Wine Articles VI
|Wine Articles VI|
Many Questions, Few Direct Answers at Biodynamic Boot Camp
by Lisa Shara Hall ,Wine Business -25 August
Montinore Vineyards in
Marchesi began the day with an introduction to Montinore and his own philosophy. He said, “My Italian grandfather taught me to make wine by the phases of the moon, as he had learned. So the leap to biodynamics for me was not that great. The biggest challenge was size.” He continued, “We have
Armenier next led the group outside and said he wanted questions, rather that just speaking himself. Someone asked what to do first to convert vineyards to being biodynamic.
Armenier was reluctant to discuss exact procedures but said that there are nine preparations that Rudolf Steiner discusses that must be applied to the vineyard. The year begins after harvest, and that’s when the first prep is sprayed on the canopy. The nine preps must be used, but some consultants (not Armenier) make up their own preps and add them to the cycle.
Armenier was adamant that biodynamics is not a form of homeopathy, except when dealing with pests in the vineyards, such as gophers and deer.
When asked questions, Armenier gave almost poetic, indirect answers and kept talking about astrality.
Asked why a cow horn is buried, he went into a discussion of the animal’s digestive system and how the horn figures into that, saying the horn helps keep the cow healthy. He said that biodynamics included a lot of “astrality,” and that that regulated the growth of the farm.
When eyebrows were raised at Armenier’s answer, Marchesi stepped in and tried to make it more understandable. He said, “You have to look at the energized components. They impact the soil and change the energy field of the plant.” He went on, “The preps impact the energy force.” He added that a few of the preps are made on site, but many of them are purchased. He said, “We have a goal of making them all ourselves.”
Armenier added that
Someone asked if one could measure progress in a plant. Armenier responded, “You can’t measure life, there is not enough science yet.” The questioner then asked if biodynamics was a belief system. “No!” he said. And continued, “Then science is a belief system.” And then he started to quote studies that have been done.
Marchesi stepped in again and said that you could measure some things.
The group walked in the vineyard and saw the equipment Marchesi’s team developed to meet their needs, such as a manure spreader with a brush on the back of the truck, and a motor that drives three tubs to spin in clockwise and then counter clockwise rotations to create a vortex, necessary for the nine preps before they are sprayed in the vineyard.
Marchesi said corn horns can be reused 4 to 5 times. He also said that this cool and wet vintage without a lot of heat has been challenging and that they have sprayed stylet oil on the vineyard to suppress mildew.
Katherine Cole, who writes about
Flextanks: tanks that breathe
WINEMAKERS have been maturing their vino in oak barrels for centuries.
But that is all about to change thanks to a revolutionary wine-maturation tank, or "vessel", made in
Mechanical engineer and former
A special polymer allows a controlled amount of oxygen into the tank, similar to how oxygen enters oak barrels.
Flextank tanks are able to impart flavours, tannins and aromas, and according to the makers, are far more cost effective than oak barrels.
About 625 wineries across
More than 200 of these are in
Tony Lee, of Foxeys Hangout Winery on the
"I was interested in the concept and the process so I bought some to experiment with and I've been very happy with the results," Tony said.
"If you want to make red wine with some oak flavour more cheaply than buying new barrels you can make better wine using Flextanks and oak staves."
Tony said there were numerous benefits to using the tanks, including the ability to clean them unlike oak barrels. They also allow some varieties of wine to breathe without an added oak flavour.
"I can clean (them) like I can clean a stainless-steel tank. I can bring it back to being perfectly clean, but they still breathe," he said.
"I don't want an oak flavour in sparkling
"I tend to prefer the flavour profile from (the tanks) for the sparkling
Tony has eight 1000-litre Flextank vessels which are maturing merlot, pinot noir and vermentino varieties.
Flextank managing director Peter Steer said the business, which is based in Abbotsford in
"We are taking on the best coopers in the world and beating them at their own game," Peter said.
"Oak barrels are romantic but they are expensive, impractical and unsustainable."
Last month, wine industry research on Flextank vessels was presented at the Australian Technical Wine Industry Conference in
The three-year $1.8 million research program took place at Tamar Ridge Estate Kayena Vineyard and Winery, north of Launceston in
It was matured in a number of Flextanks and the same parcel of wine was also matured in French oak barrels.
Both wines were monitored during the maturation process.
The results of the trial validated Flextank's claims that their vessels could mature wine in a notable way.
"The key differences between Flextank barrels and the oak is the maturation is more reproducible in the Flextank barrels," Australian Wine Research Institute senior research scientist Dr Bob Dambergs said.
"There's less variation from one container to another compared with barrels.
"The wine matured in the same way as the oak barrels but with less variation."
Flextank has customers in
"The economic situation makes this precisely the right time to be bringing this technology to the
"The response from winemakers was exactly the same as in
Flextank accounts for almost 5 per cent of the Australian market and its share is growing at between 15 and 30 per cent a year.
Sweetness codes could be a feature of every bottle of
Rémy Gresser, a biodynamic producer who farms 11ha (hectares) in Andlau, who is now president of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d'Alsace (CIVA), already uses a sweetness code for his own wines.
He told decanter.com the labelling system for the region is 'incomplete' at present, and that he plans to introduce a code to indicate a wine's sweetness on a one-to-five scale.
Once this is established, he will invite producers to use the terms sec, demi-sec, moelleux and liquoreux on their labels, too.
He said: 'LabeIs represent a fantastic opportunity to communicate with consumers and it is a pity not to make better use of this platform.'
Gresser added, 'Most industries take full advantage of their packaging. It's all about making the wines accessible.
'The industry needs to come to an agreement on a common system adopted by every producer. Admittedly, the system is not an absolute science, but it does give an indication of style.'
But Gresser countered this: 'The vast majority of consumers buy wine for immediate consumption, so I really don't see this as an issue.'
'Crop Forcing' Can Delay Winegrape Ripening
Fresno Grape Day highlights research to improve winegrape quality
by Jon Tourney, Wines and Vines
Berries on crop forced Cabernet Sauvignon vines remain small and green with several weeks of delayed ripening, in contrast with control vines in same row with normal ripening berries that have nearly completed veraison. Photos taken
At this week’s Grape Day at California State University Fresno (CSUF), associate professor and researcher Dr. Sanliang Gu discussed crop forcing trials begun in
Vines manipulated for crop forcing included grape clusters that had still not completed bloom, and others with small green berries more typical of springtime growth. In comparison, control vines in the same row left to grow normally with the season had grape clusters that had nearly completed veraison, more standard for August in
CSUF’s biennial Grape Day was presented by the Department of Viticulture and Enology and the Viticulture and Enology Research Center (VERC) and held at the VERC facility and campus vineyards. A research focus at CSUF has been to test and evaluate vineyard production and management methods in order to improve grape and wine quality, with the goal of increasing prices paid for
High temperatures during the growing season -- particularly during grape ripening -- can have negative effects on grape quality, such as lower levels of acids, pigments, tannins and phenolics. Daily temperature maximums in
Gu noted that crop forcing has been tried in other parts of the world, including
Crop forcing (CF) is possible in grapes due to the compound buds of grapevines. In Gu’s field trials, normal vine growth is allowed to occur during the spring growing season with cluster development through bloom. The primary shoots are then hedged to six nodes, and all clusters, laterals and leaves are removed from the entire vine, essentially stripping it bare. The buds then produce new growth, and Gu said budbreak occurs again about one week after vine stripping. “What we’re doing is borrowing the crop from next year to start it sooner,” he explained.
In 2009, CF/vine stripping was done between two and 10 weeks post-bloom in each trial. Vine stripping on Cabernet was done in May, June and July. The May CF clusters ripened in September, still too early for significant quality improvement. The July CF clusters did not ripen soon enough, with harvest the first week in December: A freeze occurred Dec. 8. However, the June CF clusters (four to six weeks post-bloom) ripened from October to early November, which was just about right for that season.
Fruit from the forced crop had smaller berries, lower pH, higher TA and higher anthocyanin and phenolic content when compared to normal fruit at the same Brix level. CF vines were less vigorous, and leaves on CF vines were more active photosynthetically later in the growing season. Overall yields were generally lower for CF vines.
Gu said, “We’re now trying to get the timing of vine stripping perfected for optimum improvement in quality and yield.” In the 2010 trials, intervals between vine stripping dates have been narrowed and range from seven to 10 days. Gu is also experimenting with hedging some vines down to four and two nodes per cane, in addition to six nodes. Although the long-term health of CF vines will be studied as trials continue in future years, to date Gu said, “I’ve seen no difference in vine health, no diseases or nutritional deficiencies, between control and CF vines.”
One issue with vine stripping, now being done by hand in field trials, is that it is labor intensive and may not be economically feasible for large vineyards. However, Gu indicated that the process could possibly be mechanized in the future. Gu emphasized, “We only started to look at this in 2009, so we’re not recommending you go back to your vineyard and try it.” The research project is funded by the CSU Agricultural Research Institute Grants Program, San Joaquin Wine Co., and Bronco Wine Co.
Other vineyard research projects highlighted at Grape Day included: the effects of mechanized canopy management and timing of reduced deficit irrigation on Shiraz, the performance of Cabernet Sauvignon under conventional and mechanical management, mechanized canopy management for sustained fruitfulness of Pinot Grigio and alternative methods of weed control suitable for organic vineyards. Grape Day activities also included tours led by professor and winemaster Ken Fugelsang of the 9,000-case annual production Fresno State Winery, where students are producing award-winning wines for commercial sales, and tours and tasting activities in the sensory lab with Dr. Susan Rodriguez.
French appellation overhaul targets consumers
Earlier this month, the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (INAO) put forward the changes in the hope of showcasing its lower-cost wines for the everyday consumer.
One of the two amended Burgundy appellations involves the re-naming of AOC Bourgogne Grand Ordinaire, an appellation that hopes to become Côteaux Bourguignons, a term which will feature at the bottom of the classification system in
Meanwhile, bottles labelled in the future as Bourgogne Côte d'Or will be lower-cost wines from the Côtes de Nuits and Côtes de Beaune, and will replace wines that are currently labelled as
In the Rhône, the Côteaux de Tricastin appellation (
The INAO hopes that this amendment will lead consumers away from the tainted view of the Tricastin village name which has become tarnished due to the village’s proximity to the Tricastin nuclear power plant which leaked uranium in 2008, an event which sparked a nosedive in demand of wine from the region.
With a desire to simplify its wines for consumers, Rasteau Côtes du Rhône Villages will soon shorten its name to Rasteau, an amendment that is due to start with wines from the 2009 vintage.
Up until now, Rasteau AOC was only permissible for the region’s fortified wines, but the revision in AOC names will extend the designation to include Rasteau light red wines too.
Assuming there are no objections, the AOC revisions should approved by the French Ministry of Agriculture later this year.
Highest-Priced Wines Grow Fastest
by Jim Gordon - Wines and Vines
Retail sales of $20-plus bottles up 22% compared to year ago
Wine bottles priced at $20 and higher are selling better than they did one year ago.
With $137.8 million in sales and an average retail price of $26.38, high-end wines seemed like the best business to be in. The price per case in this category averaged $317, by far the highest in all categories measured by the SymphonyIRI Group (SIRI). Yet this success had a cost: The average bottle price came down by $1 during that period, a drop that correlates with the increased sales. The relative change in sales volume, 26.6%, confirmed that lower prices were related to more bottles moving.
"What this is screaming at me is that premium wine is totally healthy right now off-premise," said Doug Goodwin, VP of client insights for beer, wine and spirits at SIRI.
Top 20 high-priced brands
At Wines & Vines' request, Symphony IRI charted the top 20 brands -- both domestic and imported -- in the $20-plus range to identify the individual leaders. This list looks very different from the top 20 brands over all price ranges, which is dominated by multiple wines from E. & J. Gallo, The Wine Group, Trinchero Family, Constellation Wines U.S. and others. Thirteen of the top 20 brands at $20-plus come from independently owned
Only two imported brands made the list, and one of them, Santa Margherita from
Rombauer Vineyards of Napa Valley was a close No. 3. Also a Chardonnay-oriented winery, Rombauer didn't have to push as hard. Its sales increased by 31.8%, while the average price dropped only a nickel.
The red and green arrows on our table demonstrate the correlation between lowered price and increased sales growth. It is consistent, but not universal. The price of both Cakebread Cellars and Trefethen Family Vineyards wines went up, while their sales managed to go up, too.
Overall varietal leaders
As usual in mid-summer, overall wine sales reported in August for the most recent four-week period dipped below those from the previous four-week period, but the total sales of domestic table wines still surpassed the same period last year by 5.6%. Domestic-produced table wine sales in major food and drug stores tallied just under $315 million, and accounted for 77.9% of the total off-premise wine market (against imports) as measured by the SIRI.
Looking at the longer measure of 52-week cumulative sales, domestic table wines were up a healthy 5.9% in dollars over the previous 52-weeks. The total was nearly $4.3 billion on a volume of more than 64 million 9-liter cases. More bottles were sold, and at a higher average price than in the previous period. The average 750ml bottle was $5.50, up 10 cents, and volume was up 4%.
Two of the four fastest-growing varietals over 52 weeks will be no surprise to winery and distributor sales people: Pinot Noir at all price levels grew at 10.5% in dollars and continued the rise that started when the Pinot-praising movie "Sideways" won an Oscar in 2004; and Riesling grew 7.1% in dollars, confirming another long-awaited but now apparently lasting trend.
Both Pinot Noir and Riesling are generally lighter style wines. But the other two fastest growing varietals are full-bodied, and their recent growth is less well appreciated. Meritage and other red varietal blends placed No.
Figures quoted in this article come from the Chicago-based SymphonyIRI Group, which uses scan data to provide market information and services to industries including consumer packaged goods, retail and health care. Wines & Vines provides further analysis and reporting on the results.
Universities expect surge in part-time studying with potential relaxing of student loan rules
Landmark review expected to recommend extension of loans to cover upfront fees for part-time students
Universities such as Birkbeck, which specialises in part-time evening degree courses, are experiencing a rise in applications from school leavers.
Thousands of school leavers facing disappointment in this week's clearing crisis are being warned they may have to abandon the dream of going away to university, and instead get a degree by staying at home, getting a job and studying part-time.
A landmark review into university finance is expected to recommend that student loans, now only available to those on full-time courses, are extended to part-time students to cover the fees they must currently pay upfront, the Guardian has learned. Such a move would pave the way for a major change in the way university education is viewed, with a three-year stint in a new city no longer a given.
With up to 170,000 A-level students expected to miss out in the scramble for university places after results are published on Thursday, there has already been a surge in the number of school leavers applying for part-time study at the Open University, which offers distance learning, and Birkbeck University in London, which specialises in evening degree courses.
Universities are limited by a strict cap on the number of full-time places they can offer, and face fines if they over-recruit. But there is no such limit to the numbers they can take on for part-time study.
Senior university leaders today called on students to consider all options if they fail to get in, warning that the crisis is set to continue as funding cuts bite.
One advantage of part-time study is that because fees are paid upfront, students do not leave with huge debts. The Browne review, which will report in October, is understood to be poised to suggest students should be eligible for loans to cover fees, while continuing to pay their own maintenance costs.
Patrick McGhee, vice-chancellor of the
"Individuals now have to be flexible in terms of where they study and to some extent exactly what they study," he said, warning that the situation next year is likely to be even tougher. "If part-time is the option that emerges, it's an option people should look at seriously."
The vice-chancellor of
"This sea of students has had the build-up to going to university rammed down their throats for the last five years and all of a sudden a large number of them aren't going to make it," he said.
The Open University has seen a 21% increase in the number of 18-year-olds reserving places on degree courses in the last year, and a quarter of its new undergraduates are now aged under 25.
Two years ago Birkbeck had no applications from 18- and 19-year-olds; this year it had 154, and young people represent a higher proportion of applicants than ever before.
The total number of applications for part-time undergraduate degrees was up 9% over the last year, but among the under 25s the increase was 22%.
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
Last Updated (Saturday, 18 September 2010 14:50)