Wednesday’s “State of the Industry” session offers a perspective of where we are today, but you’ll want to attend Thursday’s General Session, “A Focus on the Future: Trends and Opportunities from Across the Globe,” to hear a dream team of industry experts for tackling the future. This session was designed for small, medium and large brands in mind and will include the latest proprietary domestic and global consumer insights and trends.
Coppola‘s Domain de Broglie Bests All in 30th annual McMinnville Wine Competition Diverse panel of professional judges endorse quality of Oregon Wines
Competition Submissions increase 25% with high profile entries from Willamette Valley
Submissions from non-festival wineries again surpasses expectations
McMinnville, OR January 16, 2023: The McMinnville Wine Classic Competition completed its 30th annual professional judging on Saturday 1/7/23. All eight out-of-state judges arrived unfettered and ready to help elevate the competition. The wine competition has not missed an event including through the peak Covid years and is a dedicated fundraiser for McMinnville’s St. James School. It raises thousands of dollars for programs benefiting the school’s children. Organized by Rolland Toevs, Carl Giavanti and Jon Johnson and staffed by volunteers, the Mac Classic competition is one of the largest Oregon Only wine competitions in the state. Visit https://www.mcminnvillewinecompetition.com/
The competition draws professional judges from across the U.S. This year’s panel represents the full spectrum of the wine industry, including future MW Samantha Cole Johnson of Janice Robinson.com, Sommeliers like Fred Swan and Ellen Landis, Buyer Jusden Aumand from Tri-Vin Imports, and Wine Writers such as Clive Pursehouse the U.S. Editor for Decanter Magazine, Eric Degerman of Great Northwest Wine, Deborah Parker-Wong the U.S. Editor Slow Wine Guide, James Melendez aka James the Wine Guy, and Michael Apstein of Wine Review Online and Terroir Sense. See 2023 Judges Panel and bios on the website.
Wines were showing well, with distribution of Double Gold and Gold awards was across the state. Taking home top honors in 2023 was Domaine de Broglie, whose 2019 Dundee Hills Pinot Noir claimed Best of Show, Best Pinot Noir and Best Red Varietal, a first time ever for any winery in the state.
Cardwell Hill Cellars won Best Chardonnay again this year, a record fourth time, for their 2021 The Bard Chard, as well as Best White Varietal. Pike Road Winery won Best Dessert Wine for their Yamhill-Carlton AVA Route 47 Late Harvest white. Rounding out the awards was Durant Vineyards who gained the top spot in the Best Sparkling Wine category for their 2019 Brut sparkling wine. All Double Gold and Gold Medals are listed at the bottom of this page: https://www.mcminnvillewinecompetition.com/awards.
When we taste and evaluate wines we rarely know much about them. If this is the case at your winery you should seek to change this. Your winery team will benefit and each person will be amazed at the results. Europe knows so much more about their terrior because they have allowed themselves to track it.
Following is an easy system encouraged to our winemaking team in the 1990’s by Mr. Jacques Boissenot. Mr. Boissenot was a premier left bank Bordeaux consultant awarded, by Decanter Magazine, the title of “Winemaker of the Decade” in July of 2010. Wine Spectator, after Mr. Boissenot’s death in 2014, referenced him as Bordeaux’s secret weapon.
STARTING: Starting the process may be the most difficult part depending on what you know about your vineyard. Work with your vineyard teams to get as much data on paper about the specific plots of land and the varietal(s) on them. Record this data on an easy to read map similar to the older 1990’s photograph below.
Notice the clone and rootstock material have been listed on the aerial photograph of a Napa Valley property but one could just as easily draw this, use computer models or from a satellite image. This is the start of the process and you can record even more data by researching deeper into the soils.
Digging pits, with a backhoe, can reveal a great deal if willing to go that far. Make several copies of this image for your future harvest(s). Update it when needed as well.
HARVEST: During the harvest each year make sure to record, beyond typical grape chemistry, the harvest date of each block and to note that on the map. Assign a lot code to the wine made from that area in the vineyard and do your best to keep the lots pure from any outside blending for at least 8 to 10 months (mostly red wines here). If blending is forced, due to cellar and tank considerations, do your best to isolate samples or even a carboy just before the blending happens. Bring that sample to the tasting table when appropriate. Note from the photograph the date and lettering based on the harvest sequence.
SET UP A MEETING: Set up a meeting every year, or more often, with your vineyard team. Taste the wines blind and evaluate them. Have the vineyard give their comments about each wine. Explain to them the different oak used, yeast or techniques to have them understand to dig deeper into the wines glass to tasting the soils. If canopy management trials were done and kept separate remind them to search for that and be sure to identify any control lots of each wine as a reference. Make sure to allow the wines time to open up and for critical tasting of each wine in a relaxed environment. Don’t rush. Unveil each lot and speak about them individually. Note other conditions that may have affected certain nuances beyond the soils such as weather, virus, weak section, frost, irrigation issues, etc. Dig in with discussion what the soils brought to that specific wine glass at that instance. Record these observations and distribute them to the team.
EXCHANGE HARVEST STORIES: Talk about the harvest and each lot. For example: relate to the batch that was on a truck that broke down and the sunshine greatly warmed the fruit. Do you taste that extra heating? Was it desired as a wine or not? Speak about the fruit that was delayed at the crusher and what impact that may have had. Speak about the extremely successful lots and pinpoint how nice they are. Why are they so nice? What variables went into them being so nice? Share the memories of the harvest and each lot. You will be amazed at how much each one of you will recall about each day of the harvest down to the minute details. The team building becomes a huge secondary benefit to this process.
COMMIT TO A DECADE: Most likely the first year of doing this your team will squirm in their chairs and attempt to claim ignorance. You will all most likely struggle and why shouldn’t you? There is no base line for what you are doing but you must establish the baseline of knowledge. It won’t be until years three, four and five that that similarities will start to form and evolve and that’s only if Mother Nature cooperates. Excitement will start to build and draw everyone into what is happening. Once the excitement catches on the squirms at the table will turn into well thought out questions and well stated observations. Confidence. What if we do this next year? Could we pick the weak lot of Cab Franc separate from the strong rows? Why does the Merlot on our best land seem thin but tight? The questions will go on and now the true research and trials can begin. Make sure you commit to a decade at the very least to make sure this excitement catches on and pays off. If done properly it will.
BLENDING SESSION: Although the blending session can happen with the same tasting team it will most likely happen with another team. The discoveries need to be shared after a blind tasting with the blending team. See if they agree. Is a certain nuance truly an enhancement or does it push the wine out of balance? Get their feedback on the lots that are the best. Relate that back to the vineyard, the vineyard management and the soils. Did anything else contribute to the favorability of the wines?
EVOLVE: Start to slowly evolve as a cohesive vineyard and winery unit toward goals established and agreed upon to pursue. Small nuances of every aspect of what is happening in both the vineyard and the winery will start to raise questions from each person as to “how did that affect the wine”? Information will be passed along for certain processes that may have had a positive impact. The team will be looking for that same positive impact and trying to capture that again with knowledge and intent. Before they didn’t even know what they were looking for. Now they do. Critical thinking of each aspect of growing and winemaking will start to gain traction along with the sharing.
Summary: Promise yourself, if you don’t already track it, that you will formulate a map and start to track the wine lots within that map. However crude and basic you start is of little importance. Taste the wine lots individually before blending the wines to relate the vineyard soils to the glass. Sip the soil. Once you start to see the results the desire to build on the database will certainly kick in. In several hundred years we will know as much about our land as Europe does about theirs.
CAUTION!Try not to get too distracted with this new endeavor. We still have wines to rack, lab tests to do, tanks to empty and bottling schedules to keep. But ohhhhh what you will learn from this!
By: Bryan St. Amant, Founder & CEO of VinterActive
Wineries that get text marketing right see incredibly high ROI. That’s why we spend so much time talking about the best practices of SMS wine marketing. Successful wine marketers can optimize their messages in many ways: from writing texts subscribers want to read to better analytics and testing.
It’s also helpful to know what not to do. Because a few common SMS marketing mistakes can stand in the way of your success.
To help you avoid them, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten mistakes that can hurt your performance, along with proven solutions.
1. Sending Without Consent
2. Texting Outside of Business Hours
3. Not Sending a Welcome Message
4. Not Identifying Yourself
5. Not Staying On Brand
6. Forgetting to Include a Call-to-Action
7. Sending Repetitive Texts
8. Sending More Messages Than Expected
9. Ignoring List Growth
10. Being too Sales Focused
Sending Without Consent
Of all the text marketing mistakes you can make, this one is the most serious. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), when you send automated SMS marketing messages, you must first secure express written consent from all your recipients. And since wine is a regulated product, you can’t obtain the consent of anyone under 21 years of age.
So you can’t simply upload your contact list or even a list of wine club members until they’ve opted-in to receive texts from you and you’ve put appropriate safeguards in place to not text minors.
If you don’t secure written consent before sending a bulk message or your winery sends text messages to minors, you may expose yourself to significant legal liability.
SOLUTION:Wine marketers can use SMS keywords, mobile sign-up widgets, web forms, and tasting room signs to help you obtain express written consent. Using FCC-approved disclaimers, automated age gates, and collecting your customers’ DOB can help you legally text your winery’s followers.
Please note that this advice is for informational purposes only and is neither intended nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.
Texting Outside of Business Hours
Texting outside of business hours is like receiving a call from a telemarketer right when you’re about to sit down for dinner. It’s not very pleasant and won’t win you any goodwill.
Unless it’s contextually appropriate — think transactional messages like order confirmation texts — it’s best to keep your marketing messages within the confines of regular business hours.
SOLUTION: Using a professional text marketing platform, you can schedule your texts in advance to avoid reaching customers when they don’t want to be bothered.
Not Sending a Welcome Text
If someone signs up to receive your text messages but doesn’t hear from you right away when you eventually get around to texting them, they might not remember why they signed up in the first place, then unsubscribe.
SOLUTION: Take advantage of your ability to send an automated response to every new subscriber. Use a welcome text to say thanks for signing up and remind them why they subscribed, like this:“Thanks for joining our text club. Soon you’ll receive regular updates from our tasting room about special events and wine deals available exclusively to our text club members.”
Not Identifying Yourself
One of the differences between personal and promotional texts sent by businesses is that most telecom carriers don’t offer businesses the opportunity to personalize their SenderID. Personal texts often include a picture or a name identifying you as the sender, while business texts only see a number. So unless customers recognize your phone number, they might not know who sent your message.
This situation will be resolved in the future when telecom carriers adopt a new technology known as Custom Sender IDs. But until then, it’s important to identify yourself clearly when sending messages to your customers.
SOLUTION:The first message you send to new subscribers can prominently highlight your company name like this: “CHATEAU FELICE: Don’t miss our live entertainment at this weekend’s wine club pick-up party. Saturday & Sunday noon to 4 pm.”
Not Staying On Brand
Texting is an intimate way to connect with customers — it’s how people communicate with family and friends. Don’t be afraid to let your brand’s personality shine through in your texts so your message won’t appear awkward. The fear of meeting a character count can make you sound robotic.
SOLUTION: What’s most important is authenticity. If you’re a bubbly, energetic winery, make sure that comes across in your messages. On the other hand, if you’re more formal and highbrow, don’t feel pressure to stray from that. It’s all about meeting your customers’ expectations.
Forgetting to Include a Call-to-Action (CTA)
How you wrap up your texts will determine whether or not your prospects take the next step.
Not including a clear CTA in each message means subscribers are less likely to know what to do next. The result is fewer sales and more unsubscribes.
SOLUTION: Include links in your text messages that lead to landing pages promoting your upcoming events or special offers.
Sending Repetitive Texts
When someone opts in to receive your text messages, they expect your messages to be worthwhile. So, sending a text just because the calendar said so or repeatedly sending the same offer can give your audience a case of “subscriber’s remorse.”
SOLUTION: Like social media, you must keep your marketing content fresh. But if you’re already sending promotional emails or posting on social media, you already have a perfect source of new content for your SMS campaigns.
Sending More Messages Than Expected
While some might advise that texting “too much” is a mistake. Instead, we urge you to avoid texting more often than your subscribers expect. For example, some wineries send weekly TGIF messages to their text subscribers. No one is offended because the invitation to join their list clearly states it’s a weekly update. Since the #1 reason consumers unsubscribe to text messaging is that they’re getting “too many texts,” it’s essential to be clear about what texts you’ll send and how often you’ll send them.
SOLUTION:One way to provide maximum value is to offer consumers a choice of regular updates about upcoming events, new wine releases, or wine club news. This approach allows consumers to control how often they’ll hear from you.
Not Focusing on SMS List Growth
One of the most common mistakes in text marketing is not focusing on list growth. If you’re new to text marketing, your first step is to build a list of subscribers who want to hear from you. Like any direct marketing list, the more contacts you have, the more success you’ll achieve, whether it’s wine sales or brand loyalty.
Over the years, wine marketers have already learned the value of email marketing, so most winery websites prominently feature an email sign-up form. And many wineries even pay a bonus for each email address collected by winery staff.
SOLUTION:Now that DTC wineries have learned that text messaging generates 32 times more customer engagement than email, savvy wine marketers should prioritize SMS list growth above just about anything else.
Being Too Sales Focused
SMS is a marketing channel we’ve seen our customers use to maximize wine sales. The only problem is that nobody wants to feel like they’re constantly being told to buy something.
Successful tasting room managers know that story-telling is critical. So take a tip from your sales team, and don’t always sell bottles when you can also profit from selling your story.
While your primary goal may be to generate sales, you must avoid being too salesy.
SOLUTION: Your customers are human, so talk to them in a conversational, friendly tone. Try enriching your strategy by offering customers a chance to receive lifestyle content like recipes, educational articles about wine, or images from their favorite winery.
The Wrap on SMS Marketing Mistakes
The great thing about SMS marketing is how simple it is to execute. Thankfully, this also means most pitfalls are easy to avoid. Like email, SMS marketing has its share of new vocabulary, but the concepts should be familiar: comply with the law and treat your SMS subscribers like any other valued guest. By learning from the mistakes of others, SMS marketing can quickly grow to become your most profitable communication channel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Founder & CEO of VinterActive, Bryan St. Amant, is a pioneer in developing preference-based direct marketing and its successful application in the wine industry.
His award-winning work has been featured in books, magazines, and seminars, including CFO Magazine, Inc., CNN Money, eMarketing Magazine, Integrated Direct Marketing, Direct Marketing Association, Wine Marketing Report, and the Wine Industry Network.
By: Trevor Troyer, Vice President Agricultural Risk Management, LLC
Crop Insurance is unique in the insurance world with its deadlines. You can only sign up for crop insurance at certain times. Since crop insurance is partially subsidized through the USDA these dates along with premiums are set by them.
All states where you can obtain grape crop insurance, with the exception of California, have the sign-up deadline or Sales Closing Date (SCD) of November 20. The states where grape crop insurance is available are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Grape Crop insurance is not available in all counties in the above states though. That being said you may be able to obtain coverage through a special Written Agreement with the USDA in one of those counties where it isn’t.
If you want to make changes to an existing policy it needs to be done by the Sales Closing Date. For those growers in states other than California that time has passed. Right now, there is still time for vineyards in California to sign up for coverage for 2023. California has a SCD of January 31st.
What changes might you wantto make by the SCD?
The obvious ones are:
1. Add coverage
2. Cancel coverage
3. Increase coverage levels
4. Decrease coverage levels
What about other options thatyou might not realize are available?
While all crop insurance is the same from one insurance provider to the next, not all options may be added by your agent. He or she might not have told you about certain ones or they themselves might be unaware of different endorsements that are available. Contract Pricing and Yield Adjustment are a couple I think can be very important. And what about price election or percentage, what’s that?
Yield Adjustment is option that allows you to use a higher yield, in a disaster or in place of a really bad year. This would replace your actual yield, in the database that is used to calculate your average tons, with a higher one.
Here’s what the Crop Insurance Handbook, 2023 and Succeeding Years says:
For APH yield calculation purposes, insureds may elect to substitute 60 percent of the applicable T-Yield for actual yields (does not apply to assigned and temporary yields) that are less than 60 percent of the applicable T-Yield to mitigate the effect of catastrophic year(s). Insureds may elect the APH YA and substitute 60 percent of the applicable T-Yield for low actual yields caused by drought, flood, or other natural disasters.
T-Yield is a transition yield. These are set by the USDA for each county and variety. I will go into more detail on these in another article. But the main point is that Yield Adjustment allows you to use a higher yield to calculate your average. This can make a huge difference.
I saw many vineyards in California and Oregon a few years ago that had zero production due to fires and smoke taint. Their averages would have been significantly worse moving forward without Yield Adjustment (YA). This would in turn cause them to have less insured value and lessen the likelihood of future claims getting paid.
Contract Pricing is another important tool that allows growers to increase their price per ton. Prices per ton are set by the USDA Risk Management Agency per county and variety. Some counties allow for Contract Pricing. If you have a contract or contracts with a winery or processor you may be able to get a higher per ton price. This endorsement – Contract Pricing (CP) needs to be elected at the Sales Closing Date. Contracts are not due till the acreage reporting date which is later. You can check with your agent on these dates and availability or visit rma.usda.gov.
There were some changes in Contract Pricing a year ago. It used to be that if CP was allowed in your county, then all the grapes in your vineyard had to be grown under contract. If they weren’t, you could not get CP. The change allows for vineyards to have some grapes grown under contract and some not. A weighted average is used to determine the per ton price.
Here is an example out of theCrop Insurance Handbook:
Production based contract for 290 total tons at $2,100 per ton = $609,000 total contract value. Non-contracted 72.5 tons at the price election of $1,622 per ton = $117,595. Total value of contracted and non-contracted tons = $726,595. Total value of $726,595 divided by the total expected production = $2,004 weighted average price.
So, at the time of a claim in the above example any indemnity payment would use $2004 per ton instead of $1622. Of course, using Contract Pricing means your premium will go up. The higher the dollar value the more the premium will be. I have seen growers choose not to use CP because of this.
What is price election or percentage? Simply put it is a percentage of the price you are getting per ton. For example, with CAT (Catastrophic Coverage) the level is 50% and the price percentage is 55%. So, you are getting paid 55% of the value of the grapes. If your price per ton is $2000 then at CAT coverage you would get 55% of that for every ton of loss. In other words, you would be paid $1100 a ton on a claim instead of $2000.
Some of you are probably thinking that I am getting very complicated and getting down into the “weeds” on how crop insurance works. Bear with me a little more. You can select different price percentages for different coverage levels. What if you choose a higher coverage level and then a lower price percentage? Sometimes this makes more sense.
Here is an example let’s say you choose 65% coverage. If your average is 5 tons per acre then you are covered for 3.25 tons per acre. You have a 35% or 1.75 tons per acre deductible. You have to harvest less than 3.25 tons an acre to have a loss. Maybe you think 35% is too big a deductible. You might have had a loss last year of 30% and didn’t get paid anything. You have looked at 80% with a 20% deductible and that seems good, but the premium is too high for you at a 100% of the price. You could instead choose 80% coverage and then decrease the price percentage. That way you lower your deductible percentage making it more likely to have a claim paid while paying around the same premium. Decreasing the price percentage lowers the dollar value of what is covered and therefore lowers the premium. You will get less money per ton but you may get a claim payment, where in the past you would not have been paid as much or at all.
This is all very relative to the grower, the state, the county or growing region and the main perils you are concerned with. These are some tools you can use to mitigate your risks. Hopefully this helps.
As we’re planning with our clients for 2023, one question frequently popping up is the viability of Meta and Google as advertising platforms.
We understand the scrutiny, as 2022 has not been kind to the tech sector. The stock market saw seven years of gains erased in 10 months this year. The headlines are brutal, calling Meta a “risk,” a “looser,” or in what CNBC named a “death spiral.” Every other day there is news of another large marketer pulling out of the platform. Meta’s meltdown is shocking but not singular. Google is down 40% this year, Amazon 45%, and Snap 80%. Add the absolute insanity with Twitter, and even the boldest marketer is wondering how much budget to attach to social media in 2023.
We must break down the causes of these market shifts to answer those questions and apply them to the wine business.
Just the Facts, Please
Keeping politics out of it, let’s fact-check some of the claims being thrown around for the current social media advertising crisis.
It’s the Economy’s Fault: When Google, Meta, Amazon, and Snap missed their quarterly revenue goals, their response to shareholders was a chorus of “it’s not our fault.”
Sounds reasonable. When people buy less stuff, there are fewer sales of stuff, meaning fewer advertising dollars for the people who make the stuff.
But are we buying less? I know you will be shocked to hear that sometimes the news sensationalizes the truth. If you investigate, it doesn’t appear that we are buying less. The U.S. consumer spending increased, and the U.S. GDP grew 2.6% last quarter. So while we’re not killing it as a country, we aren’t exactly falling apart, either. At least not enough to cause the apocalyptic tumble we’ve seen this year with Meta, Google, and Snap.
In addition, how do you explain other tech companies like Apple beating earning projections in the same “terrible” market as Google, Meta, and Snap?
So we’re not buying the economic argument.
It’s the Advertisers’ Fault: Another consistent whimper and whine propagated by news headlines are that advertisers aren’t advertising. This headline freaks out our clients and keeps them up at night. If Frito-Lay and Budweiser are pulling advertising, shouldn’t we as well?
Let’s start with the foundation, and great generalization, that there are two kinds of advertising: Ads for awareness (we exist) and ads for response (buy this, sign up for this, attend this). If we continue the generalization, you will target these ads differently. Awareness ads should focus on people who don’t know your brand yet, and response ads should target people who are already aware of your brand or product. You also typically spend more and advertise more frequently to the awareness target. This concept is the basics of the marketing funnel.
We’re seeing the more prominent clients and budgets with awareness goals shifting budgets to other platforms that provide broad coverage better than Meta. In particular, TikTok has taken off like a rocket, and we’ve seen quotes from large advertisers that they’re moving up to 10%-15% of their Meta budget from Meta to TikTok. TikTok has dethroned Facebook and Instagram as the go-to medium for efficiently reaching a broad range of people.
In sum, advertising hasn’t stopped. It’s shifted.
It’s Apple’s Fault: One hotly discussed topic this past year has been Apple’s new iOS requirements. This upgrade forced apps like Meta to ask users for permission to track their data. This requirement was supposedly going to be a knockout punch to platforms that cater to response-driven advertisers. No data, no targeting. No targeting, no ads. The Apple requirement must be why Meta is down 36% this year, right?
Nope. This doomsday has not come to pass. After a year of the new iOS, Apple reports only about 16% of users choose to block their data. So Meta ads might be less efficient, costing you roughly 16% more to reach your target audience, but it is a long way from being a wasted endeavor.
Another reason we know this isn’t the reason for ad revenue falling? Because Google is down 40% this year, and they have their own data. You’d expect them to be cruising right along with ad sales if the data tracking was this issue.
It’s Meta’s Fault, Users are Jumping Ship, The company is Failing: Today’s daily active users of Meta are 1.93 billion vs. 1.95 billion expected by analysts in Q3 of this year. (StreetAccount) This seemingly slight dip is significant because it is the first down quarter in the company’s history.
We don’t think this is a strong argument, though. Even with a 36% drop in net income in the latest quarter, Meta generated $6.7 billion in profit and ended the period with over $40 billion in cash and marketable securities. (CNBC) And user numbers are up about 10% globally and are expected to increase by 3% annually through 2024. (FactSet)
While the press is enjoying their Zuckerberg punching bag, no one suggests that Facebook is going out of business.
And Google is just in the news because they have been the press darling for so long. Even though they missed their earnings, Google’s digital ad revenue grew 2.5%, mostly citing poor ad sales on YouTube. The Motley Fool analyzed the company and noted that the stock decline was an “over-reaction” and still list the company as a “buy”.
What We Do Think is Happening
A shift in awareness ad dollars: As mentioned above, 2022 has seen a shift in advertising dollars where Meta and Google are no longer the dynamic duo in the awareness “mass reach” area.
Meta doesn’t care about advertisers: The company is putting all its eggs in the Metaverse basket, with Zuckerberg saying they’re shooting for a billion users and focusing almost all development into making that a new ad platform. (The problem is there is very little support or information for companies that can’t employ a development firm on how to get involved.) Regardless, it is clear that Meta and Twitter are not catering to advertisers currently. They have other agendas at play.
Meta is not courting the new generation: Facebook struggles with video and has been a follower versus a leader in this space. They openly report that more users go to Reels, which is a lower profit for the company than Feeds and Stories. Last year Facebook internal documents said that their teen users had declined by 19% since 2019, with a projected decline of 45% by 2025.
Where are they going? TikTok. This year, TikTok will gain more Gen Z users than Instagram and more total users than Snap by 2023, according to eMarketer.
What Does that Meanfor the Wine Market?
We are still recommending Instagram, Facebook, and Google to our clients for the following reasons.
1. Meta and Google are still the best platforms available to target response-driven ads. It may cost you a little more or be less efficient, but it’s still the best place to be.
2. Meta is the least costly channel to reach a target (outside of emailing or texting.) Any other advertising channel, digital or otherwise, will cost more.
3. Meta and Google are immediately responsive, allowing testing and refinement. With routine tweaking of new audience profiles, we have successfully gotten our average cost per signup on Meta down to less than $6/name.
4. Video is more time-consuming to produce than a Meta ad, and the consumption rate of videos is manic. TikTok recommends advertisers post 1-4 times a day! If you’re Coca-Cola and have a TikTok team, that’s great, but I don’t know many wineries that can afford that volume and frequency of content production.
5. Advertising alcohol on TikTok is prohibited. So, there’s that.
6. We aren’t targeting teenagers. So, when you hear of large groups leaving Meta, know it is mostly Generation Z who can’t get enough of dance moves, make-up tutorials, or pet antics on other platforms.
So, consider Meta “maturing” for now, and Google having a bad hair day. But stick with it. For 2023 they are both still strong placements for your ad dollars.
About the Author
Susan DeMatei is the founder of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. WineGlass Marketing is located in Napa, California at 707-927-3334 or wineglassmarketing.com
Winemakers will often tell you that a delicate balance between art and science goes into every bottle of great wine. Lab testing and analysis are crucial steps in the winemaking process and present opportunities to focus on the science side of wine through the use of specialized equipment.
Wineries should familiarize themselves with many different kinds of lab equipment, especially if they intend to handle this part of the process themselves. New technologies are making DIY lab testing more manageable and accurate; however, outsourcing lab work is still the preferred option for many wineries worldwide.
Types of Lab Equipment Used by Wineries
Among the various kinds of lab equipment used in a winery setting are meters, hydrometers, test kits and lab chemicals. The lab analysis setup for wine will test for pH, titratable acidity, brix for juice analysis and yeast-assimilable nitrogen. Other things to test for are alcohol concentration, volatile acidity and free and total sulfur dioxide.
For routine analysis, it is essential to measure soluble solids to determine the level of grape maturity, fermentation status and alcohol content. Knowing the pH and titratable acidity helps a winemaker determine the grape ripeness and stability of the wine. Sulfur dioxide levels indicate the amounts of unwanted microorganisms, browning enzymes and antioxidant levels. When you know a wine’s ethanol content from lab testing, you can ensure that your wine is in the sweet spot of 10 to 14 percent alcohol content. Meanwhile, the wine spoilage risk can be mitigated by volatile acidity testing, and sensory lab testing that is separate from the rest of the wine lab can detect “off” colors and smells with new wine.
Based in Columbus, Ohio, Mettler-Toledoprovides analytical instruments and application support for wineries that cover the entire vinification process. This company offers brix meters for determining the readiness of grapes for harvest, density meters for fermentation monitoring and UV/VIS spectrophotometers for analyzing various characteristics, such as color, phenol, glucose and fructose content.
“The most commonly used instruments are our Excellence Titrators to assess pH, total acidity and free and total sulfur dioxide in must and wine to ensure quality and consistency of products,” Luke Soposki, AnaChem technical market analyst for Mettler-Toledo told The Grapevine Magazine. “Frequently, the titrators are paired with an InMotion® Autosampler to increase sample throughput and minimize the amount of necessary interaction from laboratory personnel.”
Unitech Scientific, based in Hawaiian Gardens, California, has designed and manufactured over 20 enzymatic reagent kits for wine analysis to check glucose/fructose, malic acid, acetic acid, ammonia, primary amino nitrogen and free and total sulfites. Customers can use this company’s reagent kits with manual spectrophotometers and automated analyzer systems.
“Unitech’s analyzers meet the needs of every
type of winery, from our manual V-120 Spectrophotometer and affordable semi-automatic analyzer for boutique wineries to our fully automatic ChemWell-T for Wine and premier ChemWell for Wine,” Rulan Miao, the president of Unitech Scientific, told The Grapevine Magazine.
“We provide installation and thorough training for ChemWell customers and service and support all our analyzers. Unitech Scientific also offers microbiology culture media and accessories for yeast, bacteria and spoilage organisms, including Brettanomyces.”
When setting up a wine lab, you’ll need to consider the lab equipment’s size and placement location. There are additional considerations to keep in mind about storing lab chemicals to keep employees safe from accidental exposure. Yet suitable lab protocols will ensure more consistently good wine with refreshing predictability.
Another essential piece of equipment is the refractometer, which measures grape maturity and sugar content, as well as must concentration before fermentation. Refractometers help predict alcohol concentration, monitor fermentation and gauge residual solids and final alcohol content in wine. MISCO, based in Solon, Ohio and in business for more than 70 years, is the last remaining manufacturer of handheld refractometers in the United States.
“The beauty of the MISCO handheld digital refractometers is that the customer can select from a basic Brix-only instrument to an instrument with several winemaking scales, including Baume, Oechsle, KMV, Sugar Content (g/L), Mass Fraction, Sugar Estimated Alcohol, Actual Alcohol and Specific Gravity,” Kathy Widing, the director of technical sales for MISCO, told The Grapevine Magazine. “The customer can select up to five measurement scales per unit.”
Widing shared that the detector array in the MISCO digital refractometer has 1,024 detector elements supporting a resolution of more than 3,256 pixels per inch. Meanwhile, competing units only have 128 detector elements with 400 PPI. With 87 percent more detector elements, the MISCO units have more than eight times the resolution.
“To put this in perspective, it is roughly the difference between a two- to five-megapixel camera compared to a 20-megapixel camera, Widing said. “This provides MISCO refractometers with two to three times the measurement precision. Unlike competitors that offer only glass prisms, MISCO refractometers have a sapphire measuring surface, the next hardest substance to diamond, so they are virtually scratch-proof. The MISCO digital refractometer also features a large 24-character by two-line LCD display with a backlight, a stainless-steel sample well and a protective evaporation cover.”
MISCO refractometers are very easy to use and come with a detailed instruction manual. But when asked about possible challenges that wineries encounter when using refractometers, Widing shared three problematic scenarios: (1) not zero-setting the instrument before use, (2) not waiting a short time after applying a sample for the temperature of the sample and device to equalize and (3) not keeping the measuring surface clean.
In-House Lab v. Outsourced Lab
The decision to create an in-house wine lab or outsource this work to a professional laboratory company often comes down to winery size, production amounts, location and budget. If a winery has its own lab, it may get faster testing results instead of waiting for lab reports from an outside company. Having your own lab can help your winery improve record keeping and ensure more precise quality control. You can identify significant problem areas early to prevent potential production issues later on and get better analytical insights into a wine’s unique qualities. Some wineries with their own labs have found that they save on shipping and logistical costs over time, compared to paying those fees for outside wine lab services.
“One of the greatest benefits of having an on-site laboratory is the ability to readily analyze samples and obtain results versus aggregating samples and shipping them to a testing facility,” Soposki from Mettler-Toledo said. “This allows the vinification process to be more dynamic, with more flexibility to the workflow. Having an in-house lab can also be more cost-effective over time depending on the number of samples regularly shipped and analyzed. Lastly, with an in-house lab, Mettler-Toledo experts are always available for assistance with application support and interpretation of results. If there are sample results that fall outside of the expected range, we can provide assistance with result interpretation and suggest corrective actions.”
However, a great deal of training and experience are needed for a winery staff to handle its own lab testing. While hiring an outside lab may give you less control over the testing process, it can still be a cost-effective option for smaller and newer wineries. If you have limited staff or knowledge about wine testing, hiring an expert to handle this part of the process can make the difference between producing mediocre and fantastic wine.
“Operating an on-site laboratory includes additional business considerations that need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to decide if testing labs may be a better fit,” Soposki said. “To effectively run an on-site lab, dedicated personnel are necessary to get the best results from your analyses. Personnel need to be comfortable handling reagents and managing the purchasing process to ensure necessary chemicals are on-hand. Ultimately, while there are instrument options for any budget, the cost of ownership and maintenance needs to be evaluated.”
Miao from Unitech Scientific told The Grapevine Magazine that the advantages of setting up in-house testing are the timely availability and the low cost of your analyses. In this way, Unitech Scientific customers can avoid the expense and delay of shipping or delivering samples to an outside lab.
“In-house testing requires that sufficient time be set-aside for ordering materials and performing the analysis,” Miao said. “The key requirement is an experienced individual or a person willing and capable of developing the skills needed. Unitech Scientific provides step-by-step instructions with our reagent kits and simplified EnoLyzer applications for our EnoLyzer customers. Our technical support team is available to answer your questions.”
Innovations for the Modern Wine Lab
Although it is necessary to evaluate costs, staffing and expertise when choosing between building an in-house lab or using an outside lab, it’s important to note that new products and technologies are emerging every year. More affordable products now allow even small wineries to automate their labs and get themselves poised for future growth.
During the past 12 months, Mettler-Toledo has introduced three new products that fit seamlessly into the analytical workflows of wineries. The new EasyPlus UV/VIS Spectrophotometers are user-friendly instruments designed to quickly perform measurements crucial to the quality of the ingredients and the final wine product.
“These benchtop instruments come preloaded with 10+ color scales to make color measurements simple and efficient,” Soposki of Mettler-Toledo said. “Additionally, conventional spectroscopy can be used to perform analyses, such as phenol, glucose, fructose and malic acid content.”
A second new product is the DipenSix Liquid Handler, which can be integrated into a titration system with an InMotion® Autosampler. Soposki said this product automatically doses consistent and accurate sample volumes, aids in sample preparation and dilutions and performs cleaning before moving on to the next sample. The benefit of DispenSix is that each analysis is fully automated and performed in just a few minutes.
“Lastly, our new MyBrix handheld refractometer is ideal for determining the optimal harvesting time of grapes and measuring the sugar content of grape must before fermentation,” Soposki said. “It measures refractive index as well as sugar content in our preferred scale, with results displayed in just two seconds. Digital refractometers increase results reliability in comparison to analog refractometers by eliminating operator dependency and assisting with error detection.”
While discussing new technological innovations and enhancements that have come out recently for winery lab equipment, Miao from Unitech Scientific referenced the introduction of semi-automated and automated enzymatic analyzers. These updates complement the ease of importing lab results from these analyzers into PC spreadsheets with a management system that has revolutionized information flow within the winery.
“We continually improve the user-friendliness of our reagent kits,” Miao said. “For example, our ACS Powder has recently been replaced with a convenient liquid-stable ACS solution.”
“The latest technological innovation in refractometry is the move from the traditional handheld analog refractometer to digital handheld instruments,” said Widing from MISCO. “Besides the fact that a digital refractometer removes the subjectivity of visually determining where the fuzzy shadow line of a traditional refractometer meets the tiny scale division, digital devices offer an order of magnitude better accuracy and precision. Other new technologies include miniature refractive index sensors that can automate sample-taking with continuous sample measurements.”
Choosing the Best Lab Solutions
An increasing number of wineries, both large and small, are using analytical instruments in their production processes with the help of specialized suppliers that have extensive industry knowledge and offer ongoing support. In addition to choosing an experienced company to work with and settling on the best products for your needs, it’s also important to consider cleaning procedures and preventative maintenance plans to extend the longevity of your lab instruments. Soposki said that a well-cared-for and properly maintained lab instrument from Mettler-Toledo will last at least ten years before a replacement needs to be considered.
But however a winery chooses to approach lab testing, there is no denying its importance and need for attention to detail.
“Optimum wine quality requires that the winemaker closely monitor grape ripeness, fermentation completeness, sulfite levels and emerging wine spoilage issues,” said Miao from Unitech Scientific. “Timely lab results are much more sensitive and precise than traditional wine evaluation, and close monitoring of the fermentation and aging processes reduces contamination and enhances quality and yields.”
Even if you think your winery is too small to warrant an upgrade in lab equipment, it may be worth looking at what is now available for in-house testing. You might be surprised at your own capabilities and be enticed by potential winery efficiency improvements that can result from a modest initial investment.
By: Louis J. Terminello, Esq., and Bradley S. Berkman, Esq.
That is the Question (with many more questions that need to be asked and answered, prior to spending and executing on a sampling program). The purpose of this article is to make brand owners – of all sorts – and wine marketers aware that each state has its own trade practice regulations that, if not adhered to, may portend the death knell of a costly marketing campaign, and expose violators and parties in privity to administrative action and civil fines. Specifically, this article with focus on tasting and sampling regulations as applied to manufacturers, brand owner, and third-party marketing companies.
The above said, it seems fitting to briefly discuss how the alcohol regulatory framework came to exist, given that we recently celebrated the 89th anniversary of the end of prohibition (December 5, 1933), and one of the laws undergirding principles, that of Tied-House Evil.
On December 3, 1933, Congress took action to alleviate the well-known social ills that came along with prohibition and the thirsty palates of Americans, with the introduction of the 21st amendment. The U.S. Congress repealed the 18th amendment and turned much of the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcoholic beverages over to the individual states. The amendment states:
Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.
Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.
Although seemingly uncomplicated in language, the 21st amendment laid the groundwork for the current state of the alcohol beverage bureaucracy and existing regulatory scheme. Section 2 granted the right for states to regulate alcohol beverage squarely within the confines of their borders. Much of the beverage alcohol bureaucracy is controlled by the 50 states with limited authority resting in the hands of the federal government. In addition to federal laws and regulations, each state has developed its own set of myriad laws and regulations that stakeholders in the industry must adhere to, in order to remain in compliance.
Much of these state regulations, particularly as applied to manufacturers and distributors, concern tied-house issues. Tied house can best be described, again in a general way, as the rules, regulations, and laws that govern the relationship between manufacturers, distributors, referred to as upper tier industry members, and retailers of beverage alcohol. One of the core concerns of tied house is addressing “things of value,” provided by upper tier industry members to retailers. Once again, in a general way, beverage laws often explicitly state what is permitted under tied house as an exception to it. All other activities, unless stated otherwise, are almost always prohibited. Sampling and tasting events by industry members at retail venues are considered a “thing of value,” and as such, the beverage laws of virtually every state have codified permissible activities; and in particular the who, what, and where of sampling and tasting events.
The Who, the What and the Where
The who, what, and to a lesser extent, the where, for the purposes of the article, is to make the brand owner aware that not all upper tier industry members can willy-nilly conduct tastings of beer, wine, and spirits. One must analyze first the commodity type involved (wine, beer, and/or spirt) and determine, based on each states laws, which industry member is permitted to conduct the tasting or sampling event in conjunction with that commodity type. It’s worth noting here that many states treat third-party marketers as industry members requiring them to adhere to tied house regulations, including tasting and sampling events. Importantly, many brand owners often hire third-party marketing and sampling companies to carry out the tasting programs. A violation by a third-party marketer is certainly problematic for that marketing company and could be interpreted as an imputed violation to the brand owner that hired them.
To illustrate the above, and since the authors of this article reside in the Sunshine State (Florida), what follows are the statatory exceptions to tied house as it relates to tasting and samplings by commodity type (wine, beer, and spirits). Florida very much relies on the plain or explicit language of the exceptions, and to stray outside the exception would be a violation of the Beverage Law.
As to spirits brands, Florida Statute 565.17 governs tastings and limits spirit tasting and sampling events to distributors, craft distilleries, and vendors. The applicable section state:
A licensed distributor of spirituous beverages, a craft distillery as defined in 565.03 and any vendor is authorized to conduct spirituous beverage tastings upon any licensed premises authorized to sell spirituous beverages by package or for consumption on premises without being in violation of 561.42 [561.42 is the Florida Tied House Statute], provided that the conduct of the spirituous beverage tasting shall be limited to and directed toward the general public of the age of legal consumption.
Craft distilleries may conduct tastings and sales of distilled spirits produced by the craft distilleries at Florida fairs, trade shows, farmers markets, expositions, and festivals…”
Florida Statute 564.08 governs tastings of wine, and limits such tasting and sampling events to distributors and vendors only. The statute states:
Alicensed distributorof vinous beverages, or any vendor, is authorized to conduct wine tastings upon any licensed premises authorized to sell vinous or spirituous beverages by package, or for consumption on premises without being in violation of 561.42 [once again, the tied house statute) provided that the conduct of the wine tasting shall be limited to and directed toward the general public of the age of legal consumption.
Malt Beverage (Beer)
Florida Statute 563.09 governs tastings of malt beverage and limits such tasting and sampling events to allows manufacturers, distributors, importers and contracted third-party agents. The statute states:
A manufacturer, distributor, or importer of malt beverages, or any contracted third-party agent thereof, may conduct sampling activities that include the tasting of malt beverage products…
For illustration purpose only, the Sunshine state only allows licensed-Florida distributors and vendors to conduct tasting and sampling events for wine and spirits (with an exception granted to Florida licensed craft distillers). Manufacturers, importers, and third-party marketing companies may not conduct these types of events – malt beverage tasting on the other hand may be conducted by those industry participants.
In addition, some states limit the types of venues where sampling and tastings may occur. Some states allow tastings on both on and off premise venues while others limit the allowable venue types. Other regulated matters may include the frequency of tastings, the permitted days of week and/or hours for sampling and tastings, and some states even require that tasting personnel be trained or hold licenses. The rules vary in every market and a knowledge of them is essential.
Tasting and sampling programs are expensive undertakings for any brand owner of wine, beer, and spirts. The costs of goods, contractors, and brand swag ad up fast. If not properly planned and executed in accordance with the tasting and sampling laws of each state, the brand owner can also add the costs of violations – and depending on the severity – the costs of attorney’s fees. Regardless of which industry member you are, manufacturer, importer, distributor, or third-party marketer, it is imperative that a well thought out, compliant and effective sampling program(s) be put in place. Otherwise, the violating party will indeed be left with a bad taste in his or her mouth.
By: Judit Monis, Ph.D. – Vineyard and Plant Health Consultant
Grapevine trunk diseases occur worldwide and are caused by bacterial, fungal pathogens, or a combination of both. Important trunk disease fungal pathogens are airborne and not only affect grapevines. Many, also cause disease in landscape and fruit trees and can be found colonizing the orchard or vineyard soil. Grapevine stock can be infected with important pathogens which makes it important to screen nursery material for their presence prior to planting.
In a recent article, I covered the bacterial trunk disease caused by Agrobacterium vitis. This article will focus on grapevine trunk diseases caused fungal pathogens. As with viruses and bacteria, fungal pathogens can be found in mixed infections exacerbating the problem in a vineyard.
Petri Disease, Young Vine Decline, Esca: The disease in young vines, known as young vine decline, is caused by Cadophora, Phaeoacremonium, and Phaeomoniella species. In older vines, the same fungal pathogens are associated with Esca disease. The disease is chronic when vines express a gradual decline of symptoms over time, or acute when the vines decline and die within a few days. These acute symptoms are known as the apoplectic stage of the disease. It is not uncommon during the apoplectic stage of the disease to see dead vines carrying mummified grape bunches.
Canker Diseases: Various pathogens can cause canker symptoms, large discolored areas in trunk and canes (Photo #1), in the vineyard. Bot-canker or dead arm disease is caused by different species in the Botryosphaeriaceae family. The most severe Bot-canker species is Lasidiplodia theobromae, while weaker symptoms are caused by Diplodia species. Eutypa dieback is caused by different species in the Diatrypaceae family. The best characterized and known species is Eutypa lata, but species of Criptovalsa, Diatrypella, and Eutypella can also cause canker disease in grapevines. In my lab we characterized Seimatosporium species as a fungal pathogen that causes decline and cankers in grapevines, but within the same fungal group others have reported Pestalotoipsis and Truncatella to cause disease in grapevines. Another canker pathogen includes Diaporthe (also known as Phomopsis). The canker symptoms observed in the sections of affected cordons or trunks in grapevines may appear to be similar but caused by unrelated fungal species, however, the life cycles and mode of infection may be different.
Black Foot Disease: Species of Campylocarpon, Cylindrocladiella, Dactylonectria, and Ilyonectria (previously known as Cylindrocarpon spp.) are the causal agents of this complex disease. These fungi are soil-born and most active on compact soils with poor drainage. Symptoms above ground can be indistinguishable from young vine/ Esca disease described above. Additionally, the decline symptoms can be confused with Pierce’s disease, caused by Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterial pathogen.
Sudden Vine Collapse Syndrome (previously known as Grapevine Mystery Disease): Some years ago, Lodi growers in California reported a syndrome in which their vines collapse and die within a short period of time. In 2011, while working at STA, we tested vines with similar symptoms, not just from Lodi, but from California’s Central Valley, and Central Coast vineyards (see photo #2). We detected a combination of fungal pathogens (not always the same usual suspects) and viruses, namely Grapevine leafroll associated -3 (GLRaV-3) and Grapevine virus A and F (Vitiviruses).
Researchers at the University of California at Davis with fungal expertise (Dr. Akif Eskalen) and viral expertise (Dr. Maher Al Rwahnih) have continued to work on vines expressing the sudden vine collapse syndrome. Samples from symptomatic vines were subjected to high throughput sequencing to look for viruses in Al Rwahnih’s laboratory. Concurrently, fungal culture work was performed in the Eskalen laboratory. Interestingly, the results were similar to those found in my laboratory: various fungal pathogens (not consistent in every sample), GLRaV-3, and Vitiviruses were detected in the collapsed vines. This year, these researchers concluded (Eskalen’s presentation at the 12th International Workshop on Grapevine Trunk Diseases) that the syndrome is not caused by one single organism but a combination of viral and fungal pathogens.
Other diseases: Species of Armillaria mellea (Oak root fungus), Phytophthora, and Verticillium are soil-born fungal species capable of causing decline and rots in the vineyard. Just as described above for black foot disease, these pathogens strive in compact soils with poor drainage.
Disease Prevention and Management: The best disease management and control measure recommended is to prevent the introduction of pathogens in the vineyard. None of the US-certification programs exclude trunk disease pathogens. Therefore, propagation material is most likely infected with various fungal pathogens.
The implementation of appropriate sanitation measures at the nursery is most needed to produce high quality planting grapevine material. It is known that one infected vine can produce between 100 -200 vines each year, potentially producing a significant number of infected grafted plants. The use of hot water treatment (HWT) for 30 minutes at 50C (122F) at the nursery has shown a reduction of fungal pathogens in propagated vines. However, there are mix reports on the effect of the HWT on bud mortality. Reports in warmer winegrowing regions (e.g., Spain) have shown a lower effect on bud mortality compared to HWT in cool climate regions (e.g., Australia). Because fungal pathogens cannot be eliminated in the vineyard once introduced, it is important to learn and apply the best management practices available.
When planting a new vineyard, it is important to inspect the quality of the planting material (graft union integrity, lack of galling, absence of streaking or pitting). High quality planting material must be planted in well prepared and drained soil, at the correct season. The best practices in the vineyard must be applied (i.e., enough water, nutrients, etc.). Many of the fungal pathogens that cause disease in grapevines are endophytic, meaning that these can live in the vine without causing disease. However, these same fungi can become pathogenic during stress situations (lack of water, heat wave, etc.).
It is known that the effect of grapevine fungal pathogens increases as the vineyard ages (the fungal population continues to multiply seasonally). Therefore, growers must adopt management and control measurements as soon as the vines are planted in order to prevent and minimize the propagation and dispersal of fungal pathogens.
Management at the vineyard should include expertly trained personnel for pruning activities. In California where the rainy season coincides with the pruning season it is recommended to prune as late as possible in the spring prior to bud break. Since the vine is active in the spring, the wound healing will occur faster. Another reason for late pruning is that most fungal trunk disease pathogens release spores during the rainy season. Therefore, in areas with predominantly winter precipitations, the proportion of spores available to start an infection would have been reduced to a minimum. If the vineyard is large, the double pruning method is recommended. This consists of the mechanical pre-pruning of vines in the start of dormancy, leaving canes of 1-2 feet long. In the spring or late winter, the pruning is completed by leaving the desired final number of buds per spur. The freshly produced wounds should be protected using fungicides or a sealant such as VitiSeal. During pruning it is important to avoid producing large wounds, cutting near the trunk, pruning after long periods of rain, and leaving vine residues in the vineyard floor.
Economic studies performed by Dr. Kendra Baumgartner and colleagues (USDA in UC Davis, California) has shown that preventative methods (late pruning, double pruning, and pruning wound protectants) are sustainable only if applied before symptoms appear in the vineyard. Adopting these methods in vines that are 10 years old or older will not recover the cost of investment.
A more drastic disease management practice includes vine re-training also known as remedial surgery. The procedure consists of training a new shoot from the base of the trunk to replace the old decayed vine trunk or cordons. The technique can help gain some years of production but will not cure the vines from the disease as likely the pathogens are systemically established in the vine. Keep in mind that the pathogenic fungi are systemic in the vine, and as mentioned earlier this method can buy some time before the vine declines and dies. When replacing vines, the grower must understand that fungal pathogens are able to survive in dead portions of the roots, therefore new vines that are planted (even if free of bacterial or fungal pathogens) can become infected over time if vine roots are not completely removed from the vineyard.
Other methods that have been reported for the management of fungal diseases include planting mustard (Sinapsis alba) plants as cover crops that act as a biofumigant and biological control agents such as Trichoderma species, and mycorrhizal fungi. This year, at the 12th International Workshop on Grapevine Trunk Diseases, Josep Armengol and collaborators (Universidad Politecnica de Valencia) reported a decrease in spore dispersal in grass and cover crop plots relative to the bare soil plots.
New and more sensitive pathogen detection methods that apply next generation sequencing (also known as high throughput sequencing) are now available commercially for the detection at the species level of microorganisms in plants and soil. It is expected that the application of early and efficient diagnoses will help reduce the infection levels of planting material and consequently avoid disease onset in the vineyards.
Judit Monis, Ph.D. is a California-based plant health consultant, 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 is fluent in Spanish and is available to consult in other important wine grape growing regions of the word. Please visit juditmonis.com for information or email@example.com to request a consulting session.
Losses in soil structure, erosion, and overall soil health continue to be a hot topic amongst farmers, including grape growers. A virtual session on soil health was held at the Oregon Wine Symposium in February 2022 and moderated by Patty Skinkis, a viticultural specialist and professor at OSU.
Defining Soil Health
Dr. Shannon Cappellazzi, the director of research at Grassland Oregon, defined soil health as “the continued capacity of the soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains life.” Soil is needed to move, filter and store the water needed to sustain plants, as well as serve as the medium for nutrients such as dead and decaying animal material, manure and plant matter to get recycled and taken up by plants and other soil biota.
In addition, soil is the modifier of the atmosphere. According to Cappellazzi, there’s about three times as much carbon in the soil as there is in the atmosphere. “The balance of the amount of carbon that is coming out of the soil on a daily basis naturally as it’s supposed to be, and the amount of carbon that’s going back into the soil is really critical to those atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide.” Also, soil is a habitat for organisms, such as insects and other kinds of arthropods, microorganisms, fungi and a host of other organisms.
Role of Plants in Soil Health
Cappellazzi observed how there’s a growing realization that biology controls so much of what’s going on underground and about plants’ role in maintaining soil health. First, plants help prevent erosion from the elements by holding the soil in place, regulating temperature and moisture and helping moderate pests and diseases. In particular, the roots create pathways for the water, invertebrates, some mammals and gases to move in and around the soil. Along those lines, when the mycorrhizae fungi grow with plants, they increase the root surface area and create enzymes that break nutrients down, thus enabling the soil to get more nutrients.
Also, microbes help form the glue that holds the soil together. When sand, silt and clay-sized particles get stuck together in these aggregates, they start to create pore spaces that allow for water and air movement in the soil. But if it just flows overland or goes downhill, the soil picks up whatever kind of contaminants are on the surface and brings that to the waterway.
While one of the best ways to keep the soil covered is with living plants, Cappellazzi suggests that mulches can help armor the soil so that rain does not hit directly onto a mineral surface. Also, she recommends minimizing soil disturbance by reducing tillage.
How to Conduct a QualitativeEvaluation of Soil Health
Dr. Jennifer Moore, a research soil scientist for the USDA’s Forage Seed and Cereal Research Unit in Corvallis, Oregon, shared information about the in-field soil health assessment utilized by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). This assessment aims to identify if there is a soil health resource concern and then design a conservation plan if needed. In her estimation, conducting an initial assessment helps farmers establish a baseline to monitor when assessing soil health in their vineyard after making management changes.
Before starting a soil health evaluation, Moore suggests that growers compile a list of past, present and future management goals. They must also consider the prior land use and different soil types. Moore notes that doing the necessary homework and taking notes can help growers track their progress over time. To help with this evaluation, NRCS has a suite of questions they typically ask the landowner to assess soil health:
• What is the current crop rotation/cover crop used in inter-rows?
• What is the tillage system?
• How frequently is the implement used, and at what depth?
• How long have you been in this management system?
• Are you considering any changes?
• How many months per year is the surface covered with at least 75 percent of living vegetation, decaying residues or mulches?
• If the land is grazed, what type of animals and cover crops are on this land? Are these animals and crops a consistent part of the system, and if so, how many years have they been in place?
• What’s the method and timing of planting and termination periods for the cover crops?
• Are there any issues on the field, such as too little water?
Ideally, this evaluation should be conducted on moist soils close to field capacity, such as a few days after a saturating rain once the soil has drained appropriately.
To get an accurate long-term assessment of the soil, farmers should sample soils multiple times during the first year or two to get an idea of how sampling time, moisture, and temperature impact results. Also, the growth stages of the grapevines and the cover crops being evaluated offer insights into how management practices impact soil results. When conducting soil assessments, farmers must be mindful of extenuating circumstances, such as fires, heat waves and floods that can harm the soil.
Vineyard Soil Health Trials
Dr. Miguel Garcia, a sustainable agriculture program manager at Napa Natural Resource Conservation District (NRCD), and Cappellazi summarized data from vineyard trials in the California North Coast and the Willamette Valley, respectively.
Garcia conducts research with the North Coast Soil Hub, which is a collective of NRCDs from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and Humboldt counties. His project involves 500 soil samples from 70 different vineyards throughout these counties. The goal was to develop a tool to showcase how different management practices affect soil health. As these trials were only collected once, they only provide a snapshot of what’s happening with the soil. In order to truly understand how different soil management practices affect soil health over time, longer-term monitoring is necessary.
The first trial described by Garcia was the long-term project at Huichica Creek Sustainable Demonstration Vineyard, which is owned and operated by the Napa Resource Conservation District and used for educational purposes. Since 1992, half the rows have been tilled, and the remaining rows left undisturbed. For this experiment, they applied a combination of compost and biochar as a soil amendment to select plots that consisted of tilled and no-till rows. A control plot had nothing applied. Over a three-year span, they observed less water pounding and better cover crop growth in those plots that received compost and biochar. Also, they measured an increase in organic carbon and total nitrogen in the no-till and compost plots.
The second trial was at Gamble Ranch, a no-till vineyard located in the Yountville AVA that is owned by Treasury Wine Estates. Here, they applied compost only. In one section, they experimented by having some of the rows tilled lightly. While this trial continued for several years, preliminary results indicate that the aggregates from the no-till plots remained intact and were better at holding water than tilled plots. Also, they found that no-till with compost produced higher levels of total nitrogen and phosphorus.
Shannon Cappellazzi reported on trials conducted in the Willamette Valley. The research points to a practical difference between tillage and no-till, although there is often a lot of overlap in the data. When testing different cover crop treatments, winter annual cereal grains had the highest average water-stable aggregates. However, as Cappellazzi remarked, “It’s hard to get a really significant difference since there’s so much variability because of these differences in apparent features. I would really encourage people to think about comparing soils within a similar climate, texture and slope.”
When performing this research, Cappellazzi points to the need to assess the difference by slope, as vineyards are typically on hillsides in the Willamette Valley. “When you are comparing two soils to each other, pair them with a similar type of slope and way that that hill faces. That’s going to allow you to actually determine whether or not the management practices that you’re making are making a difference.”
Cappellazzi likes to use carbon mineralization or CO2 burst tests to assess soil health. “That carbon is the total amount of food that’s available. You need to know whether or not these microbes are using that food. Then the aggregate stability tells you what they are doing with that food. Are they building those structures and allowing that space for the plants and the roots and the water and the microbes to move around there?”
How Growers Can PerformTheir Own Soil Tests
According to Moore, an in-field assessment can be done with tools that many growers have on hand, though one may want to add a penetrometer, a device that measures soil compaction. Also, Moore recommends carrying around a notebook to jot down notes and taking pictures to illustrate soil status.
In order to evaluate the soil accurately, one must dig holes in multiple places across the land that’s being evaluated. Soil compaction can be evaluated anywhere with a penetrometer or using a wire test flag to depth. If a wire flag can go into the soil to about 10 inches with relative ease, it is assumed that compaction is not a concern. This evaluation should be conducted on moist soils close to field capacity, such as a few days after a saturating rain once the soil has drained appropriately.
Using dry soil, one can evaluate soil aggregate stability by doing a slake or a slump test. This can provide a quick snapshot of the soil’s overall health. This can be done with simple tools, including a cup and strainer. Get the soil clod wet, and then flip it over. The more the soil retains its shape, the better the aggregate stability and, typically, the more organic matter the soil has.
One of Cappellazzi’s favorite infield tests is the infiltration rate test which uses a six-inch piece of PVC placed one inch into the soil. Simply filling the column with water allows growers to see how long it takes to get into the soil. If it pools or takes a long time, there may be less soil structure and more compactness, indicating a less healthy soil condition.
The Till Versus No-Till Debate
Garcia avoids making broad generalizations, citing that an analysis has to be site-specific. “The management practices that you implement, the type of tillage, the kinds of organic matter, the soil and slope of the vineyard, the climate and other factors are driving the change,” he said. “That’s why I like to see soil samples from an individual site.”
When asked about till versus no-till, Garcia suggested staying away from extremes. “It’s a little bit problematic because tillage could be a valuable tool, assuming that there’s a good reason for doing it and you’re aware consequences to what you’re doing,” he said. For example, he supported a light pass less than three inches depth in those instances where a grower needs to grow a cover crop on difficult soil. He cites recent evidence that growers can accomplish their objectives with strategic tilling. “When you have high compaction and tried everything you could do to counteract that, then sometimes a light till might be a lifesaver. I think the problem is when we abuse these kinds of techniques and overdo it.”