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Archive for April 11, 2013

Wine regions may lose up to 73% of land by 2050

Thursday 11 April 2013 by Jane Anson

 A new study released this week by researchers at the University of Texas suggests that areas suitable for viticulture will decrease between 25% and 73% in major wine producing regions by 2050 – directly impacting countless fine wine regions across the globe.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to combine impact of global warming on wine regions with wider environmental concerns – through things such as increased irrigation creating potential freshwater conservation issues.

‘Vineyards have long-lasting effects on habitat quality and may significantly impact freshwater resources,’ reads the study, going on to look at potential impact using 17 climate models to estimate changes in suitability for viticulture.

By 2050, the study suggests that suitable grape growing areas in Mediterranean Europe could drop by 68%, and in parts of Australia by 73%. Existing premium wine-growing regions in Chile – Maipo, Cachapoal and Colchagua – will be equally hard hit as the strain on the water resources in the country is already high, with 95% of the area currently used for vine growing already under water stress, the highest of any of the Mediterranean-climate wine-growing region. Maipo Valley is expected to see 20% less rainfall by 2050. New Zealand’s suitable area, in contrast, will more than double by 2050, as will parts of northern Europe.

In North America, areas due to become more suitable for wine growing include existing national parks such as Yellowstone, or Yukon Territory in Canada, leading to potential conservation issues. Equally in China, some of the land likely to become most suitable for high-quality viticulture over the next few decades is currently in the same mountains that provide habitat for the giant panda. ‘Future conservation efforts need to incorporate consideration of viticulture,’ say the study’s authors.

The study also looks at suggested adaptation measures such as vine orientation and trellising practices that can greatly reduce water demands. Philippe Bascaules, director at Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook in Napa has been looking into various canopy management programmes to lower the sugar levels in the grapes. In 2012 he also held off irrigating until the end of growing season rather than the more usual period of July. ‘Long-term irrigation is not sustainable, and ideally we would like to stop it altogether. But so far we have found that smaller amounts of water at the end of the season helped keep the grapes from over-concentrating and so meant lower alcohol in the final wine’, Bascaules told Decanter.com. ‘It’s an experiment right now, seeing which parameters work best’.

Read more at http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/583788/wine-regions-may-lose-up-to-73-of-land-by-2050#BvB20QVuHA1Mohox.99

A Unique Kind of Bubbly

Grower Champagne is all the rage. Here’s your guide to the farmer fizz revolution.

Published on Apr 11, 2013
By Roger Voss

Champagne is the realm of legendary brands that exude luxury and style—Moët & Chandon, Louis Roederer, Veuve Clicquot and Pol Roger, to name just a few.

But grower Champagnes come directly from the families who own the vineyards, know the grapes and make the wine. That’s almost the antithesis of how Champagne has traditionally come to market.

Champagne is unique in its bubbles, its glamorous image and the importance it places on blending. Yet, in the process of elevating consistent brand style over place, Champagne has sometimes drifted from its connection with the land.

Enter grower Champagnes, or “farmer fizz,” as importer Terry Theise calls them. They retain the intimate link between place and the finished product that’s familiar from every other wine region in the world.

And there’s an easy way to find these wines on store shelves.

Just look for the two letters “RM”—récoltant manipulant—on the front label (in tiny type), followed by the grower’s registration number. RM shouts, “I’m a grower. I grew the grapes in my vineyard and I made this Champagne.” (more…)

En Primeur, Day Two: The Magic of Merlot

Ratings and reviews of stellar wines from Saint-Émilion and Pomerol.

Published on Apr 9, 2013
By Roger Voss

Everyone is talking about the magic of Merlot at this year’s En Primeur—and based on today’s barrel tastings of the 2012 wines from the Pomerol subregion, they will indeed be buzzworthy bottlings.

For lovers of opulent, rich Merlot-based Bordeaux blends, this vintage will be one to savor. With 13.5 percent alcohol, and ripeness balanced by fresh acidity, these Pomerol-produced wines show impressive uniformity. Saint-Émilion, too, is not far behind in producing some stellar wines.

“We had great luck with the Merlot, and we decided it made the wine,” says Jean-Luc Thunevin, owner of Château Valandraud, newly promoted to a Saint-Émilion Premier Grand Cru Classé B, of his 2012 vintage, which is 100 percent Merlot. He, like many producers, had problems with the Cabernet Franc—a star of the past two vintages—because it was picked after the Merlot and suffered from harvest-time rain.

While tasters laud the Merlots, they are worried about pricing—and for good reason. After over-the-top prices in 2009, 2010 and (unjustifiably) 2011, American wholesale buyers are looking for good wines at good prices to bring American palates back to Bordeaux.

Gregory Balogh, president and CEO of major import player Maisons Marques & Domaines, based in Oakland, calls the 2012 vintage Bordeaux’s opportunity to make a “market correction.” (more…)

80 Years Ago Today: Michigan Launched the Repeal of Prohibition

(Lansing, Michigan) – Eighty years ago today, an historic and rare state convention was held in Lansing, Mich., where delegates approved by a 99-1 vote ratification of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, making it the first of 36 states to do so, ultimately ending Prohibition and repealing the 18th Amendment. Marking this occasion, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) released a detailed economic snapshot of the industry’s multi-billion dollar impact in Michigan.

Today, the Michigan wine and spirits industry supports more than 23,000 direct jobs, more than 6,600 supplier and service provider jobs related to the industry, and a total of 41,684 jobs statewide. More than 1,400 Michigan workers are directly employed by wine and spirits wholesalers throughout the state. The industry generates a total economic impact of $4.7 billion, a direct economic impact of $1.8 billion, and pays more than $579 million in wages to Michigan-based workers each year, according to an economic analysis released by WSWA and prepared by New York-based John Dunham & Associates.

Beyond wages and economic impact, the wine and spirits industry in Michigan generates more than $350 million in business taxes for state government ($325 million for the federal government) and over $615 million in consumer-paid state taxes on beverage alcohol products.

“The 21st Amendment paved the way for the creation of the modern three-tier beverage alcohol regulatory system that today delivers the widest variety of products available to consumers anywhere in the world in a manner that is safe, well-regulated, and ensures reliable revenue streams for state and federal government,” WSWA President and CEO Craig Wolf said.


Very Old Vines Make Very Good Wines

By: Jeff Cox
A patch of very old grapevines known as the Old Hill Ranch stretches across a sunny landscape in Glen Ellen, a small village in the Valley of the Moon in Sonoma County. It’s one of the oldest vineyards in California, and one of the first planted to Zinfandel.

William  McPherson Hill, a Forty-Niner who made his money not in the gold fields of the Sierra foothills but in selling real estate in San Francisco, first planted Zin on his Glen Ellen ranch in 1856, and by 1870, the Pacific Rural Press noted: “We sampled a bottle of wine from the cellar of Wm. McPherson Hill made from the Zinfandel grape, a new variety that is growing in favor with winemakers. The wine was pronounced by the gentlemen who tasted it to be superior to any they had seen in the state.”

When William McPherson Hill died in 1897, the estate and its vineyard passed to his son, Robert Potter Hill, who sold a 100-acre parcel on the slopes of Sonoma Mountain to Jack London, whose ranch was also in Glen Ellen, and kept 60 acres as the Hill Ranch. Robert died in 1940, and for the next four decades, the ranch and its 14 acres of vines were abandoned. The old vines sank beneath blackberries and poison oak, rusting hulks of cars and discarded bathroom fixtures.

Otto Teller bought the ranch in 1983 and called in a consultant from the University of California at Davis to advise him on how to resuscitate the vineyard. The consultant recommended ripping out the old vines and starting with fresh young stock. Teller wisely decided that would be a desecration. He cleaned out the competing weeds and removed the junk, then pruned up the old vines.

They were beautiful. Some trunks in the better soils were as big around as a man’s thigh, others were spindly with age. None produced much fruit. Old vines never do, and these vines were old—some dating back to the establishment of the vineyard, with all the vines dating to 1885 or before. And what lovely fruit they produced.


‘Organic’ Isn’t a Passing Fad for Some Wineries

Thomas Perrin

By: James Romanow

“In the last decade, I have discovered that the wines I enjoy the most are often produced by organic and biodynamic wineries. This intrigues me.

I come from an era when a slogan beloved in my high school, was “Better living through chemicals.” By nature, I tend to worry less about motivation and more about outcome. In addition, I spent the last 30 years of my life with a morbid fascination of fraud, particularly wine fraud.

These three factors make me somewhat skeptical about the quasi-religious faith systems many consumers invest in their foods and eating habits. I cannot think of anybody less inclined to chase organic products than myself.”

And with that, Romanow took some time to understand the organic process and spent some time with Thomas Perrin of Chateau de Beaucastel.

Read all about his journey at The Star Phoenix.

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