Posts Tagged ‘science’

Terroir vs Technique! (Chronicle photo by Lacy Atkins)

Terroir vs Technique! (Chronicle photo by Lacy Atkins)

Is great wine the product of terroir, technique, or both?

 

Regular readers of my blog know that this question, or concept, intrigues me as do few others. I’ve frequently quoted the great Prof. Peynaud, who says terroir is Mother Nature; when man brings his or her own touch to the finished product, the combination of the two, he calls “cru.” As he expresses it, somewhat complexly, in The Taste of Wine: The Art and Science of Wine Appreciation, “The cru…is the wine-producing property, the chateau, different from its neighbors.” At the same time, this definition includes not just physical attributes such as climate, soils, slope, elevation and so on, but “the three activities of production, processing and marketing.” And P.R.? Yes, that too.

This definition of terroir is pretty broad; it’s one I accept, and if everyone else did, we could cease these eternal hand-wringings on what constitutes terroir. Still, the definition raises exciting and troubling implications: If I take the grapes from a single wine-producing property, divide them into three parts, and give three different winemakers one of those parts to vinify, will the resulting wines all show the terroir of the site? Or will they be so different that we can only explain their distinctions by the technique of their winemakers?

This is precisely what The Cube Project explores. The brainchild of Anne Amie’s winemaker, Thomas Houseman, it was formed “to evaluate the impact of winemaking vs. terroir.” Anne Amie is in the Willamette Valley; its two partner wineries are Bouchaine, in the Carneros, and Lincourt, down in the Sta. Rita Hills. Each of the winemakers took a single block of Pinot Noir from the estate vineyard in the 2010 vintage, divvied it into three shares and sent two of them (very carefully) to the other two winemakers. Then all three crafted the best wine he or she could.

Read on …

The near future ....

The near future ….

 

Experts say Sun’s activity wanes every 200 years – and the next ‘cooling period’ is due by 2040

  • Russian scientists believe the Sun emits less heat every 200 years
  • Cooling period could cause Earth’s temperature to fall by several degrees
  • Last time was between 1650 and 1850, known as the ‘Little Ice Age’
  • The period of low solar activity could start between 2030 and 2040

..Forget global warming – the Earth may soon be plunged into a 250-year cooling period, scientists have claimed.
Russian climate experts believe that every 200 years the Sun’s activity temporarily wanes and it emits less heat.
They believe this ‘cooling period’ could cause the earth’s average temperature to fall by several degrees.
 
Scientists believe that every 200 years the Sun emits less heat, resulting in a big freeze
The last time this occurred was between 1650 and 1850 – a period known as the ‘Little Ice Age’.
At the time, most of Britain’s rivers would freeze over during the bitter winters.
Contemporary paintings show people could even cross the Thames using ice skates.

The next ‘cooling period’ is scheduled to start between 2030 and 2040.
But scientists from Pulkovo Observatory in St Petersburg think the cold period is unlikely to be as harsh as the last one.

Researcher Yuri Nagovitsyn said: ‘Evidently, solar activity is on the decrease.
‘In this respect, we could be in for a cooling period that lasts 200 to  250 years.

Read on …

 

Moderate drinking is safe, studies find...

Moderate drinking is safe, studies find…

 

 

Children born to women who drink moderately during pregnancy are no more likely to have cognitive or behavioural problems than those of abstainers, a new study has found.

 

This study, reported in BJOG, An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, put together data from the Millennium Cohort Study, a national study of 10,000 infants born in the UK between 2000-2002.

The study assessed whether light drinking – defined as to two units of alcohol or the equivalent of on 175ml glass of wine per week – in pregnancy was linked to unfavourable developmental outcomes in seven-year-old children.

Researchers from University College London used information on over 10,000 seven-year-olds, looking at their social and emotional behaviour as well as their cognitive performance in maths, reading and spatial skills.

Their parents and teachers were also surveyed via questionnaires.
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Americans tend to eat more calories and fat on the days they also have alcoholic drinks, a new study suggests.

“Food choices changed on the days that people drank… and changed in an unhealthier direction for both men and women,” said Rosalind Breslow, a nutritional epidemiologist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the lead author of the study.

She said the new information gives people an opportunity to be more aware of what they’re eating on the days they imbibe.

In a previous study, Breslow found people who drink more tend to have poorer diets in general, compared to those who drink less. For the current research, she and her colleagues looked at volunteers’ diets on both the days they drank and the days they abstained.

The data came from a large U.S. health and lifestyle survey conducted in 2003 through 2008.

More than 1,800 people answered a diet questionnaire on two days within a 10-day span – one day when they drank and another when they did not. When people did imbibe, they had an average of two to three alcoholic beverages at a time, most commonly beer and wine.

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Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Bordeaux is to turn its carbon emissions into toothpaste.

Speaking to the drinks business at an en primuer tasting of the estate’s wines last week, co-owner Daniel Cathiard revealed details of the unusual plan.

“Our aim is to be as green as possible, so we’re going to capture the carbon emitted during the fermentation process and turn it into bicarbonate of soda to be used in toothpaste,” he said.

“We don’t want to waste anything here, so why not make the most of our carbon? We produce a lot of C02 at the winery and we want to be like a forest and capture it,” he added.

Cathiard told db that he would turn the carbon from a gas into sodium bicarbonate and sell it on to pharmaceutical companies for use in toothpaste.

He plans to make his first batch of bicarbonate of soda this year.

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A brave new world lies ahead!

A brave new world lies ahead!

A report has warned that climate change is likely to push viticulture into new areas with potentially “disastrous” consequences for several endangered animal species.
Credit: Conservation-International photo-by-Russell-A.-Mittermeier
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the study claims to be “the first ever worldwide analysis of the impacts of climate change on wine production and conservation.”

The international team of researchers led by Conservation International warned that in certain parts of the world the area suitable for wine production is due to shrink by “as much as 73% by 2050”, with particular pressure on local water resources.

A Google Earth “flyover” (see video below) compiled by the report’s authors shows a significant northerly shift for Europe’s viticultural regions, putting even areas such as Bordeaux and the Rhône under threat.

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Fine wine coming soon!

 

 

The Mediterranean may one day no longer be suitable for wine production

Vino connoisseurs, take note: Your next fine wine might come from Yellowstone or Canada. Climate change is quickly making it harder for some of the most famous wine-making regions in the Mediterranean to produce grapes, according to a new study published Monday.
Nearly three quarters of the world’s wine-producing regions might become unsuitable for grape production by 2050, according to the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Climate change has the potential to drive changes in viticulture that will impact Mediterranean ecosystems and to threaten native habitats in areas of expanding suitability,” the study suggests.

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Brettanomyces.

Brettanomyces.

 

 

UC Davis researchers create Brettanomyces aroma wheel

As much as it’s reviled, Brettanomyces still has its supporters in those who think a little bit of barnyard or wet dog imparts a distinct identity to their wines.

 

The clean, modern winemaking practices of the sort espoused by the University of California, Davis, have put Brett squarely in the menace category. Dr. Linda Bisson, who studies the metabolic pathways of yeast at UC Davis, however, likened Brett to a color in an artist’s palette.

 

Granted, it might be a color similar to a brash, fluorescent green that is best used sparingly, she told Wines & Vines.

 

Bisson and UC Davis Viticulture & Enology Department staff member Lucy Joseph released a Brett aroma wheel around the start of the year. The wheel is the result of a study the two performed on a collection of 83 Brett strains, of which 17 were identified as positive and five as negative by a sensory panel.

 

Aroma Wheel.

Aroma Wheel.

 

 

Strains that garnered a negative reaction were those that generated more aromas in the rotten and putrid category, as opposed to positive characteristics such as floral and spicy. Some strains had no sensory impact even though the Brett population grew in the wine. Certain strains also exhibited a correlation of descriptors such as earthy and putrid or Band-Aid and soy.

 

The positive strains did add something good to the wine rather than just not befouling it, Bisson said. The finding would appear to underscore the essence of the Brett debate between those disgusted by its flaws versus others intrigued by its complexities.

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No more being blond!

No more being blond!

 

Researchers serve bubbly to lab rats and see improved memory; two studies look for links between alcohol and cancer

Champagne may bubble with more than deliciousness. According to research from a team at the Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy department of the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, organic acids in the French sparkling wine actually increase brainpower.

In their report, published in the journal Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, the authors explain that research showing certain chemicals in foods can improve memory is extensive, but there is a lack of data on phenolic acids. The team served Champagne (equivalent to a glass per day for people) to lab rats for six weeks and found the rodents showed an improvement in spatial working memory, thanks to improved cell-cycle regulation in the cortex and hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls learning and memory.

Lead researcher Dr. Giulia Corona said the tests show promise for humans as well. “Daily supplementation with a low-to-moderate doses of Champagne for six weeks led to an improvement in memory,” Corona told Wine Spectator, “indicating phenolic compounds in Champagne may interact directly with nerve cells, improve the communication between cells and encourage nerves that carry electrical signals in the brain to regenerate.”

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My whole wine world is shaken.

What does Syrah taste like? Are floral aromas pretty? Is a “typical Bordeaux” supposed to taste like medicine and ashes? I don’t know anymore.

I’ve been to a Brettanomyces tasting at UC Davis. I described it on Twitter as spending a day in a room full of laboratory-created stink cells. I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth for hours.

But the psychological impact … well, I may be scarred for life. As I said at the tasting, “It’s like learning that Darth Vader is my father.”

The seminar was ground-breaking for UC Davis, which previously always called Brettanomyces in wine a “spoilage organism.” This was the first time the university acknowledged that brett is an important part of some wines’ terroir. UC Davis tested 83 strains of Brett and 17 — more than 20% — were regarded as giving more positive impact than negative.

Brettanomyces under the microscope.

Brettanomyces under the microscope.

That’s a big deal. Wineries are always looking for some way to boost the deliciousness of their wine. Here is the world’s foremost university on teaching clean winemaking, suddenly saying that Brett — previously derided as the bad yeast that makes your wine smell like rotting corpses — might actually add the scent of roses.

And that’s why I’m wondering whether roses in my wine — something I used to treasure in Gewürztraminer and Riesling, and to enjoy hints of in Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo — are actually the smell of, well, spoilage.
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