WineMaker News Page

Updated January 5, 2022

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:

The Warming Climate Has Improved Wine Quality

A new collaborative study between UC-Davis and the University of Bordeaux has concluded that rising temperatures seen over the past six decades have actually helped improve wine quality in that time span. But the study does come with a caveat: That continued warming could boomerang and begin to be detrimental to a red wine’s color and other polyphenolic character in some locales. Where that tipping point is has yet to be determined. The study looked at Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in both Napa Valley, California and Bordeaux, France, determining that as heat rose past our current norm, sugar content increased while color compounds decreased. While this may not be good news for some wine-growing regions that are already in peripherally hot zones, it may be a boon to cooler zones that have trouble ripening their wine grapes. One researcher noted that adaptation to our shifting climate is underway:

Slowing Grape Ripening Can Help Improve Wine Quality

Photo by Wes Hagen

Work by a collaborative team from both Australia and the U.S. tweaked with crop load and irrigation levels on Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in order to adjust the harvest dates. What they found was that by delaying the harvest by three weeks, there was a sizable change in the grape character. Later ripening meant increased levels of monoterpenes and norisoprenoids; both of which are considered aroma enhancers in wine. They also found decreases in green-aroma compounds like pyrazines. Besides the aroma, they also found the phenolic character of the grapes to be greatly enhanced with greater anthocyanin content, total phenolic content, glycosides, and other pigments. If you find that you’re harvesting your grapes earlier and earlier, you may want do some more digging into this study:

New Products

2022 RJS Craft Winemaking RQ Series

The folks at RJS Craft Winemaking have announced their 2022 lineup of Restricted Quantity (RQ) releases. This year’s Hispanic theme covers two regions: Spain and the South American wine countries of Argentina and Chile. There are a total of five kits to choose from with the options of three reds, a white, and a rosé. Three kits come from Spanish grapes: A red Monastrell (also known as Mourvédre), a Petit Verdot, and a Grenache rosé. The Argentinian kit is a blend of Malbec, Bonarda, and Syrah while the Chilean kit features Sauvignon Blanc. Each kit is named for a famed dance from the region. For more information about individual kits visit:

Vivant Wine Chilling System

While not specific to winemakers or the winemaking process, this one raised our eyebrows as a handy tool to have around. For those wine aficionados who prefer to be able to keep a careful eye on their wine’s temperature while serving, the Vivant Wine Chiller offers a temperature-controlled “bucket” to maintain a set level. The system is battery operated and its charge can last up to 2.5 hours or more depending on chilling demands. Set the temperature on the digital controller and bring it with you wherever you would like to go. Learn more about this system at:

Winexpert Reserve Montepulciano

A new kit from Winexpert’s premium Reserve series showcases Italy’s second most-planted wine grape: Montepulciano. The wines produced are dry with solid structure and body and a moderate oak level. Aromas are noted to have cherry, boysenberry, dark plum, spice, and fresh acidity. These kits are made to produce 6 gallons (23 L) of finished wine ready to drink in as little as six weeks . . . but more aging would definitely not hurt. Each kit comes with all the necessary ingredients and a set of instructions. To learn more about the new kit, visit:

Finer Wine Kits

A new line of wine kits has been introduced for the production of standard 6-gallon (23-L) wines. Finer Wine Kits’ juices and skins are stored cold and shipped in insulated packaging to maintain the grapes’ integrity and flavor. These kits are not ultra-pasteurized so extra care is needed for handling prior to fermentation, but this also means they do not receive the harsh treatment required for ultra-pasteurization. Finer Wine Kits are available in both whites and reds. Red wine kits come with the option of single or double packs of grape skins. Each kit comes with an 11-page illustrated manual with instructions. Weighing under 20 lbs. (9 kg) means they’re easy to handle and ship. Also, keep your eyes out for the new fruit wine line coming this autumn. Finer Wine Kits are currently exclusively available through

SafCider Yeast

Fermentis has announced a new line of yeast strains geared specifically for cidermakers. There are many different ways to produce a cider across the globe and there are many cidermakers who want to innovate and create a new style of cider to feed diversity in this cider world. When picking a yeast strain for your cider you must consider that different cider styles require different technical demands from the yeast. To make this selection process easier for the cidermaker, Fermentis has created four new cider strains to obtain the cider profile they desire. SafCider AB-1 for balanced ciders, SafCider AC-4 for fresh and crisp cider, SafCider AS-2 to bring sweetness to your cider, and SafCider TF-6 to maximize the fruitiness of your ciders. These strains are available in 5-g sachets for cider production at home. To discover more visit

Upcoming Events

February 4, 2022 — Distilling Boot Camp with Aaron Hyde.

How to Distill book author Aaron Hyde will walk you through the small-scale distilling process over four hours. You’ll watch a live spirit distillation with cuts for whiskey, and Aaron will also discuss the distillation of most major spirits including moonshine, brandy, rum, whiskey, and gin. He’ll be answering your questions throughout the process as you learn the art of distillation using a small still. This class runs from 2 pm to 6 pm (Eastern).

February 18, 2022 — GaragisteCon Online

A full day of live online seminars and Q&A panels for small-scale wineries and aspiring wineries. All attendees will have access to video recordings of all sessions. There are three learning tracks: Business/Sales, Winery Operations, and Start-Ups as well as Q&A sessions with leading small winery industry suppliers. Get your questions answered live by industry experts. Also attendees get to interact with other small wineries and wineries-in-planning to compare notes.

June 2–5, 2022

COVID-19 Update for WineMaker Conference San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles: Our upcoming sold-out 2021 WineMaker Conference has been postponed to 2022. The event will still be in the same exact location in San Luis Obispo, California. Our 2022 program will feature the same great lineup of workshops and seminars planned for May 2021. We will be posting here the revised schedule of seminars, special events, workshops, and winery tours soon for 2022.