Friday, April 20, 2007

Is It Just "Grapes and Sunshine"?

That is Sunmaid's catchy jingle for selling raisins. Fertile, moist soils and sunshine do make large crops of table grapes for eating or raisins. However, growing practices for premium wine grapes takes a near polar opposite approach.

Five distinct regions have been determined by heat summations using degree-day totals from April through October. Growers use this method to select grapes that will produce quality wines in their region. Why is this important and exciting? Just imagine taking a globe and laying it flat. You can see how latitude and longitude affect climate and why a major growing region in Chile can have a "Mediterranean" type climate.

The same is true using degree-day calculations. The Burgundy, Champagne and Bordeaux regions of France are in the same heat summation region as the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Now you know why "old world" grape varieties have been successfully planted in "new world" regions.

Also, individual macro climates are found within the vineyard by evaluating changes in slope, soil type and proximity to water. This enables the winemaker to plant blocks of grapes with slightly different growing requirements. This increases the types of wines they produce, helps stagger the bud break and harvest times and provides for blending of different grape varieties.

Next we will talk about the micro climate that surrounds the vine.
But first, it's time for a break. How about some artisanal goat cheese from Wisconsin found at
with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region of New Zealand. What a prefect pairing!