Happy Weekend—here’s your weekly dose of wine related news. A couple of highlights—California lifted its stay-at-home order which means that restaurants, bars, and wineries can now serve patrons outdoors. Mixed feelings on that one myself—just stay safe if you decide to partake. And did you hear about Bordeaux? Whoever says that the French are entrenched in tradition, well, they’re right, but that hasn’t stopped them from (finally) allowing a few new grape varieties into the Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Superior AOC appellations. We’ve got a good breakdown from Decanter about what those grapes are and why they’re so important to the region at this point in time.
If I have to recommend on Blog Post, it’ll be Donald Edward’s expose on Tim Atkin’s blog looking into the Aboriginal origins of some of Australia’s best-known wine regions.
And, selfishly, I have to add that if you haven’t read my piece for SevenFifty Daily on regenerative agriculture—what it means and how it can (and does) shape wine growing agriculture—make sure to check that one out. I’ll actually be leading a seminar on the topic in March so stay tuned.
Thanks as always for hanging out with me. Cheers.
SevenFifty Daily: Regenerative Viticulture: Trendy Buzz Word or Revolutionary Farming Philosophy?
A new certification program aims to define this carbon-capturing farming practice, which some believe could transform vineyards and combat climate change
Tom Gamble, the proprietor of Gamble Family Vineyards, says his family has been practicing regenerative agriculture at their 100-year old Napa Valley estate since they made the transition from farming and ranching to planting vineyards in the 1960s—long before the term even existed.
What makes the regenerative philosophy unique—and superior—to sustainable viticulture, Gamble says, is that “it requires one to consider the entire ecosystem under one’s stewardship—not just what happens on the piece of land directly farmed.” Like regenerative farming expert Robert Rodale, who’s credited with coining the term in the 1980s, Gamble believes that sustainability doesn’t go far enough, or in the words of Rodale, it’s “not a challenging enough goal.”
“Like Rodale, I’m also not against organics and biodynamics,” says Gamble. “Both approaches make us think more deeply about what we are doing. But regenerative agriculture takes the thinking a step further.” READ MORE…
Farm Online International: ‘Flash droughts’ new climate change effect
Australia is already feeling the devastating impacts of climate change, including the new phenomenon of “flash droughts”, a new report reveals. The Climate Council report warned that without immediate action, the impacts would become more frequent and severe. Australian National University professor and report author Will Steffen said the data showed many parts of the country were already influenced by climate change, as rain patterns are pushed further south by to the expanding subtropical zone. Rainfall in the southeast has fallen 12 per cent since the 1990s, while in the southwest it’s declined by up to 20 per cent since 1970.
The report also revealed meteorologists have begun using a new term – flash droughts – to describe the sudden onset and rapid intensification of drought conditions over a period of two to four weeks, which quickly rips moisture out of the upper lay of soil. Prof Steffen said a continuous period of high temperatures, low humidity, and windy and cloudless days could create flash drought conditions. “Acting together, these factors can quickly turn a manageable situation into severe drought conditions, and give farmers little time to prepare,” Prof Steffen said. READ MORE…
Eater: California Officially Lifts Its Curfew and Stay-at-Home Order
If counties allow it, outdoor dining can resume, and restaurants can stay open past 10 p.m.
Amid a chaotic vaccination rollout, still-high numbers of COVID-19 infections, a rising call to further tighten restrictions demanding mask use, and a frightening new variant of the virus that has experts warning of a new surge in infections, the state of California made a potentially counterintuitive announcement Monday: The regional stay-at-home orders, which were instituted for wide swaths of the state when coronavirus cases began their most recent uptick in early December, have been lifted. The move allows a number of activities, including outdoor dining, to resume in the state, after restaurants have struggled for months to sustain themselves solely through takeout and delivery business.
In a press release, California Department of Public Health director and state public health officer Dr. Tomás Aragón confirmed the stay-at-home lift, saying that “COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.” According to the DPH, counties across the state will now revert to the state’s color-coded reopening plan, which allows activities on a county-by-county basis dependent on that area’s coronavirus case count. The DPH also says that a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew announced for nonessential activities in November has been lifted, a move that would let restaurants allow dining to continue later in the evening. READ MORE…
Press Democrat: Sonoma County follows state and lifts monthlong pandemic lockdown
Although the coronavirus continues infecting Sonoma County residents at an alarming rate and more people in the community have died in January than any month in the pandemic, the county’s top public health official Monday loosened severe restrictions on businesses and public life.
In opting to lift the latest stay-home order in place since Dec. 12, Dr. Sundari Mase followed the lead of state health officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Earlier in the day, the governor lifted regional stay-home orders statewide, a move met with surprise and even dismay by some local health officers and medical professionals who questioned the action while the virus rages. READ MORE…
Harpers UK: Calls for UK trade to help crippled SA by freeing up tank space
Richard Bampfield MW has issued a call to the UK trade to support the beleaguered South African wine industry as producers continue to suffer crippling government restriction and oversupply issues.
Winemakers in the country suffered a rollercoaster of a year in 2020 (see timeline below), and are still currently legally banned from selling wine domestically.
Exports are now permitted once again. However, as the southern hemisphere heads into harvest, producers are facing the unenviable prospect of having to decide whether to throw away wine in order to make space in tank for the new year’s crush.
Although not a permanent solution, Bampfield is imploring buyers in the UK to help deplete stocks in South African wine tanks and reinvigorate the industry by encouraging retailers to reorder. READ MORE…
Nasdaq: South Africa’s wine industry heads to court to fight alcohol ban
South Africa’s wine industry said on Wednesday it had asked a court to allow the main wine-growing region to exempt itself from a ban on the sale of alcohol that was reinstated last month to ease pressure on hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Africa’s wine industry said on Wednesday it had asked a court to allow the main wine-growing region to exempt itself from a ban on the sale of alcohol that was reinstated last month to ease pressure on hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. VinPro, which represents wine producers and cellars, said it had approached the Western Cape High Court to seek interim relief from the ban which would allow the premier of the Western Cape to regulate the sale of liquor in the province.
“Although the liquor ban is intended to ensure that hospitals have the capacity to treat those who become ill, the pandemic affects provinces differently at any given point in time and capacity requirements in hospitals will therefore differ across the country,” the trade body said in a statement.
The case is expected to be heard in court next week. READ MORE…
Wine-Searcher: The Final Insult for South African Wine
Covid is challenging for most countries’ wine industries, but South Africa has to fight its own government as well.
Under normal circumstances, South Africa‘s winemakers would be celebrating a mercifully uneventful growing season. After years of crippling drought, winter 2020 saw rainfall levels return to normal, with dams full and expectations high.
“Flowering appeared to be uniform and unaffected by any radical weather spikes. Veraison has been steady, relatively compact and first signs are that there is a healthy 2021 crop out there in the vineyards,” says Mike Ratcliffe, managing partner at Vilafonté winery in Stellenbosch.
Yet the talk in South Africa at the moment isn’t about vintage quality, it’s about global inventory levels and selling off premium Chardonnay for fruit juice (Passi Granor is the local favorite). In December, South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa announced a third domestic ban on sales of alcohol in the nation. This wasn’t so much a kick in the teeth for South Africa’s struggling wine industry, as a machete in the rib cage. READ MORE…
VinePair: What Spirits Producers Need From the Biden Administration, at Home and Abroad
With the new administration still unpacking its boxes in the White House, the world is watching for signs of how things might change in Washington. And in southeastern France, the interest runs particularly high.
“The Cognac sector called on French and European authorities to contact the new U.S. administration as soon as possible on this subject,” says Laurine Caute, spokesperson for the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), a trade organization representing Cognac producers. “Cognac alone generates 60,000 jobs in France. Everyone needs to return to its senses and end the dispute.”
That dispute? Just before New Year’s Eve, on Dec. 30, the outgoing U.S. administration announced that it would impose a new tariff of 25 percent on imports of Cognac, part of an ongoing trade war on alcoholic beverages that has developed over the past three years. READ MORE…
The Drinks Business: INAO Approves Six New Grapes in Bordeaux
The Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité (INAO) has formally approved the use of six new varieties in Bordeaux that were first proposed in 2019.
The French agricultural governing body has approved the use of four new red varieties – Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan and Touriga Nacional – and two white varieties – Alvarinho and Liliorila – with plantings authorised for this year.
The varieties were put forward by winemakers in the Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur AOCs (not Pauillac, Margaux etc) in the summer of 2019 as a potential means of dealing with different growth cycles and ripening periods in the face of a changing climate. READ MORE…
Decanter: Meet the ‘new’ Bordeaux wine grapes
Do you know your Marselan from your Castets? Six ‘new’ grape varieties have now been approved for use in Bordeaux wines and the first plantings are expected in 2021.
Six new grape varieties chosen to help Bordeaux wine producers adapt to climate change have been approved by France’s national appellation body, INAO. Bordeaux’s wine council, the CIVB, announced the news in January 2021 and said the first plantings were expected this year. There are four new red varieties – Touriga Nacional, Marselan, Castets, Arinarnoa – and two white grapes, Alvarinho and Liliorila. A seventh proposed variety, Petit Manseng, didn’t make the final list.
Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Supérieur producers applied to use the varieties in 2019, for their potential to mitigate the impact of climate change without diluting the identity of Bordeaux wines. Potentially useful characteristics among the grapes listed below include naturally high acidity, structure or strong aromatics, as well as good resistance against specific vine diseases, from mildew to grey rot. READ MORE…
Recordnet: California to impose first statewide rules for winery wastewater, marking new era
Hundreds of California wineries will for the first time be governed by statewide wastewater processing rules, a change from the long-held, regional approach that could increase production costs for wineries and protections for waterways while providing consistency for vintners across the state.
The move toward a statewide regulatory framework, a five-year effort championed by industry leaders, was finalized this week by the State Water Resources Control Board, which approved an order setting up guidelines for wastewater processing at most of the more than 3,600 bonded wineries in the state.
The new order promises to bring at least 1,500 of those wineries into a regulatory framework for wastewater disposal for the first time, leading to extra compliance costs. But it also provides flexibility for how, and when, those wineries will be subject to rules meant to safeguard waterways and groundwater from harmful contaminants, including excess nitrogen, salinity and other compounds that deplete oxygen levels. READ MORE…
Blogs Worth a Read
Taken from the list of Blogs I follow regularly, here are just a few posts from this past week I think are worth a read. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions of blogs to follow or want your blog included on that list.
Tim Atkin: Decolonising A Wine List
In June last year Rio Tinto destroyed a cave in the Jukaan gorge in Western Australia. With it went 46,000 years of Aboriginal history and one of the most sacred sites of the Kuramma people. A little later that year I was drinking a bottle of Steve Pannell’s McDonald Vineyard Grenache from McLaren Vale, and thinking about other Aboriginal names that might also be considered to have undergone a kind of erasure.
Australia and her wines hold a special place in my heart. I’ve visited twice and have a trove of great memories. Unfortunately, Australia and her wine industry are built on a foundation of colonial history and the attendant genocide that accompanied it.
When I first visited ten years ago I don’t recall there being much dialogue about land stewardship nor engagement with the Aboriginal peoples on whose ancestral lands the vineyards I was visiting were located.
Things had changed by the time of my second visit three years ago. READ MORE…
The Wine Gourd: What are the Australian and Spanish grape-growers doing?
Commenting on the effects of climate change in the wine industry, Jancis Robinson (What price terroir in an era of climate change?) recently commented:
Here then is the dilemma which will face Bordeaux châteaux in the next 20 to 50 years. Might they move to a cooler region and plant their present famous varieties, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc and Merlot, or, perhaps stay put in Bordeaux and grow more heat-tolerant varieties such as Syrah and Grenache?
The latter option is being actively pursued in several parts of the world, notably Australia, where the climate is now notably drier and hotter than it was when I grew up there, last century.* Robinson continues:
For presently cooler regions, such as Burgundy, or Central Otago in New Zealand, it is still possible to choose more adapted varieties as warming occurs … However, for regions already enjoying quality reputations with more heat-tolerant varieties, such as Australia’s Barossa Valley with Shiraz, the situation is much more difficult as there are few well-known varieties adapted to hotter climates.
There are clearly two topics here: what the Australians (and others) are already doing, and what the Europeans might start doing. In this regard, the Australians are trying Spanish, Portugese and Italian grape varieties, whether well-known or not, but the Spanish seem to be trying French varieties! READ MORE…
Deborah Parker Wong: Genetic Diversity Enhances Human Olfaction
The sequence of 400 or so genes that control human olfaction is considered by geneticists to be unusually diverse among animal species. Until recently, researchers thought that any deviations resulting from that diversity led to a reduction in perception, but the results of a new sensory study have revealed otherwise.
Researchers from biopharmaceutical company deCODE Genetics conducted a two-year study on the olfactory genes of almost 12,000 people in Iceland—the largest of its kind. Based on the Sniffin’ Sticks test they administered, which involved identifying everyday smells, they found that genetic diversity does allow for enhanced olfactory ability—specifically increased odor perception and identification. READ MORE…
BCWineTrends: Terraview Manages a Vineyard through Climate Change
recision viticulture is becoming an essential element in managing a vineyard through Climate Change. As one of the emerging leaders, Terraview focuses on blending proven traditional vineyard practices with its leading-edge machine learning and AI to help winemakers effectively transition towards sustainability. They are now extending their platform into British Columbia.
Simon Cairns, Chief Revenue Officer at Terraview, believes that a critical ingredient in the art of winemaking now includes data. At a time when wineries are strategizing how to stabilize, surprise, and then thrive through climate change, a global pandemic, and large-scale wildfires, he brings a refreshingly optimistic outlook to the conversation.
Cairns is a staunch advocate for sustainability as an integral part of the day-to-day vineyard operations. In this interview, we get to know what makes him tick and hear his take on some of the most pressing issues for winemakers. READ MORE…
Jamie Goode: Deep roots steady Argentina’s small producers amid economic uncertainty
The vineyards of De Angeles and Finca Suarez sit on fabled terrain, surrounded by world famous wineries at the elevated foot of the Andes in Argentina’s Mendoza region. Nineteenth century European migrants, most prominently the French agronomist Michel Aimé Pouget, brought to this region knowledge of modern winemaking as well as French and Italian vine cuttings. Between 1847 and 1939 some seven million European migrants moved to Argentina. Most of the big future names in Argentinian wine were amongst them. Drawn to the underpopulated, wide-open country about Mendoza they set up small farmsteads or Fincas and planted vines in land that reminded them of home. READ MORE…
These are some press releases I received this week that I actually thought were interesting…enjoy!
Wine Intelligence: Generation treaters’ lead changing wine category behavior in the US
This new segment, Generation Treaters, are largely the educated, urban Millennials, working in the new economy and starting to settle down and raise families. They are transitioning their drinking habits from primarily on-premise socializing and hedonic nights out, into a more everyday, at home existence. READ MORE…
The Institute of the Masters of Wine: MW students Charles Foley, Xin Huang and Nicholas Poletto receive Wine Scholar Guild Masters of Wine scholarship
The Institute of Masters of Wine is pleased to announce that three Master of Wine students have been selected for the 2021 Wine Scholar Guild scholarship. Charles Foley, Xin Huang and Nicholas Poletto have each been awarded full tuition for, respectively, the Italian Wine Scholar, Spanish Wine Scholar and French Wine Scholar programme in distance-learning format.
Wine Scholar Guild (WSG) is the leading provider of specialised certification programmes on the wines of France, Italy and Spain. Its study and certification programmes offer wine industry members and committed students of wine the opportunity to specialise in the wine country of their choice. These advanced wine education programme provide current, accurate and in-depth information on the wines of France, Italy and Spain.
All three winners are stage two students on the study programme. READ MORE…
SVVGA: Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance Announces 2021 Board Leadership
The Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance (SVVGA), a non-profit trade association representing more than 100 wineries and 140 grape growers in Sonoma Valley, announced new leadership to the marketing organization’s board of directors.
Prema Behan, General Manager of Three Sticks Wines and Head High Wines remains as President of the board of directors for a third and final year. Tom Rouse of Landmark Vineyards will be serving as Vice-President, former Vice President Erich Bradley of Pangloss Cellars and Repris has been elected as Secretary, and Steven Sangiacomo of Sangiacomo Family Vineyards and Anne Moller-Racke of Blue Farm Wines and Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards & Winery have been appointed as Co-Treasurers. READ MORE…
Dysfunctional Family Winery: Dysfunctional Family Winery launches in Sonoma
Sonoma-based Dysfunctional Family Winery ― it’s a name, not a judgment ― launched its online presence in 2020, and its new boutique winery is scheduled to open in late 2021. The winery is located in Carneros, just south of Scribe and Gundlach Bundschu.
The winery, ranch and vineyard will be open to the public by reservation only. In addition to winery events, options will include introductions to farming, chickens and eggs, bees and honey, olives and oil, business workshops, native grassland and creek restoration seminars, and more. READ MORE…
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