WineMaker News Page

Updated April 27, 2022

Chemical Analysis of Smoke Taint

Phil Crews, a research professor of chemistry at UC-Santa Cruz and winery owner (Pelican Ranch Winery) teamed up with fellow researchers and chemists to form a nascent qualitative and quantitative way to measure smoke taint in potentially affected grapes. Using ultra high-performance liquid chromatography (UHPLC) and quantitative mass spectrometry and focusing on phenolic diglycosides that are undetectable by smell or taste until post-fermentation tastings, the group, led by Crews, has started to form a big picture of all the complex interactions that occur when wildfire smoke impacts post-veraison grapes. Their analysis focused on six biomarkers that the Australian Wine Research Institute had honed in on in their research into the same issue. Crews’ team found that two of the biomarkers were not indicative of potential smoke . . . hence the fact this analytical research is still a work in progress.

Microbiota’s Impact on Terroir

In the April-May 2021 issue we reported on how the concept of terroir was proven by a group of scientists studying several vineyards in the Mendoza region of Argentina. But the root cause of terroir is still yet to be determined. One camp argues that the microbiota found growing wild on the grapes plays a major role in determining a vineyard’s terroir. The other camp says the wild microbes have little to no impact and its expression has more to do with what happens underground with the interaction of the roots, soil, and the microbiota as well as the microclimate of the vineyard. Where do you stand on the issue?

Great News For California Grape Growers

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The 2021 California crush report was released in mid-February and found that total wine grape production was up 6% over the 2020 harvest, coming in at 3.6 million tons. Red wine production saw the bulk of the increase, up 10.6% over 2020, while white wine grapes were up a marginal 0.3%. Despite the seeming “glut” of grapes, price per ton also saw a marked uptick. Red wine grape prices were up an astounding 32% while white wine varieties were up 19.7%. This is a big reversal in the trends of grape prices over the previous several harvests when overproduction of wine seemed an issue for grape growers.

The European Union Approves Hybrid Grape Use

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Some of the strict guidelines controlling protected designation of origin (PDO) has recently been modified by the European Union (EU) to include disease-resistant hybrid grapes. Many hybrid grapes were created in France in response to the great phylloxera louse epidemic that began in the mid-nineteenth century and killed roughly 70% of France’s wine grape vines by 1900. The new varietals were a cross of the European Vitis vinifera wine grapes with native American grape species that were resistant to the phylloxera aphid. While the new hybrid varietals were utilized with great success in some parts of Europe, the process of grafting V. vinifera scions onto native American rootstock ended up being the solution most vineyards chose. But a few vineyards, most notably those in cold places, found that the “new” hybrids could outperform V. vinifera grape vines thanks to some cold hardiness from their North American DNA. Pockets of hybrid wine grape producers still exist in continental Europe today and they are especially popular in non-traditional wine grape growing regions like England and Scandinavia.

So while a few vineyards remained entrenched in growing and making wine from hybrid grape varietals surrounding PDOs, the PDOs outlawed the use of any of them in their wines because of the view that they produce inferior quality wines. The recent decision by the EU was based on the continent’s changing climate and the fact that the wine world will need to evolve to meet new challenges, especially those posed by disease pressure. The hybrid grapes are often more resistant to such pressure compared to the native V. vinifera cousins. This also allows vineyards to use less pesticide as well during the growing season. So maybe in a few years you will see Marquette blended in that Burgundian Grand Cru . . . ? Ha! Most likely not . . . but you just never know. Read more at:

New Products

Twisted Mist™

A new line of summer wine kits is being offered by Winexpert with a modern twist on wine. These fruit-forward, cocktail-inspired kits will offer six different limited release flavors, with two flavors being released each month through March, April, and May. Flavors include: Piña Colada with pineapple and coconut character; Sex on the Beach with flavors of orange juice, peach, vodka, and cranberry; Pink Lemonade features lemons for a taste of pink lemonade; Strawberry Lemonade mixes strawberry with tart lemonade; Hurricane features flavors of dark rum, orange, lime, and passion fruit; Miami Vice is a blend of strawberry, pineapple, lime, and coconut. All Twisted Mist™ flavors are limited release and available only while supplies last.

The World’s Largest Collection of Country Wine Recipes

A new book by winemaker and biodynamic wine advocate Chuck Blethen is a comprehensive recipe book for all those winemakers with interest in country wines. Through his decades of business travels, Chuck started work on this book long before he knew it would ever come to fruition, bringing home recipes from far and wide, utilizing all sorts of garden, orchard, or foraged ingredients. Featuring 195 recipes, it also contains useful conversion charts and know-how from his 40 years making wine. You can find out more information about the book or order a copy at

Upcoming Events

May 28, 2022

Entry Deadline for the Orange County Fair Home Wine Competition. This competition is only open to amateur winemakers who live in California. The cost is $18 per entry and entries must be received by May 28. For more information about entering your homemade wines, visit:

June 2 & 5, 2022

In-Person Boot Camp space is still available at our 13th annual WineMaker Conference, which will be located in beautiful San Luis Obispo, California. Join fellow hobby winemakers from across North America in a small audience setting to learn hands-on from experts to help you make your own great wine. While the main conference is sold out, there is still space on June 2nd and 5th to take part in seven topic-specific WineMaker Boot Camps to choose from.

June 9, 2022

Come to the Home Winemakers Classic in Napa on July 9th 4–6:30 p.m. at the Marriott in Napa Valley, California. There is no charge to serve your wines, but there is a $25 fee per wine in order to get them judged. Or simply come as a guest and taste others’ wines. In its 39th year, this event fundraises for the Mt. Veeder Fire Safe Council’s community outreach for wildfire safety and prevention. Serve, sip, and bid for world-class wines and gift packages, and support wildfire safety. More info and registration details at

June 11, 2022

The Home Wine and Beer Makers Festival is presented by the LCSA Home Winemakers Club. The Lake County Symphony Association (LCSA) is the sole beneficiary of this festival. Proceeds go to support LCSA’s music activities, including in-school music programs for students, scholarships, concerts, and underwriting of the outstanding Lake County Symphony. The Home Wine and Beer Makers Festival is presented by the LCSA Home Winemakers Club. Ticket prices are $30 in advance or $35 at the gate.

July 15, 2022

Home Wine Lab Skills Online Boot Camp with Bob Peak. It’s very difficult to make great wine if you don’t know how to properly and accurately test your wine. WineMaker’s “Techniques” columnist and Technical Editor Bob Peak will take you step-by-step online over four hours teaching you live how to properly test your wine for sulfites, malolactic, acidity, sugar, and pH. You’ll have the chance to learn visually how to run these tests on your own wines at home. You’ll also have access to the recorded sessions after the live event.