If you ever read one more article about the confounding studies on red wine and health, make it this one by Erika Syzmanski, recent winner of the “Investigative/Journalistic” category for the 2015 Born Digital Wine Awards.
Among the grapegrowers and winemakers in the Grand Valley and North Fork Valley tackling what’s expected to be the biggest harvest since 2011, a recent morning found a handful of pickers studiously moving up and down the rows of grapes at the Orchard Mesa Research Center.
These weren’t your typical ag workers, if there is such a thing in an industry where labor normally is a get-it-when-you-can proposition.
Instead, a cluster of students from Colorado State University, which operates the Orchard Mesa Research Center, were sampling first-hand what it takes to transform grapes into wine.
Among the students were Morgan Bowen and Rob Hausmann, working with the morning sun at their backs, snipping off clusters of marble-sized Chardonnay grapes and carefully dropping them into the canary-yellow totes for transport to the research center’s pocket-sized winery.
“We’re all members of the Vines to Wines club at CSU and we’re trying to get the students out here to experience this part of it,” said Bowen, a horticulture major with an emphasis in enology/viticulture and currently president of the club.
She laughingly admitted she came to Colorado from California’s Livermore Valley, a wine-growing region on the east side of San Francisco Bay, where her family owns vineyards and “a small boutique winery.”
“My family’s in the (wine) business back home and I thought I didn’t want to have anything to do with it,” said Bowen, who is working on degrees in horticulture as well soil and crop science. “I was visiting different schools and I knew CSU had an enology program.
“I came her and I thought, ‘Maybe, I think I’ll try it again” and found it’s something I love.”
State viticulturist Horst Caspari, a professor at CSU, said the school offers a degree in horticulture and students can take a concentration in enology and viticulture.
“There are probably 30 to 40 people in the program at any one time,” Caspari said. “And numbers are up every year, which is encouraging.”
Not everyone picking grapes was a budding winemaker. Hausmann, from Kampsville, Ill., is studying fermentation and said he helped plant the strings of hops spiraling up guide wires nearby.
And down the row of grapes were Aman Vashisht of India, working on a research project about water banking, and graduate assistant Manijeh Varzi of Iran, a PhD. candidate in civil engineering emphasizing irrigation.
The small winery on Orchard Mesa, named the Ram’s Point Winery after the school mascot, is aimed at training future wine-industry talent, said state enologist Steve Menke, also a CSU professor.
“I can only give them the basics” in the classroom,” Menke said. “We like them to come over here and do the harvest, to pick and press and bottle some of our experimental wines from last year.”
Having an alcohol-themed club on the CSU campus is a bit tricky, said Bowen, given the school’s strict alcohol regulations.
All the students under 21 are closely regulated by a “taste and spit” rule, similar to that used by under-age culinary students learning how to pair food and wine.
“It’s been a little tricky, being a club on campus,” Bowen said. “But we’re very careful and this week we’re going to have our first tasting at an Italian restaurant off-campus.”
The wines won’t be Colorado wines, she said.
“No, not this time,” she said, ruefully. “But in the future we’d like to help expand people’s palates into Colorado wines and other cool-climate wines.
According to a report cited today on the website Wine Industry Insight, new data from the European Union says Italy has surpassed France to take to crown of world largest wine producer in 2015.
The story, written by Umberto Bacchi of the International Business Times UK, says Italy’s projected wine production is up 13% on the previous year thanks to benign weather conditions have resulted in an abundant grape harvest across the Mediterranean peninsula.
Italy’s overall wine production is expected to up 5% on the average for the past five years. That’s a total output of 48.8 million hectolitres (129 million gallons U.S.) say figures submitted in mid-September by member states to the EU Commission.
Bacchi’s story says Italy and France have long been the sole duellists for the title of world top wine producer, both in terms of quantity and quality. However, Bacchi reports, 2015 has arguably been a particularly favorable year for the Italians after Ferrari (Trentodoc) won the prestigious sparkling wine producer of the year award.
Spain is set to maintain the third place in terms of wine output with 36.6 million hectolitres (96.7 million gals. U.S.). Other EU states follow at distance: Germany ranks fourth in the continent with 8.7 million hectolitres, trailed by Portugal (6.7 million) and Romania (four million). Britain is last among the top 18 EU producers, with 470,000 hectolitres.
Worldwide, the US, Argentina, Australia, South Africa, China and Chile traditionally placed themselves between Spain and Germany producing from 25 million to 10 million hectolitres each.
Amidst the fury enveloping Friulian winemakers accused of illegally using flavor-enhancing additives in their Sauvignon Blanc (Jeremy Parzen has it well-covered here), the news comes without such concern that Alto Adige continues to sparkle.
This far-northern Italy winemaking region, split by the Adige River and with expanses of vineyards running high into the limestone foothills of the Dolomites, perhaps is best known for its crisp, elegant white wines yet 40 percent of the wines from the Sudtirol region are rossos.
That split was reflected when the latest regional results were released by the Gambero Rosso, Italy’s leading wine guide. The guide’s coveted 2016 “Tre Bicchieri” awards went to 27 Alto Adige wineries and of the 27 “Tre Bicchieri” wines 17 are whites.
Winning a Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses) award is much more than simply accruing street cred. Having the famed reputation is akin to being awarded a Michelin three-star award: The wines’ sales can soar, it offers winemakers some “flexiblity” in pricing and it puts you on a world tour (three stops in the U.S.) which offers unprecedented exposure to the important American wine market.
Of the 27 Alto Adige “Tre Bicchieri” winners, four were Pinot Bianco; three each of Sylvaner and Riesling; two Guwurtztraminers and two Saubvignon Blancs; a Müller Thurgau, a Terlano and a white blend.
The red wines included two Schiava wines (also known as Trollinger and Vernatsch, at 850 hectares the most-cultivated grape in Alto Adige); four Lagrein, two Cabernet Sauvignon and a Pinot Noir. Also awarded was the Moscato Giallo Passito Serenade 2012, a sweet wine from the Cantina Kaltern Caldaro.
I was pleased to see the highly respected Alois Lageder be awarded a Tre Bicchieri for his Alto Adige Cabernet Sauvignon Cor Römigberg 2011. Each spring Lageder sponsors Summa, which invites around 70 quality-conscious winemakers from all over the world to the historical Casòn Hirschprunn in Magrè, This year was the 17th and was held March 21-22, attracting about 2,000 visitors from 35 countries. In collaboration with the charity Help without Frontiers, Summa collectis in excess of 37,000 € (about $42,000) for several projects in Burma.
More Tre Bicchieri results will come as they are released.