Monday, May 21, 2007

Its the water... or rather its in the water!

A short 5 minute drive from my home gets you to Gold Stream Park and then another short 5 minute hike along a rocky trail gets you to this beautiful scenic waterfall. (Click on the pic.)Pure, fresh, clean water.
The Olympia Brewing Company with their well-known slogan "Its the Water" has attributed the excellence of their beer to the high quality of water used to make their beer.
The most famous beers in the world have always depended on a special source of water to create their version of the highest quality beer. Its not just the water, its what's in the water that counts. Switching thoughts slightly, its what is in the irrigation water derived from the Murray-Darling river system in Australia and subsequently returned to the river, that is a cause for great concern. An increase in salinity in vineyard soils is becoming a significant problem. With the severe drought that Australia has suffered, an increased dependency on irrigation is inevitable. But not so fast says John Howard, the Australian prime minister, who in April announced that irrigation will not be allowed next year without significant rainfall in the next few months.
European vineyards are now starting to use irrigation on a larger scale. Global warming is one of the triggering factors here. France has just recently allowed the use of irrigation but on a restricted basis.Organic and bio-dynamic vineyards with their reduced dependence on irrigation will become more prominent.
It will be interesting to see how the new rules will play out in tradition bound Burgundy. I am betting the dynamic trend setter, the Boisset Family with their corporate family of wineries called La Famille des Grands Vins, will lead the way. (See my March 18 entry "Snap a Cap.." on a bold move by this Burgundian firm.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Pressing Problem.....!

An excellent review of wine press terminology and types of presses available today, may be found in the reference library at WINE
As well an interesting article in the January issue of Wines&Vines discusses the re-appearance of basket presses on winery cellar floors. Basket presses use the force of grape against grape as opposed to grapes being pressed against a screen. This less grinding action
results in less extraction of harsh components from grape skins and seeds. According to some winemakers this results in higher quality wines.
While basket presses are still used in the making of Icewines,(scroll down to my Dec. 3 Entry) bladder presses are faster and more efficient. The first Willmes bladder presses appeared in the 1960s and resulted in a significant increase in German Eiswein production. Icewine grapes in their frozen state are as hard as marbles and require considerable pressure to extract their golden nectar. The bladder can be inflated rapidly and result in a fast extraction of the juice. By Icewine law grapes must remain in their frozen state while being pressed. So time is of the essence. The newer versions of bladder presses are gentler and operate at lower pressures so as not to impart harshness to the must but are also slower. If temperatures rise before the extraction is complete, the grapes will thaw and cannot be used for Icewine. One of British Columbia's best Icewine producers, the Gehringer Brothers Estate Winery in the Okanagan Valley, snapped up the old Willmes presses when the German Eiswein producer Schloss Schonborn, replaced their presses in the mid-1990s. So there you have it. Basket presses may be making a comeback but not in the Icewine sector.
As always my thanks to the world renowned Icewine expert, John Schreiner for his invaluable information on Icewines.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Three Grape Clusters..!

I look forward to my weekly Vinography Image from Alder Yarrow over at Vinography: A Wine Blog.
This weeks image by the outstanding photographer Michael Regnier prompted me to go back to the pictures I had taken during my visit to France in the fall of the great 2005 vintage. These grapes were a couple of days away from being harvested. B e sure to click on the image to enlarge it. I like to call this picture "Three Grape Clusters", not to be confused with Michael's "Three Red Leaves". Be sure to visit Alder's site to get a look at that delightful image.
So like Michael, I ask you to identify my grapes. Go ahead, you'll be surprised to find out what region they are from.

Friday, May 04, 2007

How High is Up..?

There has been a lot of news about the 2007 Australian grape harvest lately. Frost and drought has affected the grape harvest severely for this vintage and prices are predicted to rise for most wines. Production is expected to be down 400 million litres. While this is good news for the grape growers in Australia, big wine companies may be facing some tough negotiations with these same growers. During the oversupply, grape growers were forced to sell their grapes at practically give away prices but now feel its their turn.
The British wine market has been recognized as a very influential one ever since they pretty much established the Bordeaux wine trade in the middle of the 17th century. While the number one destination for Australian wines has been the UK market there are signs of renewed interest in French and Italian wines. The good news all around however for producers is that there is a definite trend to higher quality and higher priced wines. Tesco, British supermarket giant, reports that sales of wines at £10 or more has grown by 75 per cent over the past two years. The Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation announced plans to convince the Brits and the rest of the world that Australian wines are right up there with the best in the world and deserve higher prices. But perhaps it is too early to predict the demise of the "two buck chuck" phenomena. After all as Fred Franzia of Charles Shaw Wines once uttered "No bottle of wine is worth more than $10." I just happen to believe that good wine can be worth more and perhaps a lot more than $10.