Updated August 25, 2023
Traditional and Charmat Methods Produce the Same Wine
For sparkling winemakers there has long been an argument of what method produces superior wines; with traditional sparkling winemakers often trying to hold the upper hand over the charmat method. New findings concluded that neither produce a superior wine. It boils down to an age-old argument that bulk production sparkling is inferior in quality to small-bottle, traditional ways.
A new study out of the University of Rio Grande in Brazil pitted the two techniques in a head-to-head competition for dominance in terms of quality. Both were aged on lees and produced a product that displayed the same qualities and aging potential. To a small degree it confirms that aging volume doesn’t denote quality of finished wine. The study did find through physico-chemical tests that the levels of diethyl succinate (fresh apple aroma) were higher in the traditional method, but it was not distinguishable enough to cause a discrepancy in sensory tests . . . and that level did diminish in time. https://oeno-one.eu/article/view/7313
Prosecco — Grape Variety or Region? The Debate Continues
In 2009 the European Union announced that the debate should be over, Presecco would be the designated region of origin where the namesake wines are produced (in the Veneto region of northeastern Italy) and the grape variety utilized to produce its famed Prosecco sparkling wines would now be called Glera. So just like a wine cannot be named a Champagne wine if it made outside of the region, the name Prosecco, according to this new rule, should only be applied to wines produced in that specific region of Italy. Why does this matter? Well, because there are a number of wineries, most notably in Australia, that call their wine Prosecco because it was made from the grape variety that, according to the new designation, can no longer use the title Prosecco. Since there are no grape varieties named Champagne, or Bordeaux, or Burgundy, this was never an issue with those regional designations.
But after five years of research, Monash University’s Professor of Law Mark Davison came to the contradictory conclusion that it should be the grape named Prosecco, not Glera, citing reference to the grape variety as far back as the 1700s. His research found no similar reference to the region being known as Prosecco. Whichever side prevails, this could have major implications for not only the Italians but also the $200 million Australian sparkling wine segment that would be forced to list the grape type as Glera. The use of geographic indicators has become a hot button topic for the European Union and is playing out in economic trade negotiations. Stay tuned: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-04-21/prosecco-european-union-geographic-indication-italy-champagne-/102250984
Wine Grapes Found to Have Been Domesticated in Two Locations
Ask oenophiles around the world where wine grapes originally came from and most will cite the south Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. But new research has shown that Georgia may not be the only region to domesticate the wild Vitis vinifera sylvestris. A second location 600+ miles (~1,000 km) away, near modern Israel, Lebanon, and Jordan, looks to have produced similar results domesticating the wild grape vine. Not only that, but the grapes domesticated in this region seem to be the ones that proliferated both east towards the Asian continent and west around the Mediterranean.
Using gene sequencing technology, it seems that the domestication process in the south Caucasus region near the Asian/European border did not spread far and wide like earlier thought. While the more eastern domestication process seemingly was originally intended for table grapes, it was only later used for wine production after cross breeding occurred. The study also pushed the date of both domestication dates much earlier, now thought to have happened 11,000 years ago. There are still a lot of questions that remain such as if there was some minor domestication of wild grapes prior to the full split to Vitis vinifera vinifera that science is blind to at this point. We’re sure there will be more research into this topic, but be sure to check out: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adg6617
Grainfather GC2 Glycol Chiller
A new 2-stage glycol chiller has been introduced by Grainfather. It is very similar to the current GC4 Glycol Chiller (4-stage) that was launched by Grainfather a few years ago, but only features ports for running glycol to two different fermenters, instead of four. The unit is much smaller, weighs less, and has a lower price point and weight ($899 | 49 lbs.) than the GC4 ($1,199 | 62 lbs.). Both the GC2 (new) and the GC4 feature wireless control capabilities, so users can chill their fermenting wines as low as 39 °F (4 °C). Both units are designed to sync seamlessly with the GF30 conical fermenter, or the Grainfather Glycol Chiller Adapter (GCA) kit, which allows users to hook up to almost any kind of fermenter on the market. https://grainfather.com/g-series/gc2/
Hand-harvested Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay wine grapes from quality vineyards throughout California are dehydrated through a patented process and packaged shelf-stable. The wine grape raisins can be added to a fermentation or aging wine that would benefit from a boost in tannin, natural sugars, color, or a fruitier impression. The goal is to improve the overall body and structure of a given wine. Available in small 8-oz. (227-g) packages, which are well-suited for 5-gallon (19-L) batch sizes, or 25-lb. (11.3-kg) bulk packaging for larger production needs. www.RayZyn.com/collections/the-wine-rayzyn-shop
Released by the folks at GOfermentor, GOpump is intended for pumping wine or similar fluids (it is not designed to be used as a must pump). It can be used in pump mode where the delivery rate is automatically controlled at the user-set flowrate or in batch mode where a preset volume is delivered at a user-set flowrate. And finally there is a remote mode where the pump can be controlled by external device or app (Bluetooth or WiFi). A built-in totalizer based on magnetic flux sensing (no moving parts) provides an accurate estimate of total wine transferred. Controllable flow rate allows gentle or rapid transfer of wine. Flow rate is from 1 to 10 liters per minute (0.26 to 2.6 gallons per minute). It also has automatic shutdown on empty detection. http://gofermentor.com/gopump/
Still Spirits Air Still Pro
A new upgrade is available for the Still Spirits Air Still, an air-cooled countertop home distillation system (this system does not require water to cool the distillate). The new Air Still Pro is an improvement on the design by adding a reflux column so users can more easily produce clean distillates. For users of the Still Spirits Air Still, there is an available upgrade so that they don’t need to purchase an entirely new unit to gain the same benefits of the reflux column. The Air Still Pro allows users to switch between pot-still and reflux mode. Another new feature is a built-in botanicals basket and a foreshots collection vial for automatically collecting the first heads of the distillate. https://bsghandcraft.com/still-spirits-air-still-pro
October 21, 2023
Registration deadline for the American Wine Society (AWS) 2023 Amateur Wine Competition. Open to all amateur winemakers and includes still, fortified, and sparkling wines made from native and hybrid grapes. Also judged by certified judges will be wines and ciders made from fruit, vegetables, flowers, honey, and grasses. Pre-registration is required and the cost is $25 (AWS member) / $35 (non-member) per entry. For more information visit: https://www.awscompetitions.com/on-line-entry
November 5, 2023
Judging for the 50th annual U.S. Amateur Winemaking Competition will take place on November 18, 2023. Entries will be accepted through November 5. Entries should be shipped to or dropped off at The Home Wine, Beer, and Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills, California. Fees are $20 per entry. The U.S. Amateur is sponsored by the Cellarmasters of Los Angeles Home Winemaking Club. More information and registration forms can be found at www.CellarmastersLA.org
May 30-June 2, 2024
Save The Date for our 15th annual WineMaker Conference, which will be held in beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia. Regarded as the birthplace of American wine thanks to the first commercial vineyard planted in 1774 by Thomas Jefferson, the Monticello AVA is keeping that legacy alive with 40 wineries. Don’t miss dozens of winemaking and grape growing workshops, seminars, and special events all geared for home winemakers. https://winemakerconference.com