Olde Tradition Spice Helps Wineries Create New Flavors and New Sales
Wine pairing usually means matching a wine to a particular food to enhance the enjoyment of both. Wineries are now discovering another kind of pairing. With the addition of traditional mulling spices sold in packages or given away free as samples hung on the wine bottle’s neck, inventive tasting rooms are introducing clients to mulled wine, increasing sales and engendering customer loyalty.
Mulled wine is an old practice. Spices were found in a recently unearthed Egyptian wine jar dating from 5100 B.C. and even the Bible mentions ‘spiced wine.” And perhaps confirming what ancient people knew, recent scientific studies have shown that the spices used in mulling, which include cinnamon and cloves, may have significant health benefits for many individuals.
Michigan’s longest operating winery, 101-year-old, St. Julian Winery is continuing the mulled wine practice by adding Olde Tradition Spice mulling spices to their already spiced Head Games grape and apple wines, their red wines, and their hard ciders for tasting room visitors to try.
Szakaly says St. Julian has about 100 different beverage products and the mulling spices work with most of the red wines, whether sweet or dry. Because the winery also operates as a distillery, the product goes well with bourbon, rum, vodka, and, in particular, a cherry brandy they offer.
“You can serve mulled wine chilled in summer and warm in winter,” says Joel Szakaly, St. Julian’s Vice President – DTC. “Employees in our six locations take it upon themselves to come up a creative new concoction of the day where they highlight a different mulled wine.”
“We have a loyal wine club and they come in regularly. During the fall or winter months, they are asking what new mulled wine we have in the crock pot,” he adds.
St. Julian’s has also sold boxes as part of a kit which included a sweet red wine and a six-pack of hard cider. The kit was sold across the county as well in the tasting rooms.
Olde Tradition Spice gives wineries the option of branding the mulling spices under their own names, something Szakaly is exploring for next year. In the meantime, St. Julian has taken advantage of using neck hangers of a single-serve bag of mulled spices from Olde Tradition Spice on bottles of wine to introduce the product to the customers.
“Olde Tradition Spice sends us recipe cards. The customers love getting those and seeing the endless possibilities of cocktails they can make using those spices. They buy a bunch of boxes [of the mulling spices] from us and use them all winter long.”
Unlike other alternatives on the market today, Olde Tradition Spice uses only high-quality spices, with no sugar or preservatives added. The spices are carefully formulated to deliver flavorful consistent results and are available as single serve individually wrapped tea bags as well as industrial sized packages.
“A lot of people aren’t too sure what it is, or what it tastes like, but once they try it, Szakaly says, “they love it, and they keep coming back for more. All we hear about is how great mulling spices are and how much it enhances a wine.”
By: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension
Throughout the growing season, we see our grapevines grow and change immensely. Berries turn from green to red, and shoots grow from inches to feet in a matter of weeks.
What we do not see is all the behind-the-scenes work – the vines are transporting numerous nutrients from the soil to the canopy, and then moving them from the leaves to the fruit during ripening. Then we harvest that fruit, removing a portion of the vines’ nutrients. Grapevines are in their most depleted state in the fall and early spring.
To keep the vines productive over their lifespan, we do tests to see if the soil needs more nutrients to replace those lost. Based on those tests, we may add critical amendments to the soil. On the flipside, if the soil is already rich in key nutrients, soil tests save money and the environment by telling us when fertilizer is not needed.
Some growers wish to use the fall as a time for applying nutrients. Harvest is over, but it is too early to prune. It seems like a good opportunity to check something off the to-do list. Before you place your fertilizer order, you show know: What nutrients your vineyard needs, how much is needed, and whether those nutrients are best applied in the fall or the spring.
Reasons to ConsiderFertilizing After Harvest
First, convenience. Other vineyard tasks are done for the year. It is too early to begin dormant pruning. Growers usually have more spare time now than they do in the spring. That is, if they are not tired of being in the vineyard.
Secondly, grapevine biology. From the grapevine’s point of view, it is in one of its most nutrient-depleted states immediately following harvest, and in the early spring. This is because much of the nutrients it has accumulated have been used up to produce fruit, and that fruit has just been removed from the system.
Third, logistics. In temperate climates like my area in Minnesota, the soil is wet and spongy in the spring and dry and firm in the fall. It is logistically easier to apply fertilizer in the fall when the ground is dry but not yet frozen, compared to the early spring when melting snow may make the vineyard impassable.
Applying certain fertilizers in the fall can give the vines a healthy start in the spring. However, one nutrient in particular is best applied in the spring – nitrogen, due to its tendency to leach out of the system. Read on for suggestions on when to apply nitrogen.
How to Apply Fall Fertilizers
First, do a fall soil test, especially if it has been over 5 years since your last one. Calculate your fertilizer rates and the type of fertilizer based on soil test and foliar test reports. Foliar tests need to be taken at bloom or veraison, but soil tests can be taken in the fall.
I cannot understate the importance of soil and foliar nutrient testing. These tests are the best way to understand what the soil is lacking, what it has plenty of, and how well the vine is taking up each nutrient. If nutrient testing seems intimidating, just contact you state university soil testing lab or a private lab – they will tell you how to proceed. It’s easy!
Test your soil during or shortly after the harvest season. Give yourself 2-3 weeks between when the sample is submitted and the likely first hard frost, in order to receive the results and make an appropriate fertilizer application before the ground is covered in snow.
After receiving your test report, enlist the help of an Extension Educator or trusted consultant to decide what nutrients are needed and at what rates. Key nutrients include phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, boron, and iron, amoung others. Nitrogen is also very important, but is usually not included in soil tests. Your test report will also include soil pH, organic matter percentage, and possibly your soil’s cation exchange capacity.
Once you know what to apply and how much, you are ready to go. The most common method of granular fertilizer application is broadcast application using a targeted vineyard spreader. This type of spreader applies it under the rows, avoiding the grass aisles, maximizing efficiency and minimizing cost. There is generally no need to fertilize the grass, as most vine roots are located in the rows.
Some growers prefer to incorporate their fertilizer through cultivation or banding it about three inches deep using tillage equipment. The advantage is better incorporating nutrients that are not very mobile in the soil, like potassium and phosphorus. The challenge is that it can cut some of the grapevine roots and requires more niche equipment.
Acquiring a Vineyard Fertilizer Spreader
Most common fertilizer spreaders used in agriculture will broadcast the fertilizer in a certain radius behind the machine, which will of course apply the product to both the grass and vine rows. Applying fertilizer only to the rows will dramatically decrease the amount of product needed.
Specialized vineyard or orchard fertilizer spreaders are available commercially but may be cost-prohibited for smaller vineyards. One work-around for this would be to hire a custom fertilizer applicator.
A second solution would be to make your own. A general-use broadcast fertilizer spreader can also be retrofitted to target vine rows. This can be done by attaching a V-shaped bar on the back of the spreader where the fertilizer is ejected, or otherwise engineering a way to redirect the fertilizer at an angle so that it only hits the ground beneath the vines. In Minnesota, some growers build and attach a wooden “V” onto the back of a plastic spreader. Wood and metal can both be used for this purpose. Of course, the methods of retrofitting a spreader will depend on the spreader you have and what tools are available to you.
Why not Apply Fall Nitrogen?
When it comes to nitrogen applications, it is best to wait until spring. For cold climate grapes, which are my specialty, it is very important to eliminate or minimize nitrogen applications in the fall. Avoiding late-summer or fall nitrogen application is especially critical while the vines are still actively growing.
The first reason is that nitrogen application in the fall can significantly increase the vine’s chances of severe winter injury.
After harvest, grapevines need to begin senescing in preparation for the winter. They stop growing, harden off green tissue, and move their energy and nutrients from the canopy down to the roots for winter storage. If nitrogen is applied in the fall, it encourages the vines to form new shoot growth late in the season, which is not a good thing. This interrupts the senescence process and makes the vines less prepared for winter and therefore more vulnerable to winter injury.
Secondly, nitrogen applied in the fall may vanish before the spring.
Nitrogen is highly mobile in the soil, meaning that it can be easily lost to the environment with water movement through the soil. Nitrogen can also be lost through volatilization – gaseous loss to the atmosphere. When water carries nitrogen down below the root growing zone, the plant can no longer reach it and the nitrogen is lost to groundwater. This process is called “leaching.”
If nitrogen is applied in the fall, it is more likely to be lost to the environment than to be taken up by the plant. This is because the roots are not actively absorbing nutrients. However, during the active growth season in the spring, the roots are actively growing and nutrients are in high demand by the plants. Fall-applied nitrogen is likely to be gone before the next growing season starts.
What about other nutrients,like phosphorus and potassium?
Phosphorus and potassium, two key nutrients for grapevines, are less mobile in the soil and are less likely to be lost by the spring if applied in the fall. Applying these key nutrients in the fall will give vines a ready source of nutrients in the spring.
Many common “all-purpose” fertilizers (like “N-P-K”) and micronutrient sources contain some level of nitrogen. Therefore, it may be challenging to completely avoid fall nitrogen application if other nutrients are also being applied, particularly if using organic fertilizers. If this is the case, select a fertilizer with very low N concentrations relative to the P and K concentrations, such as a 10-20-20 or 5-10-10 and wait until the leaves have fallen off the vines before applying it. Some P and K fertilizers are available that do not contain nitrogen. Consult with your fertilizer supplier about specific product options based on your soil test results.
Most of the vineyards I work with have high levels of phosphorus and potassium and do not need to add more. A recent review of Minnesota soil test reports from University of Minnesota Extension showed that many of our cultivated soils have excessive levels of potassium. Excess potassium threatens local waterways, as it can run off from agricultural fields and residential properties. Always consult your soil test results before adding nutrients that your soil may not need.
Here are some key tips for fertilizing in the fall:
1. Minimize the amount of nitrogen applied in the fall; save it for the spring.
2. Granular fertilizer is best applied as a broadcast directed to the vine rows.
3. If possible, avoid fertilizer application to the grassy aisles.
4. Calculate fertilizer needs based on soil and foliar tests. Only apply nutrients if needed.
Nitrogen Fertilization in the Vineyard. Dr. Joe Fiola. University of Maryland Extension, 2021.
Nutrient Management for Fruit and Vegetable Crop Production. Dr. Carl Rosen. University of Minnesota Extension, 2005.
Volatile acidity, vinegar production, is an important measurement to obtain when making wine. Wine is a perishable product, from a perishable fruit (notably grapes) for our purpose. Getting early measurements of volatile acidity on the fruit is essential to help measure the “chemical condition” of the fruit and how one may care to handle that fruit moving forward in the winemaking process. It is also useful when negotiating with the fruit producer if the grower does not recognize substandard quality. Measuring the volatile acidity regularly as a systematic process during wine aging is important. The test will confirm the wines are aging well and developing properly.
The cash still is a great tool to measure volatile acidity chemically. There are other ways to measure volatile acidity and many are potentially just as accurate; however, this article will focus be on the cash still and how to operate the unit.
Volatile acidity is a chemical data reading from a raw material fruit or juice to measure the degradation of that fruit toward the unwanted production of vinegar. The cash still will drive off volatile acidity from a wine or juice sample using heat and then recondensing the Volatile Acidity (an acid) into a collection flask. This will be titrated with weak solution of Sodium Hydroxide (a base). This is a simple explanation of what is actually happening.
Tools and Chemicals
• Cash still unit or equivalent with stand.
• Distilled water (pre-boiled and cooled for safe use).
• Small mouth 250 milliliter Erlenmeyer flask.
• 0.1 normal sodium hydroxide, or approximate, standardized for accuracy.
• 25 milliliter Class A volumetric burette with definitive sub markings.
• Source of cold water and a sink for the exiting condenser chilling water.
• 110 volt outlet.
• Phenolphthalein and white backdrop to see the color change in the flask.
• 10 milliliter pipette – class A Volumetric.
Mixing and Standardizing Chemicals
Always wear safety equipment when operating this unit. Eye protection is very important.
1. Pre-boiled distilled water – The night before using the cash still one should boil the distilled water to drive off the Carbon Dioxide and allow it to cool.
2. Purchase or mix a 0.10 Normal Sodium Hydroxide solution and standardize the solution each time you use this test.
1. Make sure the apparatus is assembled properly, there are no leaks at the joints, and connections are secure when the unit is in operation.
2. Always make certain water is in the heating chamber, to the proper level, before engaging the heating element.
3. Turn on the water source to the condenser.
4. Rinse the complete units’s interior with distilled water and evacuate any residuals from the interior boiling chamber leaving it empty and ready for a wine or juice sample.
5. Make sure the chemicals and reagents are mixed properly, strengths known and ready for use.
6. Collect a representative sample of wine or juice from a vessel in the cellar.
7. Check the sample for exogenous amounts of carbon dioxide. If the wine is not still – pull a slight vacuum on the sample or lightly heat, driving off the carbon dioxide and then cool to laboratory temp (68 degrees F.) Do use caution not to reduce the amount of volatile acidity with these actions as a false reading will occur.
8. Once the sample is ready, make sure the receiving stopcock on the cash still is positioned so the sample will go into the interior-boiling chamber.
9. Pipette with a class A volumetric pipette, or equivalent, 10 milliliters of the wine/juice sample and deliver it into the interior boiling chamber. Rinse any portion of wine/juice into the bowling chamber from the funnel with pre-boiled and cooled distilled water. Do not rinse out the volumetric pipette as they are made “to deliver”.
10. Close the stopcock to trap all inside the unit.
11. Place a collection flask under the condenser where distillate will be discharged from the unit during operation. Use a small-mouthed Erlenmeyer flask and make sure the connection is closed but loose. This is to limit the possibility that some of the collected sample would revolatilize and evaporate out of the collection flask. Example: Make sure the distillate is not falling into the collection flask and rather the distillate spout protrudes into the flask.
12. Turn the power to the unit on and boiling will soon begin.
13. Double check that cold water is flowing through the condenser
14. Watch the unit and the collection process.
15. When approximately 100 mils of distillate has been collected in the receiving flask – turn the power to the unit off.
16. Remove the collection flask with the distillate collected as soon as possible.
17. Add three drops of phenolphthalein to the distillate and swirl.
18. Record the starting volume of sodium hydroxide in the burette
19. Immediately start titrating the sample with the 0.1 normal sodium hydroxide. Titrate until a very light pink is achieved that will last for 45 seconds or more. This part takes practice and lab experience.
20. Record the ending volume of sodium hydroxide in the burette to achieve the total amount used for the titration. This will be used later in the calculation.
21. Open the stopcock on the Cash Still to evacuate the remains of the sample tested from the interior boiling chamber. (Some units do not have this capacity – please disregard this step and perform the same function in another fashion if the unit in your lab is not equipped with this function.)
22. Rinse the inner chamber twice with copious amounts of distilled water (two twenty milliliter rinses) and evacuate both rinses residues.
23. Turn the upper stopcock to readjust the distilled water in the exterior bowl as much water will have been lost during the last test. [Keep in mind we tested a 10 milliliter sample and collected 100 milliliters]
24. Make sure to close the stopcock to stop the evacuation of the inner bowl and start the process for another test. Repeat starting with step 8 above.
25. Turning our attention back to the previous test results and data gathered above.
The formula used to calculate the results from the process is as follows:
(VA g/l) = (Mils of NaOH) * (Normality of NaOH) * (0.06) (1000
10 milliliters of wine / juice
The results are expressed in grams per liter.
Below are potential sources of error not stated above:
Be sure to drive off any carbon dioxide in the wine sample. This may actually change the volume of your sample as well and add condensed carbonic acid to your collection flask giving false readings on the high side.
Use boiled distilled water in the outer boiling chamber to avoid dissolved carbon dioxide in the water giving false results to the test. (carbonic acid would take more sodium hydroxide to negate the carbonic acid therefore giving a potentially false high to the volatile acidity measurement.)
Sorbic acid (potassium sorbate) in a wine may give erroneous measurements of the volatile acidity and may need a correction. [1 gram of sorbic acid is equal to 0.54 grams of acidic acid.]
Run a blank on some boiled distilled water and subtract that reading from your sample. Or run a blank on a 12.5 percent alcohol / boiled distilled water mix. Usually this blank will take 0.2 mils of 0.1 normal NaOH and this number can be subtracted from all future burette readings.
Calibrate the strength of your sodium hydroxide. This is the most important chemical known in this equation. For further accuracy use a 10 milliliter burette in place of the 25 milliliter burette recommended above.
This test is not correcting for sulfur dioxide in the wine. In most cases, with today’s lower sulfur dioxide winemaking, this is not necessary to correct.
To make the operation of the unit easier – one may adapt a way to fill the exterior bowling chamber, with pre-boiled distilled water, by having a source above the unit and a pinch clamp to fill the bowl when needed.
Cleaning the Unit
Over time, one will notice a brown deposit dirt developing on the inner chamber of the unit. This is unsightly and may cause inefficiency to the unit. These steps below can help remove these deposits and keeps the unit sparkling clean for better use and for tourist viewing into the laboratory.
Please wear proper safety goggles and equipment while performing this operation, too!
1. Place 20 milliliters of 2.0 normal NaOH into the interior boiling flask and add 2 drops of dish detergent. Rinse residues into inner chamber.
2. Plug in the unit to boil and allow to boil.
3. Place a collection flask at the outlet to collect the cleaning distillate. Do not breathe the gas and use in a well-ventilated lab.
4. One should notice a sloughing/bubbling of the dirt off the inner chamber.
5. After the dirt is removed, open the stopcock to evacuate the internal boiling chamber.
6. Rinse with copious amounts of distilled water to remove all soap and sodium hydroxide by repeated rinsing.
7. When running the first VA after cleaning note that the results may be “off” and be ready to run the sample a second time if the data seems to be in error from previous lab results.
One may also notice a mineral build up on the exterior of the condensing coils from the water used for cooling. These are not cleaned by the action above. One may clean these by removing that section (the condenser) of the apparatus and soaking in a strong base over a weekend or several days. Inspect the unit after soaking and rinse both the inner portion and exterior portions with copious amounts of water or potentially a very light citric acid and water mix. Once again be prepared to disregard any data from the next analysis run since it may be skewed from cleaning chemical residuals.
So, you have opened up a claim in your vineyard due to freeze/frost damage. What’s next? When do you get paid? How much do you get? When is the adjuster going to come out? How does the claims process work? What do you need to provide to the adjuster that shows your loss?
I wrote a month ago about when you should open up a claim. To summarize, you should open up a claim any time that you might have a loss. You should not wait to see if you have a loss but open the claim up right away. The loss has to be caused by an insurable trigger.
The Causes of Loss per Grape crop provisions are:
1) Adverse weather conditions;
2) Fire, unless weeds and other forms of undergrowth have not been controlled or pruning debris has not been removed from the vineyard;
3) Insects, except as excluded in 10(b)(1), but not damage due to insufficient or improper application of pest control measures;
4) Plant disease, but not damage due to insufficient or improper application of disease control measures;
7) Volcanic eruption; or
8) Failure of irrigation water supply, if caused by an insured peril that occurs during the insurance period.
Adverse weather conditions could be anything that could cause damage to your grapes. For example; drought, frost, freeze, excess moisture etc. Wildlife could be bird damage, deer etc. Fire would also include smoke taint as that is a result of a fire. Crop insurance does not cover, inability to sell your grapes because of a buyer’s refusal or contract breakage. It also doesn’t cover losses from boycotts or pandemics. Overspray or chemical damage from a neighboring farm is not covered either.
An average of your historic production is being covered per acre per variety. You can cover 50% to 85% of your production average. Obviously, the premium for 50% is cheaper than the premium for 85%. If you chose 75% coverage then you have a 25% production deductible. If you have a 4 ton per acre average then you would be covered for 3 tons per acre. Your deductible would be 1 ton an acre. You would have to have a loss over 1 ton per acre to have a payable claim.
At the time you sign up for crop insurance you report your past production per variety and vineyard location. We do not need any weigh tickets, pick records, or sales receipts from wineries at this time to verify your production. You will be asked to show this year crop year’s production records during a claim. The adjuster may want to verify past production records as well. It is important that when we set up your production database with your history that you have records to prove the data.
Per the Common Crop Insurance Policy – Basic Provisions; Production record – A written record that documents your actual production reported on the production report. The record must be an acceptable verifiable record or an acceptable farm management record as authorized by FCIC procedures. FCIC is the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.
Here are some of the items that may be needed for a claim. A. Supporting RecordsSettlement sheets, sales receipts, machine harvest records, certified scale records, pick records and final or year-end statements from a winery, cannery or processor must indicate net paid tons of Grapes delivered by variety. Converting gallons of wine to tons of grapes does not qualify as acceptable records. – Crop Insurance Handbook (CIH) 2023. These records would also be needed to support your historical average.
It is important to keep these items for the future as well. It is not enough that you have your tonnage written down. You need weigh tickets, receipts etc. These documents need to be verifiable, not in a spreadsheet on your desktop computer.
It can get tricky if you are “vertically integrated” and grow grapes and make wine yourself. You might not have third party weigh tickets or sales receipts. Some wineries sell some of their grapes and make wine with the rest. Some of the records for the adjuster could be sales receipts and the rest would need to be certified scale weight records.
The scale has to be certified though.
B. Certified Scale Weight RecordsCertified scale weight records alone are considered to be acceptable production records, unless the CP requires a pre-harvest appraisal and/or records of sold production. Certified scale weight records must be legible and include all of the following to be acceptable.
1) The insured’s name.
2) The name of the crop.
3) The date of harvest or the date weighed.
4) The unit number or the location of the
5) The practice, type, and crop year.
6) The quantity/weighed production. For wineries that process their own grapes, the weight can be recorded on the form used for reporting to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. – Crop Insurance Handbook (CIH) 2023.
There is a lot of information on what is an “acceptable verifiable record”, much more than I can put in one article. For the full information on what is acceptable you can look at the Crop Insurance Handbook, the Loss Adjustment Manual and the Grape Loss Adjustment Standards Handbook. You can find all of these at the USDA Risk Management Agency’s website at www.rma.usda.gov
To run through the questions at the beginning. You have called your agent and opened up a claim. The adjuster will contact you in few days. They may want to see the damage right away or wait to see how much you harvested. I always recommend to vineyard owners to take pictures of the vineyard if the damage is visible. Once you harvest and production is verified by the adjuster, they will send the information in to be reviewed. Once approved you will be paid the difference of your guarantee (average of your historical production multiplied by your coverage level.)
I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping good records.
After navigating our client’s business and company growth during the last two roller-coaster years, I was ready for a significant break. Armed with credits from two canceled vacations and many pent-up credit card miles, I cashed in for an extended European visit in July. While there, my husband and I traveled to and stayed in four major wine tasting regions: Alsace, Champagne, Burgundy, and the Rhine/Mosel.
While there are countless and apparent differences between how France, Germany and the US promote tourism and sell wine directly to customers, there are equal similarities if you look hard enough. On this trip, I found myself in the rare role of a focused tourist. So, I became aware of the marketing cues and delivery vehicles and noted what worked, and what didn’t.
Here’s Some of what I Learned:
1. You can’t judge a baguette by its crust. If I were to ask you to paint a picture of your ideal customer, who would you envision? Most have that gray-haired, tanned, 65-year-old couple on a sailboat in their mind. What if I told you that the average 25-55 year old was equal to or wealthier than most over 55?
And it goes beyond gray hair to the overall presentation. The casualness of today’s affluent consumers was apparent on day one in the premium airline lounge. I splurged all our points on an upgrade to Business Class for our 11-hour flight to and from Zurich, complete with the little fold-down bed and access to the private lounge at the airport. I expected to see businessmen in suits and mature couples dressed in Sax Fifth Avenue or European power couples with effortless, crisp, linen summer button-downs and a nanny in tow with the two gorgeous well-behaved children. This was not what I saw. I saw 30-year-olds with backpacks and complete families with grandmothers in a wheelchair and many young children.
This observation continued at wineries. What struck me the most was the dress code. I know this isn’t the 60’s where you dressed up to go traveling, and we were in a heat wave, but even in Reims, where an average tasting can be 70€ and a bottle in the thousands, the standard was casual, very casual. Like pajama bottoms, gym shorts, flip flops, unbrushed hair, and ripped jeans casual.
Takeaway: The days of the winery controlling the “exclusivity” of a visit have passed. Customers now decide where they think they fit in and boldly go there. Visually, the current wealthy consumer is indistinguishable from a person on minimum wage. How would you determine who “belongs” even if you could? It would be best to assume anyone walking through your door is self-selected to be at your winery and a potential buyer. Your control exists with a straightforward website with your story and brand, where you list your offerings and are clear about your pricing. If you execute traffic-driving initiatives, ensure your income and geography target is correct so you don’t get someone looking for a Toyota strolling into a Range Rover dealer.
2. Napoleon’s hat is cool but not what I was looking for. My husband and I have seen vineyards and done our share of winery tours, but I was not going to miss the chance to tour the ancient and legendary cellars of the one-and-only Moët & Chandon. I have always been a Dom Pérignon fan, and as the parent company, Moët is the only place you can find it as a tourist. I was prepared to spare no expense for a high-end experience at this boutique and called ahead but was dismayed that they only had two options for visitors. I explained I was a Sommelier from Napa and that I was interested in the higher echelon wines I couldn’t easily find in the US, but there was no flexibility with options. Hoping for the best, I purchased the more expensive of the two tour/tastings.
Épernay is very similar to Napa. Small and hyper-focused on luxury winery tourism and visited by many tourists with various ranges of knowledge and spending power. Moët & Chandon didn’t disappoint with a grand entrance and seating area displaying several historical artifacts, including Napoleon Bonaparte’s hat.
But that was as interesting as it got. For the next 75 minutes, we were led through an introductory tour of the champenoise method-not, even very much history or specific information about Moët. It was the same script someone from Schramsberg could have used. A woman from Oregon wanted to ask questions, but at each juncture, she apologized and seemed embarrassed that she was interrupting the tour guide’s script with wanting to know more.
At the completion, we were rewarded with two glasses of vintage champagne (the base level tour offered a single tasting of the current NV Brut as the only deviation). In the garden with our group, I listened to our group chatter as an Australian wine collector boasted about his cellar full of Penfolds Grange to a mother from the Netherlands with her son, who was celebrating his birthday (he had just turned 18). Then we were all ushered through the gift shop before exiting.
Takeaway: What a tragic missed opportunity! With some foresight and flexibility, the Grange buyer and ourselves could have easily been delighted with an abbreviated tour and tasting of their high-end offerings. I’m sure we would have purchased 3x as much in half the time. Then the woman with the questions and the mother and son would have been within a smaller group of people who all could have learned about dosage or riddling while feeling more comfortable and heard.
Never underestimate the power of customized experiences or knowing your audience to maximize sales opportunities.
3. A little Nerd goes a long way. The tools and technology used were as varied as the regions we visited. Alsace had some of the most professional “Hollywood” style use of video, ingeniously using the barrels and the cellar walls as the video screen for various camera angles. Mercier in Épernay has a full-size laser-guided train that tours their cellars and a video that interacts with its elevator. Dr. Loosen, in Germany, chose low-tech but equally effective blown-up laminated images of the vineyards and soils to accompany and explain their elaborate and complex Riesling tasting.
We belong to the Domaine Serene Wine Club in Oregon, and their sister winery is Château de la Crée in Santenay, Burgundy. I appreciated they were sufficiently connected worldwide to have my Wine Club information (even though I noticed la Crée wasn’t on WineDirect as Serene is). The customer service was seamless; they knew what wines we’d purchased and our entire history. But with language barriers, I respected that they also asked us to fill out a customer form to confirm they had information in their system correctly, and nothing needed updating.
A not-so-great but funny example of a technology miss is that thanks to COVID-19, most cafes and some European restaurants have removed menus entirely in favor of QR code stickers on the tables. This reduces waste and time, lowers germs, and is easier to update, so it seems like a great idea all the way around. That is until your phone runs out of juice (which happened), or your sticker is ripped or faded (which happened), and you’re left awkwardly sneaking to another table or flagging down an annoyed waiter to find a menu.
Takeaway: We can use technology to enhance or confuse our customers. It can improve creativity, help communicate a message, make the visit memorable, reduce waste and germs, and help your customer and employee experience. Just ensure you know why you’re using it and employ it with intent and purpose.
Also, always have a low-tech backup for when tech fails or you need to communicate with a neophyte.
C’est La Vie!
It’s been several years since I’ve been to another wine region to compare “cellar door” marketing and programs and I can say Europe has come a long way toward our new world DTC practices here in the US. I am encouraged that as younger consumers become more educated, affluent, and demanding, the pace of evolution will continue to increase. There will likely be additional channels and tools that we are just beginning to explore in another few years.
Susan DeMatei is the founder of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. Now in its 10th year, the agency offers domestic and international clients assistance with strategy and execution. WineGlass Marketing is located in Napa, California at 707-927-3334 or wineglassmarketing.com
By: Louis J. Terminello, Esq. and Brad Berkman, Esq.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the world of beverage alcohol. As the reader knows, e-commerce sales of all alcoholic beverages, and especially wine, have grown exponentially. The reliance by the consumer on their computer is resulting in a war of attrition against the three-tier system, the legal doctrine of Tied-House and trade practice concerns.
One significant and deeply affected business sphere is how marketers are using technology to create brand awareness. Clearly, the beverage alcohol advertising landscape is in a state of flux and change. The internet and social media, in particular, have had a profound impact on virtually all consumer goods but it seems that the boundaries of acceptable alcohol advertising are being expanded outward. More significantly, the impact of the ‘influencer’ in the alcohol sphere has become an important marketing tool for raising brand awareness and driving case sales. A simple search on YouTube will quickly reveal innumerable posts and videos on the effective use of social media and the influencer to promote wine brand awareness.
In the world of wine, there is room for influencers at all levels. Although in different forms, past practice supports this contention. There is little difference to the wine marketer between wine writers of the past and the videographer of the present. Whether it be number of points given by Parker, or the number of followers of an influencer, the goal is to raise brand awareness and ultimately move boxes. Obviously, certain categories of influencers will be used to advertise and market high-priced single varietals or a unique Meritage. Lower priced, broad market and perhaps younger focused labels require a different type of influencer. However, the use of an influencer and the commensurate social media campaign, if not properly designed and executed, could be perilous for the brand owner.
The purpose of this article is to provide the wine marketer who may be considering the use of influencers with the basic guidance for the effective use of the “influencer” and social media in order to withstand the scrutiny of alcohol regulatory authorities.
TTB and the FTC
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (“TTB”) promulgates rules for compliant labeling, advertising, and related trade practice matters. State(s) alcohol control boards possess the authority to promulgate and enforce their own similar rules within their borders. The regulatory agencies are certainly known to the reader. There is another federal agency, less known to those in the industry, called the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), which the wine marketer should be aware of.
The FTC is an independent agency within the federal government that is tasked with, in its own words, “…protecting consumers and competition by preventing anticompetitive, deceptive, and unfair business practices through law enforcement, advocacy, and education without unduly burdening legitimate business activity.” The FTC has stated publicly that it has the authority and ability to enforce alcohol advertising rules on various media including the social media and the use of influencers.
Historically, alcohol beverage producers self-regulated their advertising initiatives by adhering to the guidelines of three (3) influential producer associations. Those associations are: 1) The Beer Institute; 2) The Wine Institute and: 3) Distilled Spirts Council of the United States or DISCUS.
All three associations have published guidelines for brand owners of each commodity to follow as minimal industry standards.
The FTC has adopted these rules and advises that alcohol advertisers should comply with these standards. The FTC has openly stated it can file enforcement actions against brand owners that disregard the adopted standards. It is important to note that to date, the FTC has not often enforced these rules through administrative action. Given the changing nature of advertising and the “pushing of the envelope” by young influencers of acceptable standards it is wise to be familiar with them and work to be sure they are complied with.
The main concern of the FTC is advertising that is intentionally or inadvertently directed to underage consumers and where the content of the advertisement may be of particular appeal to the underage drinker. Since this is a wine focused publication, we direct the reader to the short list below taken from the Wine Institute, which outlines best and responsible practices. Note that this is not a complete list, but highlights the most significant factors to bear in mind when constructing advertising content and in particular, overseeing the content of influencers broadcast on social media platforms.
Wine advertising shall not depict or describe in its advertising:
• The consumption of wine for the effects the alcohol may produce.
• Direct or indirect reference to alcohol content or extra strength.
• Excessive drinking or persons who appear to be intoxicated or to be inappropriately uninhibited.
• Any suggestion that excessive drinking or loss of control is amusing or a proper subject for amusement.
• Any persons engaged in activities not normally associated with the moderate and responsible use of wine and a responsible lifestyle. Association of wine use in conjunction with feats of daring or activities requiring high degree of skill is specifically prohibited.
• Wine in quantities inappropriate to the situation or inappropriate for moderate and responsible use.
• Wine advertising should not depict or encourage illegal activity of any kind.
• Wine shall not be presented as being essential to personal performance, social attainment, achievement, success, or wealth.
• The use of wine shall not be directly associated with social, physical, or personal problem solving.
• Wine shall not be presented as vital to social acceptability and popularity.
• It shall not be suggested that wine is crucial for successful entertaining.
• Wine advertisers should not Show models and personalities as wine consumers in advertisements who are or appear to be under the legal drinking age. Such models shall be 25 years of age or older.
• Use music, language, gestures, cartoon characters, or depictions, images, figures, or objects that are popular predominantly with children or otherwise specifically associated with or directed toward those below the legal drinking age, including the use of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
• Be presented as being related to the attainment of adulthood or associated with “rites of passage” to adulthood.
• Wine advertising shall in no way suggest that wine be used in connection with operating motorized vehicles such as automobiles, motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, or airplanes or any activities that require a high degree of alertness or physical coordination.
• Comparative advertising claims shall be truthful and appropriately substantiated and shall not be disparaging of a competitor’s product.
• Wine advertising shall not degrade, demean, or objectify the human form, image or status of women, men, or of any ethnic, minority, religious or other group or sexual orientation. Advertising shall not exploit the human form, or feature sexually provocative images.
It is important to point out that the three essential elements of brand advertising incorporated into the Wine Institute, Beer Institute and DISCUS rules, which are designed to ensure that a particular brand does not appeal to underage consumers, are:
• No more than 28.4% of an audience for an advertisement is to consist of people under 21 years of age.
• Content of the advertisement should appeal to individuals over 21 years of age-conversely; content should not appeal to individuals under 21 years of age.
• Models and Actors employed should be older than 25 years of age and reasonably appear to be over 21 years of age.
When deciding on whether to partner with an influencer, wine marketers should scrutinize the past content of the influencer as well as thoroughly analyzing the demographics of the influencers target audience.
Although the Wine Institute is silent on this issue, the DISCUS rules state that the 25 year old threshold for models and actors does not apply to athletes, celebrities, spokespersons and influencers of legal drinking purchase age that are generally recognizable to their intended audience (see Code of Responsible Practices Distilled Spirits Council of the United Sates).The influencer does not necessarily have to be older than 25 years of age.
Beverage alcohol manufacturing, production, taxation, Tied-House, and related regulatory matters are complex. Trade practice and advertising rules, standing alone are also detailed and complex. As this article suggests, the internet, social media, and the influencer are acting as disrupters of an orthodox system of doing business. Of course, the new media and the new media stars offer tremendous opportunities to raise brand awareness that translates to more sales. The best advice here is be aware of acceptable and self-imposed industry standards and make them part of an effective social and influencer media driven campaign. The FTC is poised to enforce these regulations and likely will do so the more and more influencers test the acceptable limits of alcohol beverage advertising. As wine brand marketers, strive for compliance to stay off the radar of the regulatory authorities. To do otherwise, could be costly.
During the Oregon Wine Symposium, held virtually from February 15-17, 2022, two sessions on the role of oxygen in winemaking. Following is a summary of some of these key findings.
In explaining the role of oxygen, Dr. Gavin Sacks, professor and associate chair of food science at Cornell University, broke down how wineries utilize oxygen pre-fermentation, during fermentation and post-fermentation. When handling must and juices pre-fermentation, winemakers use the terms hyperreductive, reductive, oxidative and hyperoxidative. As these terms do not have rigorous regulatory definitions, winemakers use these terms in different ways. Generally, those winemakers, who talk about reductive versus oxidative, add sulfur dioxide in reductive winemaking, but they won’t add it in oxidative winemaking. Hyperreductive means that not only will sulfur dioxide be added, but there will also be an effort to minimize air contact pre-fermentation. Conversely, hyperoxidative means that while sulfur dioxide is not added, air is intentionally added.
Under these conditions where one is using fresh must with no sulfur dioxide present, Sacks notes that the main route by which oxygen is consumed or reacts is going to be enzymatic enzymes either from the grape or enzymes from spoilage organisms like detritus. The reactions are classified under the generic term polyphenol oxidases. In the presence of oxygen, they will get converted into oxidized forms called quinones. As quinones are pretty short-lived, they will only form following mechanical damage, such as crushing and pressing fruit.
According to Dr. Sacks, the most common way to slow down this enzymatic browning in a winery involves using antioxidants such as sulfur dioxide. These antioxidants will react with the quinones, but even more importantly, they will deactivate enzymes but is less effective on laccase found in molds. Other effective options are ascorbic acid and glutathione, which are in grapes and yeast (lees), as well as slowing it down to cooling. In addition, charcoal and bentonite can be used to bind to and remove some of the browning products and inactivate enzymes. Also, hyperoxidation followed by the brown product via flotation or filtration tends to decrease the browning potential of that eventual wine.
Pre-fermentation oxygen exposure might not have a major effect, especially with aroma compounds, as most aroma compounds found in finished wine are not present in the juice or the must. Instead, they exist in precursor form or are produced de novo by the spore bylactic bacteria.
In Dr. Sack’s estimation, oxidation matters much less than just letting the fruit sit around before fermenting. “This allows time for the glutathione 3-MH precursors to form. The resulting wine will have more intense aromas.”
During fermentation, oxygen consumption continues to be relatively rapid due to the formation of carbon dioxide and the yeast utilizing oxygen enzymatically. Yeast cells have cell membranes composed of phospholipids, which have fatty acids. The yeast will try to modify these fatty acids in response to their environment. For example, under colder temperatures, yeast will increase the concentration of unsaturated fatty acids, thus increasing the need for oxygen.
Post-fermentation, Sacks recommends looking at the oxygen consumption rate. Fresh must in actively fermenting wine is consuming oxygen at a rate of a few milligrams per liter per minute. In comparison, in post-fermentation, it’s down to one milligram per liter as non-enzymatic oxidation goes much more slowly. The main effects of oxygen on finished wine are attributed to microbial growth due to the presence of oxygen. This can result in an off flavor and haze formation, along with possible regulatory issues.
Chemical Changes in WineDue to Oxidation
Sacks refers to the main pathway for wine with little or no oxidation as the iron phenolic pathway because it involves oxygen, iron and diophenol. “The difference here is instead of having an enzymatic catalyst (TPO), now we’ve gotten iron as a catalyst,” he states.
As the reaction proceeds, it will form an oxidized diophenol, just like when must is oxidized pre-fermentation. However, the big difference is that this also makes hydrogen peroxide. These two compounds are highly reactive and can result in the loss of sulfidryls (tannin reactions).
Hydrogen peroxide will react with iron to generate hydroxyl free radicals. And then those hydroxyl radicals can direct indiscriminately with wind components to generate compounds like aldehydes, including acid aldehyde by oxidation ethanol. These compounds result in the oxidized smell of wine, such as acid aldehyde, which smells like bruised apples, cherry, walnut, baked potatoes or soy sauce. Also, hydrogen peroxide produces browning particles.
One way some winemakers intentionally oxidize their wines is through Micro-oxygenation (Micro-ox), which is the treatment of wine with well-controlled small doses of oxygen over a short period of time. This will result in compounds that are referred to as wine pigments. They’re less bleachable by sulfur dioxide and not as prone to hydrolysis, so they’re more stable in a wine environment. Also, they’re the major contributors to the color of aged wines. Dr. Sacks referenced several experiments showing that if Micro-ox is done at roughly the same concentrations as an air saturation offering of six to nine milliliters per liter (milligrams per liter per month), this could have modest effects by increasing in the color intensity and wine pigment and slightly decrease astringency.
Also, when sulfur dioxide is added to a wine, a portion will stay free, but a portion will also form strong chemical bonds with other components in wine, referred to as binders. They act as a reducing agent to prevent oxidized changes or chemical oxidation from happening to the wine.
In a research study exploring assessing the impact of free and total sulfur dioxide in bagged wine, Sacks observed that when they measured dissolved oxygen in these wines, it was always almost always near zero and undetectable. “So, oxygen is getting in, but it’s being consumed by the wine, but it’s also happening relatively fast with all the SO₂ being consumed in a year.”
How to Control Redox PotentialUsing Air During Fermentation
Roger Boulton, a consultant for RB Boulton Inc. and emeritus professor of enology and chemical engineering at UC Davis, offered an in-depth analysis of the redox potential (reduction-oxidation potential) by first noting that dissolved oxygen in wine cannot and does not oxidize anything until it gets activated by components in solution (iron and copper tartrate complexes), temperature or light. Once activated, hydrogen peroxide is produced, which in turn causes a rapid rise in the redox potential of the juice or wine. Secondly, there is no relationship between dissolved oxygen level and redox potential. As might be expected, this is a major cause of confusion when winemakers and others talk about winemaking practices, oxygen exposure or oxidation of the wine.
Once the fermentation begins and even before the yeast begins to grow, one of the components they secrete to control the redox potential around them is glutathione. As they do this, the redox potential declines. The decline in the potential will continue until yeast growth has ceased, typically at the point of the maximum fermentation rate. The higher the fermentation temperature, the faster the onset of fermentation and the quicker the decline in redox potential occurs.
Introducing a small amount of air (resulting in less than one mg/L of dissolved oxygen) enables this amount of oxygen to be activated. This generates a burst of hydrogen peroxide that causes the redox potential to increase, usually by about 100 mV, over a period of approximately 30 minutes. Due to the reaction between peroxide and glutathione, the redox potential declines again, usually over the next few hours. The pattern is repeated if the air is added again, but this cannot begin until the redox potential has returned to a stationary value. The addition of dissolved oxygen at higher concentrations has no further effect. This is why controlling redox potential during fermentation is very different from simply controlling air addition or establishing a certain level of dissolved oxygen. Once yeast growth has ceased, there is no need to keep adding periodic amounts of air. And the redox potential will slowly return to its final level at the end of the fermentation.
The motivation for controlling the redox potential during wine fermentation is to prevent the formation of hydrogen sulfide and other alkyl thiols and ethyl thioesters. If elemental sulfur is present as a residual from vineyard applications, it will produce small amounts of hydrogen sulfide when the redox potential is at low levels. Many juices can reach these levels during fermentation. The aim of controlling the redox potential during fermentation is to prevent this from happening. While the yeast creates these changes in the redox environment, it is the initial level of the potential and the sensitivity to change that is determined by the juice composition. This is why the formation of hydrogen sulfide varies so much across juices and yeast strains and why there is some confusion as to this being a property of the strain alone.
For those looking to integrate a redox system into their own winery for fermentation control, Boulton recommends a Hamilton electrode probe ($2,000), which is the only probe he knows of currently that is food grade.
Once fermentation has begun and significant levels of ethanol form, the addition of air and the activation of dissolved oxygen lead to the formation of a radical called the hydroxyethyl radical. The dihydroxy phenols (including tannins) do not appear to be oxidized or used during these redox-controlling reactions. Boulton notes, “In wine, it is the hydroxyethyl radical, not oxygen, that is the real villain if you wanted to talk about an oxidizing villain.”
Oxygen in Action: Cellar Techniques
Johnny Brose, the winemaking instructor at Chemeketa Community College and moderator of these sessions, toured several vineyards in Oregon and California to learn how these winemakers dealt with oxygen in their respective wineries. Among his key findings:
Scott Kelley, the owner/winemaker at Paul O’Brien Winery (Roseburg, OR), uses a center stone to inject pure oxygen into his ferments.
Ryan Rech, the senior winemaker, and Dr. Jonathan Cave, an analytical chemist for Berringer Vineyards (Helena, CA), use a low-level nitrogen pressure that prevents oxygen from coming in. All their tanks have a headspace management system that they monitor year-round.
Ryan Hodgins, the winemaker for FEL Wines (Yountville, CA), utilizes a nitrogen generator to flush their tanks.
Jeff Menganhaus, VP and winemaker at Williams Selyem (Healdsburg, CA), uses argon and pressurized tanks in his winemaking process.
Use of DO Meters in the Winery
Finally, Brose demonstrated a range of DO (dissolved oxygen) meters. The first was an Electrochemical (Galvanic and Polargraphic), which is very portable and inexpensive ($500 to $2,000). This requires an electrolyte solution to be inserted into the probe and flushed and rinsed before each measurement. Low temperatures and pressure changes can lead to very inaccurate measurements. An optical DO meter is lower maintenance and offers more precise measurements. But it is relatively more expensive ($1,000 to $4,000) and requires more time to obtain accurate measurements. At the high end of the scale are OxvDot Sensors, which are typically utilized in research or large-scale production sites and are more stationary, with a price point of $20,000 or more. They provide an instant measurement of oxygen in both liquid and gas and can be read in real-time.
In assessing when to use a DO meter, Dr. Sacks recommends focusing on the bottling and packaging process. Once the wine is off the lees, non-enzymatic chemical oxidation is the dominant route for oxygen to be consumed. A DO meter can evaluate the integrity of the tanks and the quality of transport processes to help winemakers understand where the wine is picking up oxygen, how much oxygen and then do something to address it.
Vineyards in the fall, often display a palette of colors that differ from those expected during senescence (yellow leaves that turn tan). In many cases, the whole vine may turn completely red or perhaps patchy red spots are interspersed with green color that have a blotchy or patchy appearance is present. Sometimes all vines in a vineyard display bright colors but in other cases, a few vines may display color or have different ranges of red (or yellow) that are interspersed with healthy senescent vines. Generally, the abnormal colors observed in the fall season are caused by some sort of stress. One important stress factor is the presence of disease-causing agents or pathogens. The most likely cause of foliar discoloration is the presence of detrimental plant viruses. Although many different viruses cause vine symptoms in the vineyard, this article will focus on an update on grapevine red blotch disease caused by Grapevine red blotch virus (GRBV).
The Virus that Causes Red Blotch Disease
Based in molecular and structural characterization, GRBV has been placed in the Grablovirus genus, within the Geminiviridae family. With the exception of Grapevine fanleaf and red blotch, Koch’s postulates have not been completed with most of the disease-causing grapevine viruses. To complete the Koch’s postulates, a pathogen must be isolated in pure form from a diseased organism, later the pathogen (virus in GRBV’s case) must be introduced to a healthy organism (grapevine plant), and the newly infected plant must show the same symptoms as the originally infected one. Clearly Koch’s postulates are important because they prove the cause and effect of a pathogen causing a specific disease. Dr. Marc Fuchs team at Cornell University tweaked the definition of Koch’s postulates to prove that GRBV causes grapevine red blotch disease.
The work was done using sophisticated recombinant DNA technology to introduce the virus genetic material into tissue cultured grapevine plants. Time will tell, after the plants grow, if the infected vines also display the detrimental effect of the virus in organoleptic qualities of the fruit (i.e., reduction of sugar, mouthfeel, etc.).
Red Blotch Symptoms
Grapevine red blotch virus infection displays leaf discoloration which usually appear spotty or blotchy in vines. The symptoms of GRBV infection become more pronounced in the vineyards in the fall season. However, these symptoms can be indistinguishable from those caused by leafroll viruses, especially in red-fruited varieties when rolling of leaves are not present. In red fruited varieties, GRBV infected vines can display red veins, but red veins have also been observed in non-infected vines, and many red-blotch infected vines do not display red veins. Therefore, red vein symptoms cannot be used as a diagnostic tool. In white-fruited varieties red blotch diseased vines displays yellow blotchy discoloration in leaves. While the symptoms of leafroll and red blotch can be confused, these diseases are caused by different types of viruses that can often be found in mixed infections, complicating diagnosis and control. Although, the change in colors of the leaves in the fall is a tale-tell of virus infection, the most important negative effect of both leafroll and red blotch virus-infection is the reduction of sugar in fruit resulting in reduced Brix values and delayed fruit maturity.
Two different strains (scientifically known as clades) of GRBV have been reported. However, no differences in their biology or effect on symptoms of these different strains in the vineyards have been observed so far. The symptom expression of GRBV infected vines is affected by climatic conditions and the author has noted differences in the effect on sugar reduction in sunnier and warmer areas. For example, California coastal areas with more fog and low sunshine levels yield fruit with sugar concentration than the same grape clones grown inland with more sun exposure.
Transmission and Spread of GRBV
In June, I attended a seminar series organized by the Napa Valley Technical Group. The presentations by Marc Fuchs and two of his students focused on the ecology, transmission, and epidemiology of Grapevine red blotch virus.
Researchers at Cornell University and the University of California have reported that the three-cornered alfalfa hopper (Spissistilus festinus) can transmit GRBV in greenhouse and laboratory conditions. Although, the three-cornered alfalfa hopper has been found in vineyard blocks where red blotch disease has spread, grapevine is not the preferred host for Spissistilus festinus. This insect prefers to feed on legumes, grasses, and shrubs. Furthermore, the insect is not able to complete its reproductive cycle in commercial grapevines. Based on the different strains of GRBV found in wild grapes and nearby commercial vineyards, research has shown that infection of wild grapes is probably due to the movement (transmission) of virus from commercial vineyards. Because the three-cornered alfalfa hopper can complete its reproductive cycle in wild grapes, wild grapes grown in the riparian areas become a potential source of infection into commercial vineyards. While research continues to determine if other vectors are capable of transmitting GRBV it is clear that the rapid expansion of this virus in vineyards was due to propagation and grafting of cuttings from infected vines. This also explains the arrival of GRBV to many countries in Asia, Europe, and South America where GRBV had not previously been reported.
Transmission of GRBV toHealthy Vines in the Vineyard
To determine the efficiency of natural transmission of GRBV in a vineyard, the Cornell team conducted an experiment with sentinel vines (GRBV-free tested). In 2015, 36 sentinel vines were planted in a vineyard with a high density of GRBV-infected vines. Annually, the team performed testing using the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) as well as visual inspection recording the symptoms of each vine. The results showed that the virus was first detected by PCR in sentinel vines in 2018 (three years after the GRBV-free vines were planted). However, these vines displayed symptoms one year after the virus was detected. By 2021, 16 out of the 36 sentinel vines tested positive but only 13 of these infected vines were symptomatic. The data presented suggests a lag period between GRBV infection and its molecular detection and further symptoms expression. In contrast, the researchers report a much shorter time period for detection and symptoms expression when GRBV-infected material is planted in a vineyard. The team theorizes that a lag on symptom development in a vineyard may also be due to the planting of vines that were grafted onto infected rootstocks. Field experiments with infected rootstock grafted onto healthy scion would need to be performed to validate this theory. In the many years I have been performing testing on both rootstock and scion grapevine material for my clients, I have yet to receive a positive result. Furthermore, past work in my laboratory showed the quick transmission (less than one month!) of GRBV from infected scion to healthy rootstock. I am curious and would welcome readers to contact me with information on positive GRBV infected rootstock findings.
The best way to avoid disease in the vineyard is to plant disease tested plant material. Nursery propagated material must be tested prior to grafting, making sure that both the rootstock and scion material are sampled. It is important to note that the lack of symptoms in a vine does not always correlate with a healthy diagnostic result (rootstock varieties as well as non-grafted vines are usually asymptomatic), so it is best to test a statistical sample of the nursery propagated material to be sure of its health status.
My experience with both field and laboratory sampling techniques can provide help during your vineyard development projects.
Judit Monis, Ph.D. provides specialized services to help growers, vineyard managers, and nursery personnel avoid the propagation and transmission of disease caused by bacteria, fungi, and viruses in their vineyard blocks. Judit (based in California) is fluent in Spanish and is available to consult in all wine grape growing regions of the word. Please visit juditmonis.com for information or contact email@example.com to request a consulting session at your vineyard.
Deep in the heart of Texas, located in the piney woods and rolling hills surrounding Plantersville, is a small boutique winery that offers visitors not just an opportunity to taste quality Texas wines in a picturesque setting but also to experience the wines of the ancients, be it Mavrud from Bulgaria or Limiona from Greece.
“It’s fascinating to me that these are the grapes enjoyed thousands and thousands of years ago by ancient ancestors like Spartacus, Aristotle, Homer and Alexander the Great,” winery founder Jerry Bernhardt told The Grapevine Magazine. “I’m always sniffing out indigenous wines that are experiencing a revival today and adding them to our selection.”
Bernhardt’s “selection” includes 33 varieties of traditional wines sourced primarily from grapes and juice throughout Texas, as well as the seven ancient grapes in its Antiquity Wine Curation. The Texas wines fulfill Bernhardt Winery’s mission “to provide our customers with quality wines and a fun tasting experience in a warm environment,” while the Antiquity series takes the love of wine to an entirely new level. That mission is “to find indigenous varieties as close to the genetic original and grown in the same terroir as in ancient times. We hope to recreate a shared communal experience of our ancestors such as love, passion, family and celebration through the tasting of these age-old wine.” Based on the number of visitors to the winery and wine sales and awards, Jerry Bernhardt and his team have surpassed expectations in both missions.
Bernhardt opened his namesake winery in 2005 as, he laughed, “a retirement project gone wrong.” He had always wanted to know more about wine, he said, so as a former engineer and builder, he understood that the best way to learn was to “just go do it or build it.” And so he did. He and his wife began making home-made wine, and he spent two years interning with the pioneering winemakers in nearby Fredericksburg, the Texas Hill Country home to over 50 vineyards and wineries today. One of his mentors was the French-born Bénédicte Rhyne, winemaker at Kuhlman Cellars in Stonewall and international wine consultant. He and Rhyne still maintain a partnership today.
When Bernhardt opened his doors, he offered four wines, all with grapes or juice sourced from Texas vineyards: A red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon), a white wine (Blanc du Bois), a Rosé (made from red and white grapes) and a Port, a barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon fortified with brandy and aged for a year in a proprietary barrel. The first year’s production was 900 gallons, or around 370 cases. Today, Bernhardt produces 15,000 gallons annually, or over 6,100 cases.
As he’s grown, Bernhardt has not strayed from his commitment to produce quality wines. In his quest for excellence and diversity, he diligently oversees and harvests Blanc Du Bois and a few rows of Black Spanish from 1.5 acres on his 20-acre property, and sources the rest from reliable, tried-and-true vineyards. He and his winemaker, his nephew Jonathan Schrock, select grapes and juice carefully, always based on quality. “What we produce depends on the year,” Schrock explained. “In Texas, we have good years and bad years. If the quality is there, we may source 100 percent from an area. But if it isn’t, we will go elsewhere. It all depends on the quality, and whether we can get it here safely without oxidation or other flaws.”
While the wines Bernhardt produces in Texas require careful oversight, the bottles shipped from Bulgaria and Greece come from trusted winemakers who have benefited from financial support, training and promotional opportunities provided by their local government. Since visiting the Plantersville winery in 2017, the Bulgarians have developed a solid relationship with Bernhardt, and are eager for Americans to experience the quality of wines coming from these ancient regions. As importers, Bernhardt Winery simply promotes and sells the wine. “They are so good,” he said, “they fly off the shelves. We sell out of everything we import.”
Currently, Bernhardt imports 30,000 bottles of wine annually in his Antiquity collection. The Bulgarian wines include: Mavrud, regarded as the one of the most highly esteemed wines in Bulgaria, with evidence of production 7,000 years ago, and possibly an ancient clone of clone of Mourvedre; Sauvignon Blanc, with origins believed to go back 1,000 years; Chardonnay, originally propagated on the Danube River plains by the Romans on their march to France; Rosé Inanna, regarded as the Queen of Heaven and the most popular goddess in all of Mesopotamia, and planted on the same Mesopotamian soil dating back to this ancient time; Cabernet Franc, native to the Loire Valley in France, and an up-and-coming grape that thrives in Bulgaria’s moderate climate; Sangiovese, more ancient than early Rome; and Syrah, an ancient grape with historical records dating back to 20 AD. The one grape from Greece in the Antiquity collection is Limniona, written about by Homer and Aristotle, and currently enjoying a revival in its home region of Thessaly, and increasing popular in Greece and abroad. Each bottle shares the story of the wine on the label.
While Jerry Bernhardt is a big fan of the wines of Bulgaria — known for its diverse microclimates and soils favorable for quality wine production — importing these wines (and the Limniona) fulfills his passion for educating people about wine, plus he sees it as a wise business decision. “I learned very
quickly that diversification is important,” he told The Grapevine Magazine. “With fires and freezes, and other variables, if you only have one source, you’re in trouble. Also, importing these wines gives us another level of top quality products to represent without having to invest millions to increase our capacity. We’re very comfortable where we are.”
Comfortable, yes, but Bernhardt’s not ready to rest on his laurels. He and winemaker Schrock are both self-described “creative” people and continue to push the envelope in search of new products, be they ancient grape varieties or different expressions of Texas fruit. “When we make blends, we may sit down and pull samples from 20 barrels,” Bernhardt said. “We sniff and taste until we find the flavor profile we want. We don’t blend based on what the wine’s going to taste like three or five years from now; My philosophy is to make wines that are designed to drink now.” So far, results of these “experiments” have proved to be very successful. Schrock invented a wine called Black Zinnish, a blend of Black Spanish mixed with Texas Zinfandel, which has been extremely popular. He also came up with Bayou Blend, a unique mix of Texas grapes, bottled in April this year and nearly sold out by July. Yet another best-seller is Cabernet Sauvignon Nouveau, a unique expression of the grape Cabernet Sauvignon that features new fruit without any aging. “We want people to simply taste the fruit itself,” Schrock said.
As Bernhardt moves into the future, customers can expect to taste new blends, particularly those that express differences in oak aging. “We’re using next-generation barrels (made with an oxygen permeable polymer shell) that can be used and reused, with oak coming from very high quality staves,” Schrock explained. “The staves are a ‘recipe,’ depending on the type of oak and the amount of toast we want. We get exposure from all four sides — not just one — and the staves are cut thinner to provide greater surface area for faster extraction.” As Texas grapes become more popular and availability increases, Schrock will have more and more opportunities to express his creativity. “My favorite part of winemaking is the oak aging,” he said. “Playing with the staves gives me such freedom. I can choose staves to open up tannins or structure or I can use blends of new and old oak, for example. I can really experiment and take the wines to the next level. It’s a lot of work, but less work than moving wine from barrel to barrel.”
Whether customers want to sample the best of Texas wines or imagine they’re sharing an ancient wine with Aristotle, Jerry Bernhardt promises guests a fun experience. The Tuscan-Style winery is a blend of old-world charm and modern luxury surrounded by 20 acres of rolling hills and 200-year-old pecan trees. It’s a perfect setting for enjoying a picnic, or any of the musical events the winery hosts on the weekends. “To sum it up, what’s important to us is to give people quality wine and a fun experience in a warm environment. You can find it all here, from local Texas wines to wines from across the world that are tied to our ancestors. For us, it’s all about a human connection. The quality of our shared experiences nudges us emotionally, and that’s what we want to provide. We want to share a story…and share a relationship.”
Soil protection practices help prevent erosion, improve grape quality, improve crop yield and aid environmental conservation. To practice sustainability and maintain a profitable business, it is necessary to find a balance between soil conservation and water consumption. Also relevant to the soil, fertilizer can make a big difference when growing grapes. Yet fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have a way of attaching themselves to soil particles and moving from vineyard lands to nearby waterways. Therefore, it’s essential to choose your fertilizer products wisely and always use them as directed to maintain soil health and do your part to protect the environment.
Soil in the Vineyard
Many issues affect the soil in vineyards across the country, including low nutrients, water flow and surface runoff. Gully, sheet and rill erosion are common in vineyards, as well as issues with slope length and steepness for drainage. From one vineyard to the next, variables to consider are crop rotation practices, the amount of rainfall and the type of soil in the region. Increasingly, vineyard operators feel the effects of climate change as they take care of the soil on their land and the grapes growing on it. This often comes in the form of more extended drought periods, consistently higher temperatures, longer hot seasons and increased wildfire risks.
“Compaction from equipment driving through vineyards along the same tracks year after year can severely stunt vine root growth, which will, in turn, stunt vine growth, regardless of how much fertilizer gets thrown on the vines,” said Dr. Jodi Creasap
Gee, Ph.D., BioSafe Systems’ assistant plant pathologist, viticulturist and technical sales representative for the Northeast. Since 1998, BioSafe Systems has been an innovator in environmentally sustainable practices and products to protect crops, water and operations in diverse industries. “In vineyards
where soil is already compacted or likely to be compacted, some growers may use a cover crop that develops deep taproots, such as a radish, which can break up the top six-to-eight-inch layers of soil.”
Dr. Creasap Gee also told The Grapevine Magazine that soil pH could change dramatically in vineyards where workers apply fertilizer without regard for actual soil content.
“Most grapevines require a soil pH between 5-7 for optimal uptake of nutrients from the soil, so in many vineyard sites, managing the soil pH is the most critical part of managing vineyard nutrients,” Dr. Creasap Gee said. “Therefore, consistent soil and petiole testing are so important. You need to know what’s going on in the soil, as well as what’s being taken up by the vines to monitor their health, like the blood tests we humans get during our annual physicals. In established vineyards, applications of nitrogen can reduce soil pH, leading to acidic soils and reducing nutrient uptake in the vines. Consequently, applications of lime may be necessary to improve the soil pH, and, as that will take time to affect soil pH, foliar feeds or foliar applications of fertilizers may be necessary. One of our products, CalOx FT, moves calcium through the vines with your chosen foliar feed product. CalOx FT uses ion channels to move calcium ions through the symplastic pathway, which is much faster than the typical apoplastic pathway. Applied as a foliar application, TerraGrow Liquid can improve vine health and bolster vine stress responses.”
Using Fertilizer in the Vineyard
Everyone who runs a vineyard has a favorite type of fertilizer to use on the soil, such as the manure of cows, poultry or rabbits. Vineyards use urea, zinc, potassium and ammonium nitrate depending on the soil needs. It is a widespread practice to apply granular fertilizer as a broadcast over the vine rows.
As a family-owned manufacturer of biodegradable crop protection, water treatment and sanitation products, BioSafe Systems offers a soil health program called “Sustainable Soils,” which workers can incorporate into any vineyard with irrigation and vineyards before planting.
“Typically, vineyards in the eastern part of the United States do not have any irrigation, save, perhaps, for newly planted vineyards,” said Dr. Creasap Gee. “On the west coast, however, irrigation may be more commonplace, which is where our TerraGrow Liquid plant growth promoter would shine. This product boasts several beneficial microorganisms and can improve plant health. It has been used as a root dip in vineyards to give vines the best possible start as they get established in the vineyard.”
Dr. Creasap Gee said that what sets BioSafe apart from the alternatives on the market is that its products are American-made and produced under strict quality control guidelines to ensure consistency and quality for growers. She also said that BioSafe’s sales representatives work closely with end users and distributors to ensure the optimal use of BioSafe Systems’ products and to answer queries as they arise.
Ideas for Vineyard Soil Conservation
Vineyards can improve their soil conservation practices in various ways, such as using buffer strips, drainage tiles and diversion ditches. It is also possible to protect your grapevines’ precious soil with a specific vineyard layout, permanent sod, and water and sediment control strategies. Mulch, seeded cover crops, soil biodiversity and weed management are other ways to ensure healthy soil for the current crop and for many years to come.
Dr. Creasap Gee told The Grapevine Magazine that the most critical step in this process is to work with a soil and water conservation specialist to identify and correct issues within the site.
“There are many soil conservation practices available to growers, and eXtension lays out a fantastic guideline for soil management,” she said. “Remember, if you don’t have good soil, the vines will struggle to establish good root systems, and without a good root system, vines may be puny and fail to ripen fruit consistently year after year.”
Overall, Dr. Creasap Gee said that the options for soil protection and conservation are numerous, depending on the site and that the options start with soil testing and a site evaluation for water drainage.
“For established vineyards, cover crops, like rye, can be an effective strategy to manage soil erosion and to increase soil organic matter,” she said. “The cover crops are burned down with a contact herbicide, like AXXE Broad Spectrum Herbicide, which can also be used in a vineyard to manage insect pests on cover crops and allowed to remain in the row middles to suppress additional weed growth.”
Fertilizer Tips for Vineyards
As a general rule and for optimal growth, it is best to aim for a soil Ph of about 5.5 to 7.0. Start by conducting a soil test to determine the best fertilizer strategy. Use fertilizer before planting, apply as little of the product as possible to start and introduce it lightly during the second year of growth.
Many vineyards apply a quarter-pound or less of 10-10-10 fertilizer in a circle around the plants and about four feet from the vines. In the years that follow, vineyards often increase the application to one pound but extend the circle to approximately eight feet from the plants’ bases for vines that appear to need an extra boost. Overall, saving more fertilizing activities for spring is best while minimizing usage in the fall season. However, a vineyard may choose to apply fertilizer in the fall because it is easier with the ground being dry but not yet frozen. In the spring, vineyards in some parts of the country may still present challenges due to melting snow and the frozen ground. Grapes are most depleted of nutrients right after harvest and in the early spring, so a combination of fertilizer sessions may be optimal for balance and longevity in the vineyard.
Dr. Creasap Gee emphasized how important timing is when using fertilizer in a vineyard and always to be sure to apply fertilizers when the vines can take them up.
“For example, we know that soil nitrogen can be taken up by roots during a two-week window around bloom,” she said. “The recommendation from extension programs is to apply nitrogen in split applications: once two weeks prior to bloom – and only what you need, hence the soil and petiole tests mentioned above – and again after bloom but before veraison.”
She also emphasized how necessary testing is because testing your vine tissues and soils on a regular basis will ensure that you don’t harvest your vineyard nutrients with your grapes and without annual, consistent inputs.
“Remember that the micro- and macro-nutrients in the soils are only part of the equation,” Dr. Creasap Gee said. “The microbial activity in the soil is what makes these nutrients available to root systems, so ensuring a soil with high organic matter and a diversity of microbes can only improve overall vine health.”
A final piece of advice that Dr. Creasap Gee offered is not to be afraid to ask for help because plenty of specialists around the country can assist you with vineyard soil management.
“You don’t have to rely on the internet. You can reach out to any of the hundreds of viticulture specialists around the world who would be more than happy to help you strategize and problem-solve.”