All posts filed under: Trends

In hot pursuit of terroir

What are your beliefs about terroir? Researchers across multiple disciplines find some common ground at the 2016 Terroir Congress XI.

Go with the flow

To filter or not to filter? You’ll find winemakers in both camps. But when filtration is called for, cross flow technology is proving to be the best case scenario for leaving wine sitting pretty. Although there are scenarios where older filtration technologies like hardwood cellulose pads or diatomaceous earth (DE) are better suited to the task, the minimal risks and considerable rewards of state-of-the-art cross flow filtration are readily apparent in the cellar and in the glass. “There’s a time and place for unfiltered wines,” says Gary Sitton, newly-appointed winemaker at Ravenswood Winery (Sonoma, Calif.), founded by winemaker Joel Peterson in 1976. “We view filtration as a tool that lets us guarantee the quality of our Vintners Blend and County Tier wines.” In an effort to work more sustainably in the cellar when filtration is necessary, winemakers like Sitton have found alternatives to crystalline silica-laden DE filtration, which requires workers to wear protective gear and to dispose of hazardous waste. “From a quality perspective, cross flow has let us move away from the use of pads …

Your glass is half full

Minerality — Without question the most controversial and elusive of wine descriptors.   This comes as no surprise given that the exact definition of what minerals themselves are is still under debate and has been expanded as an element or compound formed through “biogeochemical” processes.  Nutrient or dietary minerals—single elements like manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, copper and zinc—are minor components of red wine. White wines have small amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. A serving of wine can also contain several milligrams of halite, the mineral salt (sodium chloride is the chemical name for salt), and we can accurately describe its taste in wine as saline minerality. Knowing that wine contains minerals, why is describing minerality so problematic?  Largely because aside from halite, nutrient minerals are essentially tasteless. Only when they’re in a highly concentrated liquid form, for example as a dietary supplement, do they taste offensively bitter. But the elusive flavors we describe as “mineral” in some wines can be readily attributed to specific compounds. The two of the most common …

Customizing for the curated economy

Just a few short years ago, integration was one of the biggest hurdles facing wineries of all sizes as they worked to combine mobile point-of-sale (POS) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems with a host of disparate back-end systems. The industry’s software as a service (SaaS) providers have responded by offering robust bundles of subscription services that address every aspect of winery management and sales cycles. While challenges still exist, particularly for capturing disparate social media channels and CRM, wineries of all sizes have effectively closed the gap on integration. Today, customization has emerged as the newest challenge confronting both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) wine sales. According to Dave Dobrow, vice president of business development and marketing for Copper Peak Logistics, who recently spoke on a panel addressing customization at the Ship Compliant 2016 conference, wineries are doing a good job embracing the curated economy. “The subscription food business has gone berserk and wineries are looking to copy that success offering wine club shipments that are specifically curated to add value and recreate the …

Sparkling Toast to a Still Future

The Los Carneros was pioneered twenty five years ago by sparkling wine producers who brought cache and joie de vivre to what is, in effect, the gateway to Napa and Sonoma Valley wine country. 2016 has seen a flurry of expansion there by still wine producers who are confident there’s a lifestyle proposition that goes hand in hand with selling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A veritable force in raising the visibility of Carneros Pinot Noir, Anne Moller-Racke, President and Winegrower of Donum Estate, is spearheading an expansion that includes the construction of a new production winery and tasting room scheduled for completion in 2017. Once a dairy farm, the estate was planted to vines in 1985, came under Moller-Racke’s supervision in 2001 as Donum and was purchased by Danish investors in 2011. “Site is quality; clone is personality,” said Moller-Racke as we tasted current release 2012s sourced from the winery’s four vineyards: Donum and Lawler in Carneros, Winside in Russian River and Angel Camp in Anderson Valley. East Slope ($90), a Calera clone on the …

The Dawn of Agtech

Agricultural drones may be creating plenty of buzz, but their terrestrial cousins — the robots — are poised to make their commercial debut. Next year promises to be the year of the agricultural robot. With the altruistic vision of creating a sustainable society where future generations are free from worry about food security and safety, the world’s first robotic lettuce farm will go into production in 2017. Kyoto, Japan-based company, Spread, has retooled an indoor vertical lettuce plant where robots will plant, water, harvest and trim up to 30,000 heads of lettuce every day. The automated plant will reduce labor costs by 50%, cut energy use by 30% and recycle 98% of the water needed to grow the crops. The company has plans to build similar robot farms to grow staple crops and plant protein around the world. Growing lettuce in a greenhouse is a far cry from managing a vineyard, but from apple harvesting robots that can carry bins of fruit weighing half a ton, to grapevine pruning rovers that make surgical cuts, several …

Bitterness: Examing the chemistry behind the taste sensation

Humans are particularly sensitive to bitterness. Thanks to a small but novel family of 30 genes, we can perceive thousands of bitter compounds. Our ability to discern bitter tastes evolved as a way to keep our early ancestors from eating poisonous plants. Bitterness is a taste sensation that we experience when monomeric flavonoid phenols, the compounds that are responsible for bitterness in wine, reach the bitter taste receptor cells on our taste buds. As the receptors send electrochemical signals to the gustatory cortex, we experience bitterness. To what degree determines whether we consider a wine to be merely complex, flawed or faulted. Read the entire article here –Bitterness June July 2016  

The Minor Components of Wine

Wine is, for the most part, water and ethanol which in turn become vehicles for the minor components that are largely responsible for aroma, taste and texture. Through the efforts of researchers at the University of California at Davis and the University of Burgundy in Dijon, our understanding of wine’s biochemical landscape is expanding rapidly. Research focusing on metabolites known as metabolomics, the scientific study of the set of metabolites present within an organism, cell or tissue, has now validated the concept of terroir by showing that every vineyard and every wine has a fingerprint that, like our own, is utterly unique. At the metabolic level, wine contains a record of how it was made—a fingerprint that points to the origin of the oak and “memories” of sulfur dioxide additions that were made to the must. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Beyond general references to tannins, acids and sugars, the lesser elements of wine are usually left to their own devices. Knowing what constitutes those components and how they collectively contribute to wine …

UV Tank Sanitation a Viable Conservation Strategy

A new method for sanitizing stainless steel tanks and barrels using ultraviolet light is finding a receptive audience in California. The BlueMorph technology has been in development for four years and is coming to market at an opportune time. According to founding partner Alex Farren, a biochemist and toxicologist, the method known as Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) uses little or no water, no chemicals and only takes 30 seconds to install. Depending upon size, tanks can be sanitized in less than 30 minutes.

Ozone Sanitation Moves from Winery to Vineyard

In 1997 ozone was approved by the EPA as a safe and effective method of general sanitation for wineries. With the commitment to sustainable farming practices on the rise, it’s now proving to be equally useful in the vineyard. Ozone, or O3, a bluish unstable gas that smells like the air charged by lightning during a thunderstorm, is generated when oxygen and electricity are combined. At high enough concentrations, ozone-charged water becomes a chemical-free alternative to pesticides. Third-generation grower John Bacigalupi farms using many of the traditional methods he learned from his father and grandfather. Last year the Bacigalupi family marked its 50th year growing grapes in Russian River Valley and, in his efforts to be a better steward to the land, Bacigalupi continually adapts his farming practices to keep pace with the way pests and disease respond to chemical treatments.  Read the article here 2015JA_PARKERWONG_Ozone