zealand’s North Island faced heavy frosts to start the season, while on the South Island, a compressed harvest made for a logistical nightmare.

Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming vintage. Check back Thursday and Friday for South Africa, Argentina and Chile.
Australia
Region: South Australia: Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley, Limestone Coast

The good news: Low yields and dry conditions produced concentrated wines

The bad news: A series of heat waves reduced the size of the crop

Picking started: Mid-February

Promising grapes: Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling

Analysis: Vintners in South Australia will remember 2013 as one of the earliest and shortest vintages in recent memory. Winemakers are excited with what they picked, reporting good to outstanding quality in both their white and red grapes. “There will be some truly awesome wines from 2013, just not as much of them to share,” said Paul Linder, winemaker at Langmeil in Barossa.

A combination of hot weather and below average rainfall in the spring reduced grape yields across the state. John Duval, of his eponymous winery in Barossa Valley, said vintners had to be diligent with their irrigation to protect grapes from withering on the vines. He said yields were down between 30 to 50 percent in Barossa Valley. Cooler growing regions such as Adelaide Hills and Coonawarra in the Limestone Coast avoided the worst of the heat.

A heat wave jumpstarted harvest in mid-February, with growers scrambling to pick grapes as sugar levels spiked. The upside to the dry conditions was low disease pressure in the vineyards and a small crop that produced concentrated grapes. “Reds are showing excellent color and flavor, with balanced tannin structure,” said Duval. Winemakers in Eden Valley and Clare Valley reported good natural acidity in their Rieslings, despite the heat.

 

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Selling commodities is difficult because people buy on emotion, or instinct if you will. Want and desire are powerful emotions that can stimulate the release of endorphins. It’s why some people are shop-a-holics. It feels good to buy. But it’s not that easy to get emotionally worked up about borax, chlorine, and salt. As an economic good, a commodity has no real differentiation, so small price differences in competing products can make huge differences in total sales.

Think about how you won’t buy gasoline at one gas station because it’s four cents cheaper around the corner. That’s a commodity. Ever buy a piece of art that way? Of course not because art’s value is in the eye of the beholder, is easily differentiated, and consequently will have wide price ranges. When art is sold, it’s sold on the artist’s reputation or the emotion the piece evokes for someone. Marketers work overtime to take commodity-like goods and then pretend they aren’t commodities by creating and building an emotional appeal around the brand.

 Take the above deodorant commercial. Did you hear mention of the product characteristics as a differentiator? Nowhere does this commercial say Old Spice is made with orange, lemon, clary sage, heliotrope, pimento berry and musk, even though those were the original Old Spice ingredients. The creative team instead focused on delivering an emotional image; something with a human connection that ties back to the product.
 
In this case in a humorous way, they are talking about sex-appeal and are really targeting women who are by far the larger purchasers of family groceries still. The subliminal note is if you get Old Spice for your husband, he will look like this …….. or maybe the message is he will ride a horse? I don’t know but I am wearing Old Spice and on a horse right now. Look at me….

 

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The origin of French wine.

The origin of French wine.

A new study finds evidence that ancient Gauls began wine production in 425 B.C. in the Languedoc

Dom Pérignon, Pétrus, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti—the roots of these iconic wines and all of French wine culture may lie in a simple stone press, according to new scientific research. Uncovered in the Mediterranean town of Lattes, just south of Montpelier, the roughly 2,400-year-old artifact was originally identified by archaeologists as an olive-oil press. But a new round of chemical and archaeological analysis now identifies the press as the earliest evidence of wine production in France.

The analysis, headed by Patrick McGovern, the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and reported in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses an array of evidence to not only hypothesize when the French started making wine, but who originally taught them how to do it.

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French wine industry rooted in Italy!

French wine industry has Italian roots!

The earliest evidence of wine in France suggests that it came from Italy, and that it was mixed with basil, thyme and other herbs, according to new research.

This early wine may have been used as medicine, and likely was imbibed by the wealthy and powerful before eventually becoming a popular beverage enjoyed by the masses, researchers said.

The artefacts found at the French port site of Lattara, near the southern city of Montpellier, suggest that winemaking took root in France as early as 500 BC, as a result of libations and traditions introduced by the ancient Etruscans in what is now Italy.

The analysis in the US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is based on ancient wine containers and a limestone press brought by seafaring Etruscan travellers.

“France’s rise to world prominence in the wine culture has been well documented,” said lead author Patrick McGovern, director of the bimolecular archaeology laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

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Russian consumers have yet to embrace brut sparkling wine despite the efforts of one of the country’s top fizz producers to lure drinkers away from demi-doux.
Speaking at the London International Wine Fair at ExCel this week, Pavel Titov, director of historic Russian sparkling wine estate Abrau-Durso, explained:

“When I joined the company we had 34 different labels in our range. My first decision was to scale it right back and discontinue half of the wines.

“The aim was to get rid of all our demi-doux and demi-sec styles, as I believe brut is the way forward, but this didn’t make commercial sense as Russian consumers are still stuck on sweeter sparklers.

“I wanted to try and change the market trends, but the love of sweeter wines is so deeply ingrained in Russia that it’s hard to influence age-old drinking habits,” he said.

Titov did reveal however that mindsets were starting to change, and that sales of brut are currently the fastest growing within the company, while demi-doux (containing up to 45g of residual sugar) remains Abrau-Durso’s best seller.
“Half of our production is demi-doux at the moment in order to satisfy demand, while we make 35% brut and around 15% demi-sec – people tend to buy the extremes in Russia, either really dry or really sweet,” Titov told db.

 

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Champagne and the use of oak.

Champagne and the use of oak.

 

While there is no consensus on the use of oak in Champagne production, Michael Edwards considers when it can have a beneficial effect
NOT SO long ago, a sure-fire way of generating a heated argument between winemakers in Champagne (as in Chablis) was to talk about the virtues and pitfalls of making their best, purest wine in oak. There’s one fine grower in a grand cru village, a charming and highly educated man, who grows apoplectic at the thought of his precious Champagne being sullied by a single wooden stave. Certainly since the late 1960s, stainless steel has become the overwhelmingly preferred medium of fermentation in Champagne – because in tank, control of the grape’s journey into wine is complete and it’s easier to use. By the early 1990s, only a few perfectionists led by Krug, Bollinger and Selosse stayed true to their barrels and casks.
Fruits of the forest

How things change. Twenty years on, it’s reckoned that about 100 Champagne producers use oak in one form or other: to ferment the wine, partially or fully, to age the reserve wines or, easily forgotten, when making the wine for the dosage – a crucial skill.

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Attack of the drones?

Attack of the drones?

 

The word “drone” tends to conjure up images of planes that kill terrorists or of creepy surveillance tools.

But tiny drone airplanes made of foam may be more useful in rural environments, one researcher says. There, the fliers could revolutionize agriculture, reducing the need for pesticides and improving crop production.

Because drones can fly cheaply at a low altitude, they can get highly detailed images of cropland, said Chris Anderson, the CEO of 3D Robotics and former editor-in-chief of Wired, here on Saturday (May 18) at this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area, a two-day celebration of DIY science, technology and engineering. Drone-captured close-ups of fields could help farmers tailor their pesticide treatment and identify subtle differences in soil productivity. [Rise of the Drones: Photos of Unmanned Aircraft]

Vast unknown

The automation of farming has led to fewer farmers tending massive plots of land. That means they don’t know how each leaf looks, notice changes in the height of plants, or the color of soil

“Once upon a time farms were small and people could walk the farm,” Anderson said. Now, however, “farms are too big to measure and too big to manage.”

As a result, farmers may not know about the condition of vast stretches of their land and make many decisions as if plots of land were uniform. For instance, they may blanket their entire crop with fungicide in June because fungal infections typically strike in July, whether or not their crop is actually afflicted, Anderson said.

 

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White from white.

 

Much as we admire the op art of Bridget Riley, the films of Francois Truffaut and the frocks of Mary Quant, sometimes we grow tired of black and white. Two decidedly colorful champagne styles have overstated their case for decades. Champagne labelled blanc de blancs literally means ‘’white from whites” which is to indicate the wine is a white colour made from white grapes. Actually the wines should be dubbed jaune de verts because they are pale yellow and made from green hued grapes. By law in Champagne, blanc de blancs can only be produced from chardonnay and most other sparkling wine producers around the world follow this tradition as well.

Blanc de blancs is the new kid in Champagne, having been around only about 85 years of Champagne’s three century history. The first blanc de blancs was produced in 1920 by Eugèn-Aimé Salon, the founder of the highly collectible house of Salon. Two decades later, Taittinger launched its beloved blanc de blancs, Comtes de Champagne, and the rest is history. Blanc de blancs is now produced by most of the famed Champagne houses including Billecart-Salmon, Deutz, Charles Heidsieck, Jacquesson, G.H. Mumm, Bruno Paillard, Philipponat, Pol Roger, Louis Roederer and Ruinart amongst others on the Hong Kong market. Salon and Krug (Krug Clos du Mesnil) produce full-bodied blanc de blancs, but otherwise expect blanc de blancs to be light, dry and elegant. Its ethereal character and graceful finesse makes blanc de blancs a superb aperitif and ideal partner with seafood and fish. But don’t drink these wines when young as they’ll take the enamel off your teeth. Blanc de blancs requires at least 2 fashion cycles to mature, developing admirable character and complexity about 8-10 years from their vintage date.

 

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Jeff Grier (CWG Chairman) and Andrea Mullineux.

 

At the end of last summer, loads of wine people suddenly all went nuts about a particular South African wine. Neal Martin, from The Wine Advocate, gave it 96 points. Joe Wadsack, an influential tasting god, raved about it to anyone who would listen and quite a few who didn’t. Julia Harding MW, of Jancisrobinson.com wrote it up in glowing terms, “Each mouthful lasts for ever.” Everywhere you looked it was, “Yeah, I tried Cartology ’11 before you’d even heard of it.”

There were only ever 5,000 bottles of this glorious £25 white – the 2011 was a blend of 92% chenin blanc from four different parcels of bush vines, with the balance made up of semillon from a vineyard in Franschhoek – and it sold out super-swiftly. Now the build-up for the next vintage, the 2012 (a few precious bottles are expected here in August – ask at Handford Wines, The Wine Society and Lay & Wheeler), has already started. “The 2011 was brilliant but the 2012 is better,” tweeted Jamie Goode (thewineanorak.com), who tasted it on a recent visit to the Cape.

Why am I telling you about a wine you may never be able to so much as sip? First of all because it’s almost unheard-of for a wine to come from nowhere and grab such attention. Second, and far more importantly, because Cartology catches the zeitgeist.

This isn’t just about one wine or even one winery, this bottle is representative of an entirely new and exciting wave of South African wines and winemakers.

 

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How natural do you want it?

How natural do you want it?

It nearly time again for what now appears to be an annual celebration of unsubstantiated and unsupported claims and assertions about wine. It’s time again to denigrate 99% of the worlds wine and winemakers.

Of course, I’m talking about the coming RAW WINE FAIR, a celebration of “natural” wine taking place in London on May 19 and 20. On the cusp of this important occasion, I think it appropriate to examine some of the claims that are being made about the wines being featured at RAW that have been made by the event’s founder, Isabelle Legeron, MW. Ms. Legeron was recently interviewed in the Londonist and she took that opportunity to make a variety of claims not just about “natural” wine, but all other wines not considered “natural”.

According to Ms. Legeron:
“Once grapes are harvested and taken to the cellar, natural wine growers try to intervene as little as possible. They see their role more as guardians — guiding a process that occurs naturally — rather than as trying to force the grapes or juice into particular moulds responding to market demands or trends”

I’m wondering, do only “natural” winemakers attempt as little intervention as possible? Or are there non “natural” winemakers that take this approach? Also, isn’t the process of “guiding” anything but “natural”? Isn’t it really a case of “manipulation”?

According to Ms. Legeron:
“I like wine that is alive and unmanipulated, characteristics that are surprisingly hard to come by in modern winemaking. I don’t like wines that are worked: heavily extracted, oaky, manipulated, squeaky clean and boring.”

Just how hard to come by are wines that are “alive”? What does “Alive” mean? Do only “natural” wines qualify as being “alive”? How many of the world’s wines, particularly those produced by the thousands of small artisan producers around the globe that do not claim their wines are “natural”, have you tasted in order to declare that finding wines with “alive” and “unmanipulated” characteristics are hard to find? Or are you really just making this up and offering an unsupported assertion?

According to Ms. Legeron:
“the vast majority of natural wine I come across is not only not faulty, but is deliciously complex and shows far more interesting taste profiles than conventional wine. To be frank, this isn’t really surprising either — if, as you would do in conventional winemaking, you kill off all your native bacteria and yeasts to then add lab-bred ones that have been developed to show specific aromas, you will necessarily have less complex aromatics than if nature — with its infinitesimal variations — is involved.“

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