Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Organization promotes hybrid winegrapes in Europe

Here is the group's website. Its name, PIWI, is an acronym for the German name for fungus-resistant grape varieties.

The problem in Europe is that the cherished vinifera winegrape varieties are losing out to fungal attacks. The grapes haven't been allowed to evolve fungal defenses and thus they require more and more chemical sprays to fight fungus. This has rendered many vineyards sterile--devoid of life. A shocking result, considering that in healthy soil there are thousands if not millions of beneficial fungii, insects, worms, etc. in a cubic foot of earth.

France (and to a lesser extent other wine countries) has been fighting hybrid grapes for over a century, as they were perceived as a threat to the classical vinifera varieties. But as attention is directed to this looming environmental catastrophe, those rigid countries are starting to open up to hybrids.

Hybrids are crosses of vinifera grapes (which have desirable flavors) with modern grape varieties (which can provide disease resistance, winter cold tolerance, and earlier ripening). It's classical crossing, not modern genetic engineering: The pollen from one grape is put on the egg of another grape, and the resulting seeds collected and sprouted, to see if a better variety has been created. The process takes many years, but has already given us a number of winegrapes which not only resist fungal disease, but also ripen earlier and make great wines.

So it is pretty big news when countries like France are starting to realize something must change.

In the U.S., vinifera don't have disease pressure in very dry climates, such as Walla Walla WA. But in many states, growing vinifera requires a heavy spray program. Even if the sprays are organic (those are more expensive), spraying still requires a lot of tractor fuel, so growing disease-resistant hybrid grapes is quite "Green."

Here is a quote from Mark Hart, of Mt. Ashwabay Vineyard and Orchard: "The writing is on the wall that these PIWI grapes will play a larger role in European viticulture as restrictions on pesticide use tighten."

It's a fascinating issue that bears close watching. Meanwhile, everyone should be trying hybrid (modern) winegrapes' wines frequently. If you haven't, you may be surprised at their variety and quality!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Life lessons from a master winemaker

Mike Martini, the third-generation winemaker of that name, speaks from his family's 80 years of experience when he offers the following life wisdom:

1. Great creations reflect the personality and strengths of the person who created them. Your strengths shine through when you’re passionate about something. Whether it’s your secret-recipe barbecue sauce or the way you play a favorite song on a guitar, your own style will make something not just great – but uniquely your own.
2. There are many different paths to the same goal. Not everyone approaches their work the same way – and that’s OK. As long as the goal is the same, keep an open mind about how to reach those goals, particularly when working with others.
3. You’ve got to learn to make your own mistakes. While you can learn from others’ mistakes, sometimes the knowledge that comes from making your own mistakes can be just as valuable. Don’t be afraid of mistakes; instead, see them as an opportunity to improve.
4. The most fundamental skill is patience. With winemaking, you get one shot a year at harvest, and just about any good wine is worth waiting for. Develop your patience as you would any other necessary skill and in the end, you’ll be happier with the result.
5. If our neighbors succeed, we all succeed. There’s a saying that you’re as only as strong as your weakest link, but if you flip that, you can also be as strong as your strongest link. Over time, the success of any one of us brings all of us up.
6. Perseverance pays off. There will be times in life when giving up seems like the best option – but really, it’s only the easiest option. Stick to your plan through the difficult times and you’ll be rewarded in the end.
7. To master anything, you need to learn everything that goes into it. When times do get tough, you need to rely on more than just surface-level information. A deep understanding will make it easier for you to think creatively, find solutions and excel.
8. If you’re passionate about what you do, the clock doesn’t matter. How many golfers check the clock while they’re on the course? How many surfers abandon the waves to go see what time it is? Not many. If you have a passion for something, it’s no longer work but a pursuit of doing what you love. If your job is something that you enjoy as much as a hobby, putting in the time and effort won’t ever feel like a burden.

(Quoted from a story at

PS-That is a little town in SW Missouri, where I spent summers sometimes as a youth. It has water that is so sulfurous it is undrinkable to some outsiders' palates, but it's a pretty little American town with a bandstand in the park. And they made "lemonade" from that water: Folks come from miles around to drink it and bathe in it, believing it is healthy. Here's a photo of the bandstand; it housed brass bands in the late 1800s.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Aussie Ouch!

Penfolds, Beringer, and Lindeman's are about to destroy up to two million cases of old wines held in the US because they can't sell them. Their owner, Treasury Wine Estates, saw a sharp dip in its stock price as a result of this news. Wow.

The article is here.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cooper Blooper

Makers of wine barrels have seen sales fall over 20%, due to a worldwide trend towards unoaked wines.

Here is an article about it.

But using barrels introduces many possible headaches: leaks, infections, high cost, need to throw away after a few years and buy new. I prefer to add the oak to the wine instead! That is also more "green" as it uses much less oak.

Of course, the ability of a "cooper" is truly amazing. The construction of wine barrels is a very complex process requiring a high level of skill.

How Climate Change's Extreme Weather Events Affect Grapes and Wine:

  We (Epona) joined the Porto Protocol a year or two ago; it's a collaboration of grapegrowers and winemakers, worldwide, who are focusi...