Another big year? Mild spring produces crop of speculation

052516 FD wine new growth

Grape vines in the Grand Valley have benefited from the mild, wet spring and some growers are predicting another large harvest.

While this spring, with its abundant moisture and cool temperatures, has presented several challenges to Colorado grape growers, including a slow start to the growing season, it also has set off speculation this year’s yield might top 2015’s record-setting harvest.

“Last fall’s harvest was the our largest on record and this one may be even bigger, depending on how people adjust their crop load,” said state enologist Stephen Menke at Colorado State University’s Orchard Mesa Research Center. “We really had no winter damage to speak of, so everything looks pretty promising right now.”

The 2015 harvest was a much-needed boost to winemakers around the state after two harsh winter years (2013 and 2014) cut production to about 50 percent of normal.

“Last year’s harvest was the biggest we ever had, both in terms of state-wide production and on a per-acre basis,” said Horst Caspari, state viticulturist at the Orchard Mesa Research Center. “Things look really good right now and I think 2016 could go past 2015 in terms of crop production.”

One factor, said Caspari, is that many acres of cold-hearty varieties planted to resist Colorado’s cold winters finally are old enough to be producing grapes.

“Because we have more acres now than we had before, we could end up with more grapes than we had last year,” Caspari said. “Not necessarily a higher yield per acre, although that’s possible, just more acreage producing grapes.”

052516 FD wine grape berries

These grape berries are the result of a healthy primary bud. Each bud on a grape shoot consists of a primary, secondary and tertiary bud. Primary buds produce the most fruit but also are the most susceptible to frost damage.

An example is Whitewater Hill Vineyards on Orchard Mesa, where owners Nancy Janes and John Behr pulled out an acre of underproducing vines and planted St. Vincent’s, a French-American cold-hearty hybrid from Missouri.

“We didn’t get very much last year, just enough to make a couple of bottles,” Nancy said. “But this year the vines look great and I think we might get a whole lot more.”

She also said the mild spring means more buds, especially the productive primary buds, survive to produce fruit.

“Some of the newer growers have never had primary fruit before,” Nancy said. “They won’t believe how much fruit they can get.”

But the season hasn’t been without its downside.

A hailstorm ripped through the Palisade area a week ago, reminding Bennett Price of DeBeque Canyon Winery of a similar although more-extensive storm last spring.

“I looked at some vineyards (last year) that were shredded, every leaf ripped off and no fruit left,” Price recalled. “I don’t think this recent one was that bad, but that’s what spring can bring us.”

Price also voiced some concern about powdery mildew, a fungal disease that’s common in more-humid growing regions and is particularly damaging to vinifera grape vines, which include such favorites as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

“It’s been such a wet and humid spring, I hope folks are thinking about spraying,” Price said.

Powdery mildew makes plant leaves look as if they are dusted with flour and robs the plant’s nutrients. If serious enough, the disease can kill a plant.

DeBeque Canyon Winery moves – Bennett and Davy Price recently moved their winery and tasting room in Palisade from its former location on South Kluge Street to 381 West 8th Ave. (U.S. Highway 6), the building formerly occupied by the Packing Shed Restaurant.

A new deck greets customers to the tasting room and wine shop. Winemaking facilities will occupy the adjacent building.

Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday through Monday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Information at 464-0550.

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It’s the weather – Late freeze hits Europe’s wine regions


 Anti-frost candles burn April 28 in a vineyard in Flaesch, in the Swiss canton of Grisons. The candles provide some protection to young grape shoots from unseasonably usual low temperatures. (Photo: KEYSTONE/Gian Ehrenzeller) Article by Dave Buchanan

Spring brings constant change to Colorado wine country.

We’ve already seen temperatures ranging from the 30s to the 80s, high winds, and daily weather ranging from scorching sun to rainy stretches reminiscent of winegrowing in the Northwest.

One thing we’ve dodged so far is temperatures below freezing affecting grape buds.

Orchardists haven’t been so lucky and several times this spring they’ve been rousted out of bed by the frost alarm going off.

Up to now winemakers count themselves lucky, and if things continue this way we may see a repeat of last year’s bountiful harvest, which was the largest so far seen and came at a time many winemakers’ reserves were running bony following several lean years.

One of the global impacts of climate change seen in fruit- and grape-growing regions from western Colorado to the Rhine and Burgundy is earlier bud breaks, which puts most stone fruits at a severe disadvantage because their young flowers are susceptible to late frosts.

Grapes break bud later than tree fruit, which normally puts grape buds still tightly wrapped and mostly unaffected during late frosts.

This year, however, the shoe dropped in some of the world’s most-famous wine regions, including Burgundy and elsewhere in Europe where a late frost on April 26-27 brought temperature below freezing.

A report issued by the Bourgogne Wine Board (BIVB) said the “extremely rare” frost affected vineyards across Burgundy.

Among the vineyards most affected were the higher vineyards in Chablis and the Grand Auxerrois, the north of the Côte de Beaune (Savigny, Chorey and down to Meursault, Pommard and Volnay) and the Côte de Nuits.

Early reports came too early to provide detailed analysis of the damage but this week its was reported nearly half (46percent) of the vineyards – covering 13,453 hectares (33,234 acres) – suffered damage to at least 30-percent of the young buds with 23 percent of the vineyards reporting losses of more than 70 percent.

The remaining 54% – 15,797 hectares– received less than 30% damage.

There also have been reports of equally severe frosts in the Loire and Languedoc regions of France and in the Abruzzo in Italy.

It’s not like Abruzzo, which borders the Adriatic Sea about midway along the east side of the Italian “boot” and perhaps more remembered for the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, hasn’t suffered setbacks before.

But like many of the smaller wine regions in Italy, the last 40-50 years have seen a renaissance in Abruzzo, where winemaking dates back to the sixth century B.C.

Large cooperative wineries concentrated in the Chieti province produce vast amounts of wine, which then is sold in bulk to other Italian wine regions such as Tuscany, Piedmont and the Veneto for blending.

The region is famed for its Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, which in the late 20th and early 21st centuries became one of Italy’s most-exported wines.




Going natural: ViniVeri offers the best of the unexpected

April 28, 2016 Leave a comment
Vinveri Gianluca

Gianluca Piernera of Cantina Ninni in Spoleto was one of many “natural” winemakers sharing their products during the ViniVeri fair in Cerea, Italy. Story and photos by Dave Buchanan

Just pour, don’t filter.

You should never expect whatever you might consider “the normal” when exploring Italy’s wine country.

That “suspension of expectations” was reinforced earlier this month during ViniVeri, a wine fair and tasting at La Fabbrica, an immense and tastefully repurposed brick building in Cerea, Italy, an half-hour or so south of Verona.

The Consorzio ViniVeri promotes the annual event as featuring “wines as nature intended them,” this year’s theme emphasizing diversity and authenticity.

Maybe that should include a bit of audacity, as well.

That this wasn’t an ordinary wine tasting was cemented when one of the first tables poured a cloudy wine from a bottle bearing an imposing handprint and the words “Shake before use.” Read more…

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Vino 2016: Italian winemakers looking to increase share in U.S. market

April 23, 2016 Leave a comment
Vino 2016 crowd shot

Vino 2016 in New York City offered a two-day immersion into the world of Italian wine. Article and photos by Dave Buchanan

NEW YORK – Romano Baruzzi took a breath and looked out at the sea of faces in front of him.
“Buona sera a tutti, welcome everyone,” said Baruzzi, deputy trade commissioner for the Italian Trade Commission in New York City. “Welcome to the biggest event promoting Italian wines in the U.S.”
It’s opening night for Italian Wine Week/Vino 2016 and the featured panel discussion is titled “On the Bright Side: What’s Ahead for 2016.”
This first-night talk offers the attending producers, importers and the occasional journalist insights into what lies ahead for the next two days of concentrated immersion into Italian wine.
More than 160 Italian wine makers and their representatives are here, some of them plying their wares to almost that many importers and buyers while other winemakers, nearly one-third of those present, simply are seeking someone trustworthy in whom to entrust their wines. Read more…

At the end, VinItaly 2016 offered a sparkling finale

April 16, 2016 Leave a comment


VERONA, Italy – Days three and four at VinItaly are a contrast in energy and attitude. On day three winemakers still eagerly eye the passing throng, hopeful the next person at their stand is that much-awaited importer or buyer with deep pockets, ready to offer the ultimate deal. By day four, however, the pace has caught up with the reality, the mood is subdued and thoughts are trending to home, not of VinItaly.

Many of the winemakers and winery representatives have been running at full speed for nearly a week, with long days negotiating with buyers from around the world and often long nights entertaining (or being entertained by) those same buyers.

When you approach a booth in search of a sample or two, the edge of fatigue shows, the people ready to grab their bags and go.

“Yes, it’s been a long week,” said the woman standing behind a clear, ice-filled bucket, Franciacorta bottles splaying out like foil-capped roses. “Because you know we’ve been here before VinItaly and then it was constant pouring, pouring, pouring from open to close.

“It will be good to be home.”

But VinItaly, even with its hair in curlers, still is a marvelous place to find new wines and be surprised by old favorites. Read more…

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Sometimes, it takes little courage to survive VinItaly

April 13, 2016 1 comment

VinItaly 50VERONA – Day One for VinItaly 2016 and it’s happy half-century, VinItaly. Under sunny skies and mild temperatures, the 50th edition of the world’s largest wine fair opened Sunday with Italian president Sergio Mattarello among the thousands of enthusiastic wine lovers in attendance.
The opening day was a Sunday, which may account for the late-arriving attendees, but you still found the expected boisterous jam around many of the stands. Of course, having the President here, with his large contingent of security men and advisors, simply added to the general hysterics.

If you’re experienced at VinItaly, negotiating the crowds is no problem and if you are particularly fortunate you’ll find a friendly booth where you might escape for a few minutes to rest and learn about a new wine region or more about an old fave.

Susannah Crociani holds a bottle of her Vin Santo, a sweet wine made only in special vintages. Susanna is one of the handful of women winemakers in Italy.

I wedged myself into the tiny space occupied this week by winemaker Susanna Crociana of Montepulciano, who likes to say she was “nati en mezzo a botti e vigneti,” born among the barrels and vines.

Susanna makes several bottlings of Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, ranging from a lighter, everyday Rosso de Montepulciano IGT to the Riserva DOCG and the highly coveted Il Segreto di Giorgio. The latter is named after Susanna’s late brother Giorgio, who took over the winery following the death of their father but who in turn passed away in March of 2006.

His passing was particularly unfortunately in that he had just developed a special blend only to pass away before the first vintage was released. Susanna released that vintage in 2008 and now each year she releases the new vintage on Feb. 13, Giorgio’s birthday.

Susanna’s wines are made with the traditional Vino Nobile blend of 80 percent Sangiovese, 10 percent Canaiolo Nero and 10 percent Mamalo, an indigenous red grape that adds a rose-like bouquet to the wine. All of the wines are lush, deep in color and flavor and immediately approachable, although the 2012 Riserva still needs a year or two to blossom.

Women winemakers aren’t common in Italy and Susanna’s story stands out because she is running a successful business by herself, without parents or siblings for support or even advice. It’s no wonder her stand at VinItaly features four large murals displaying the words “Courage,” “Passion,” “Heritage” and “Time.”

We might have talked more but Susanna had an appointment with an importer and I was off to seek another quiet refuge in the buoyant chaos of VinItaly.

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Heading to VinItaly? Seven, make that eight, tips to keep in mind

Verona Ponte della Vittoria

Ponte di Castelvecchio Vecchio spanning the Adige River in  Verona, Italy. On the night of 25 April 1945, together with all the bridges of Verona, it was blown up by retreating Germans. Photo and story by Dave Buchanan

As sure as the swallows return each spring to the old mission at San Juan Capistrano, Italian winemakers each spring pack up their road show and head to Verona for the annual return of VinItaly, which bills itself as the world’s leading wine trade fair.

This year’s event (April 10-13) marks VinItaly’s 50th anniversary and understandably the buzz has been in the air for months, since no one can outdo the Italians when it comes to celebrating big events, especially one that attracts an international audience (last year more than 150,000 attendees from 30 countries) of wine buyers, importers, critics and wine lovers.

It can be a bit overwhelming – this year’s fair is expected to feature more than 4,100 exhibitors covering an impressive 100,000 square meters (that’s about 1.07 million square feet) of exhibition space. That’s big.

Read more…


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