All posts filed under: winegrowing

Sicily’s native grapes and the dawn of Italian wine culture

Archeologists researching the dietary habits of prehistoric Sicilians have discovered that wine was on the menu 6,500 years ago. The discovery made by a team of archeologists led by Dr. Davide Tanasi of the University of South Florida pushes the timeline for established viticulture in Italy back from the latter part of the Bronze Age (1600–1100 BCE) to the Copper Age (4500–3500 BCE). While excavating a site on Monte Kronio in the Agrigento province in southwest Sicily, Tanasi found tartaric acid and its salts both of which are natural by-products of winemaking on unglazed pottery dating to 4500 BCE. It’s believed that the Mycenaean Greeks established viticulture in Sicily during the Bronze Age but the discovery has unearthed a much earlier point of origin for Italian wine culture. Native varieties being trailed in the experimental vineyards at Donnafugata’s estate in Contessa Entellina. PHOTO: DEBORAH PARKER WONG As the history of winegrowing in Sicily continues to evolve so do the efforts of forward-thinking producers who are working to preserve the island’s native grape varieties. Sicily’s indigenous …

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 …

Franzia’s Unified Keynote Speaks to Past, Present and Future

In a rare and much anticipated public address, Bronco CEO Fred Franzia delivered the January 26 keynote speech and, with it, set the stage for the 2016 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento. Franzia paid homage to the founding figures of the California wine industry, including his uncle Ernest Gallo, with a look back at their history and, with his characteristic candor, tackled some of the trade’s most relevant topics. As the nation’s largest vineyard owner — Bronco Wine owns in excess of 40,000 acres — he was quick to count grape growers among the most interesting and opinionated people he deals with in the industry. He credited Central Valley growers with teaching him much through the many hours he’s spent in their company over the last 50 years. Expressing regard for his peers and fellow industry icons Robert Mondavi and Jess Jackson, Franzia pointed to their similar practice of always tasting blind and their keen ability to critique what they tasted. On the subject of industry growth, Franzia was at once optimistic and …