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the brief history of hedonistic fruit bombs

Robert Lauriston Aug 20, 2012 06:03 PM

A question asked but not answered in an old topic: Is consistently producing high alcohol super extracted fruit bombs a relatively new development in the wine world?

Short answer: yes. They were pretty much unknown before the 1990s.

Recent article from Wine Industry Insight is kind of sketchy but has some good references:

http://www.wineindustryinsight.com/ex...

  1. z
    zin1953 Aug 20, 2012 07:54 PM

    Wines of the 1960s and 1970s were indeed much lower in alcohols than we saw in the years between, say, 1986-2000. But also yeast converted sugar to alcohol at a lower rate back then -- 0.50 in the 1970s; 0.55 in the 1980s; 0.60-0.65 in the 1990s. (This according to bojh text books and lab analyses that I have personally run.) This means that -- with no other factors involved -- grapes harvested at 24° Brix in the 1960s would have produced a dry wine at 12.0% abv; by the late 1970s and early 1980s, those same grapes would have yielded 13.2% abv, and by the late 1980s and 1990s, 14.88%. Add to that the whole "Parkerization" of making wines with "gobs of hedonistic fruit," the de-alcoholization of wines through RO and you enter a whole new realm of "manufacturing" wines rather than making them.

    3 Replies
    1. re: zin1953
      s
      Sam B Aug 20, 2012 10:14 PM

      And, add to that, hardly anyone picks at 24 Brix anymore...

      1. re: Sam B
        maria lorraine Jan 1, 2013 02:23 AM

        But the data do not support that.

        Using the same report as Robert, the 2011 NASS charts say:

        The average Brix of all California white wine grapes was 21.8
        The average Brix of all California red wine grapes was 23.5

        USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service, California Field Office, Page 13. Grape Crush Report, Preliminary 2011 Crop

        Link: http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_b...

        Below is a screen shot of the white and red wine grape totals by district, and the average for 2010 and 2011.

        Even the Brix data for Cabernet Sauvignon for the entire state *and* for Napa show the fruit-bomb trend over:

        The average Brix of all 2011 California Cabernet Sauvignon was 23.8 -- nearly the same as 1994-5.
        The average Brix of all 2010 California was lower than the "century year" harvest of 1997.

        The average Brix of 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon by wine-growing district:

        Mendo 22.8
        Lake 23.6
        Sonoma/Marin 23.1
        Napa 23.8
        Solano 23.2
        Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, SF, San Mateo, Santa Cruz 23.8
        Monterey 23.7
        San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Venture 23.5
        Yolo 23.1

        Nothing above 24 Brix.

        None of the data support the premise that fruit-bomb wines are being grown widely anywhere in California. The data -- and the wines -- say the opposite, in fact.

         
      2. re: zin1953
        Robert Lauriston Aug 21, 2012 09:30 AM

        I know commercial yeasts are part of the problem. One "natural" winemaker I was talking with recently said that people from Gallo have been visiting his winery trying to figure out if they can reduce the amount they spend on yeast (I think he said $30 million a year).

      3. r
        RicRios Aug 20, 2012 08:50 PM

        History's short answer seems to go the other way:

        "Like most wines in the ancient worlds, sweet white wine was the most highly prized wine style. The wines were often very alcoholic, with Pliny noting that you could bring a candle flame to a cup of Falernian and it would catch fire. Because of this strength, the wines were often diluted with warm water and sometimes even salty seawater.
        [...]
        Roman wine was often flavored with herbs and spices (similar to modern Vermouth and mulled wine) and were sometimes stored in resin coated containers which gave it a flavor similar to modern Retsina.[2] The Romans were very keen on the aroma of wine and would experiment with different techniques in order to enhance a wine's bouquet."

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_...

        1 Reply
        1. re: RicRios
          Robert Lauriston Aug 21, 2012 09:35 AM

          The ancients talked a lot of nonsense, the classics are filled with firsthand observations of physical impossibilities. Falernian could not have reached much more than 15% alcohol.

          Wines in the area around Rome were sweet up through WWII and the old-school versions are still made. When I lived there in the 80s I'd occasionally come across a dive bar serving "er vero vino rosso dorce," real sweet red wine.

        2. Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2012 12:58 PM

          This chart shows the average brix for California Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from 1976 to 2011. The pendulum started swinging out of the Parker zone with the 2009 vintage, but it has a ways to go to get back to historical norms.

          Zinfandel follows an almost opposite curve, which baffled me utnil I realized they lump red and white together.

          Data:

          http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_by_State/California/Publications/Grape_Crush/Reports/index.asp

          A good article on the super-ripe fruit fad:

          http://www.goodfruit.com/Good-Fruit-G...

           
          103 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2012 01:35 PM

            Similar chart for Napa only.

             
            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              j
              john gonzales Dec 31, 2012 01:37 PM

              I agree with you that there is a swing to the pendulum, but that chart might not be the ideal indicator. IIRC 09,10,11 were all growing seasons that lent themselves to lower sugar levels for Cal Cab. 09 had some rain around harvest, 10 was somewhat cool through summer, 2011 was cold in spring and the season just never caught up. So nature had a big role in determining the sugar levels as much as the divergence with the Parker zone. Winemakers are chasing physiological ripeness more than sugar levels so the harvest brix isn't something they set as the primary criteria. Again I agree though that there is a trend by some makers to less ripe wines.
              Btw, IIRC the legendary 47 Cheval clocked in at 14.5% alcohol, so it isn't like the the concept of hedonistic wines began with Parker even though he encouraged the practice.

              1. re: john gonzales
                Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2012 01:46 PM

                Traditionally, 14.5% was an outlier. In the Parker era, it is or was practically the baseline.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  j
                  john gonzales Dec 31, 2012 02:03 PM

                  Very true. Just illustrating that, at least to the 14.5% level, great wines can be made.
                  What's your position on de-alc'ing or watering back?

                  1. re: john gonzales
                    Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2012 03:33 PM

                    I often water down wines I find overly alcoholic at the table. Sometimes makes them palatable.

                    I'm not necessarily against reverse osmosis on principle, but most of my favorite wineries practice minimal intervention.

              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                z
                zin1953 Dec 31, 2012 03:02 PM

                >>> Zinfandel follows an almost opposite curve, which baffled me utnil I realized they lump red and white together. <<<

                That has NOTHING to do with it, Robert.

                Zinfandel is the only grape that INCREASES in sugar content (n° Brix) while it sits in the fermenter. This is due to the fact that is raisins easily . . . AND significantly, and as fermentation starts, the raisins soak out and then add their almost 50% sugar to the must.

                One example I recall off the top of my head was the 1975 harvest from Bill Collins' vineyard (then-owner of Conn Creek in Napa). Being his first vintage under his own label, he still had contracts with other wineries to fulfill. He harvested his Zinfandel and half went to The Christian Brothers, half for himself at Conn Creek. The enologist at XBros recorded the load at 23° Brix, and Collins was paid accordingly (i.e. no "sugar bonus" points). The other half was sampled at the weigh-in and came in at 23° Brix, too. But once fermentation started, the daily reading of the fermenter went UP to 27°, before it started coming down . . . including all of the raisins, the grapes were probably up around 29-30°. I think the resulting wine was 15.3% abv.

                1. re: zin1953
                  Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2012 03:25 PM

                  How does that mean that white Zinfandel, which was introduced in 1975 and today outsells red by 6:1, did not bring down the average Brix of the Zinfandel crop as recorded by the state?

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    z
                    zin1953 Jan 1, 2013 03:43 PM

                    Not sure where your "1975" number comes from. White Zinfandel was first made in California in 1964 by David Bruce Winery. Sutter Home first made theirs in 1972. Zinfandel Ros´predates both, of course.

                    White Zinfandel is Zinfandel, and is not tracked as a separate grape variety by CASS.

                    If you look at the 2011 CASS report -- http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_b... -- and at Table 1 (page 7) specifically, you're see that the statewide weighted average Brix for Zinfandel was 21.1° Brix in 2011 and 21.2° in 2010.

                    Now look at Table 3 of the same report (page 13), and the weighted average per District:

                    1 (Mendocino Co.) -- 24.7°
                    2 (Lake Co.) -- 24.2°
                    3 (Sonoma & Marin Co.) -- 24.8°
                    4 (Napa Co.) -- 25.0°
                    5 (Solano Co.) -- 24.0°
                    6 (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz Co.) -- 25.0°
                    7 (Monterey & San Benito Co.) -- 24.0°
                    8 (San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura Co.) -- 23.7°
                    9 (parts of Yolo & Sacto. Co., north to the Oregon border) -- 18.4°
                    10 (Sierra Foothills) -- 24.5°
                    11 (part of San Joaquin & part of Sacto. Co.) -- 23.6°
                    12 (part of the Central Valley) -- 20.5°
                    13 (part of the Central Valley) -- 18.6°
                    14 (part of the Central Valley) -- 19.0°
                    15 (LA and San Bernadino Co.) -- 24.3°
                    16 (Orange, Riverside, San Diego Co.) -- 25.3°
                    17 (parts of Yolo & Sacto. Co.) -- 20.7°

                    Where are most of the Zinfandel grapes for RED wine production grown?

                    Where are most of the Zinfandel grapes for WHITE wine production grown?

                    Don't know about you, Robert, but I see a pattern here . . .

                    1. re: zin1953
                      Robert Lauriston Jan 1, 2013 04:02 PM

                      The geographical breakdown of Zinfandel tonnage and Brix seems to support my thesis that white Zinfandel explains the decline in overall Brix.

                      The 1975 number comes from the 1976 grape crush report.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        z
                        zin1953 Jan 1, 2013 04:45 PM

                        Robert, I am not trying to argue with you, and if I misunderstood your original post, I apologize. Your "blue" chart shows Cabernet coming down in sugar levels -- which, if I'm not mistaken, sort of proved Maria Lorraine's point. I thought you were saying Zinfandel is harvested at lower alcohol levels, and when I said that Zin increases in sugar content in the fermenters, I was -- naturally (well, naturally in MY mind) -- referring to those grapes destined for red wines. Zinfandel = red wine; White Zinfandel = blush wines which, regardless of variety,are (almost always) picked at lower levels of sugar.

                        If you compare like-to-like:
                        Cabernet -- Dist. -- Zinfandel
                        22.8° Brix -- 1 -- 24.7° Brix
                        23.6° Brix -- 2 -- 24.2° Brix
                        23.1° Brix -- 3 -- 24.8° Brix
                        23.8° Brix -- 4 -- 25.0° Brix
                        23.2° Brix -- 5 -- 24.0° Brix
                        23.8° Brix -- 6 -- 25.0° Brix
                        23.7° Brix -- 7 -- 24.0° Brix
                        23.5° Brix -- 8 -- 23.7° Brix

                        Zinfandel is consistently picked at HIGHER levels than Cabernet Sauvignon.

                        This is the reason why statewide numbers are very misleading, if not useless.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          z
                          zin1953 Jan 1, 2013 06:20 PM

                          The 1976 report has the 1976 numbers . . .

                          1. re: zin1953
                            Robert Lauriston Jan 1, 2013 06:23 PM

                            Some of the tables have 1975 numbers in the last column.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              z
                              zin1953 Jan 1, 2013 06:32 PM

                              Robert? The very last column to which you refer ALWAYS has the previous year's numbers listed for ease of comparison's sake. Every other column is for whatever the current year of the report is.

                              1. re: zin1953
                                Robert Lauriston Jan 1, 2013 07:02 PM

                                You asked where I got the 1975 numbers. I got them from the 1976 report.

                    2. re: zin1953
                      Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2012 04:31 PM

                      Here's a chart comparing Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. The decline in Zinfandel's Brix pretty much corresponds to the rise of white Zinfandel.

                       
                    3. re: Robert Lauriston
                      Robert Lauriston Dec 31, 2012 03:25 PM

                      Another chart showing both the state average and Napa.

                       
                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        maria lorraine Jan 1, 2013 03:05 AM

                        One wonders why Melissa Hansen is 7 years late holding her ear to the ground to report on the trend away from high-alcohol wine. (It's really an old article that was just printed this year in "Good Fruit Grower.")

                        Ditto for Ilana Diamant, who writes this past July in her blog that the tide is beginning to turn away from "fruit, alcohol, and oaken bombs." Must've just come in over her telegraph wire.

                        As to what caused the tidal shift, Diamant doesn't dig deep enough or go back nearly far enough to see its true beginnings

                        The shift away fruit-bomb style wines began in the trenches in 2005, and hit a fever pitch by 2007. Almost everything in winegrowing and winemaking began changing by 2007 -- because of one man.

                        But first, 2005. The talk among wineries and winemakers everywhere was resentment over Parker's iron-hand influence on the style of wine that wineries and winemakers were forced to make in order to score high Parker points. Everyone recognized the system was gamed.

                        Pockets of resentment turned into organized rebellion, and the swing away from high ABV, out-of-balance wines began in earnest, Parker be damned. The shift happened first in the vineyards, in 2005, in the way grapevines were grown and trained. It takes two harvests for changes in viticultural practices to manifest as less-ripe grapes at harvest, but vineyards throughout Napa and Sonoma began making those changes in 2005. How do I know this? I was there, in the vineyards and with the vines; I saw firsthand.

                        By 2006, the ripple effect had made its way all through Sonoma and Napa, and the rest of California. Harmony was the new Holy Grail. Yeast selection became more precise -- away from efficient yeasts with high-conversion, and towards yeasts with slower- and lower-conversion rates and specific flavor-producing profiles, chosen with the same care as a cheesemaker selects a mold to produce a specific cheese. At the same time, studies reported that specific rootstock clones had the ability to boost ABV inadvertently; those rootstock were swapped out.

                        Then in 2007: the shot heard round the world. Nothing made more an impact in California than when the erudite Darryl Corti issued his fatwa: His Corti Brothers Sacramento store would no longer carry any wine above 14.5% ABV.

                        Suddenly, talk of Darryl and his edict was absolutely everywhere. Everyone talked about ABVs being too high and what to do about it, given Parker's wrench-like grip on scores. This was fall, 2007, just before harvest. Then winery owners issued their own edict to their winemakers and workers: Reduce the ABV or else.

                        Everyone jumped into action. Even more practices were employed to boost physiological ripeness but keep the sugars down. Everything got tweaked: rootstock, training, canopy, yeast, ferms, everything, and a few tech tricks were thrown in just in case what you did didn't work, or hadn't worked yet. By 2009, lower ABVs were the norm, not fruit-bombs.

                        Either early on in 2005 when the ABV decline began or when it was big news in 2007 would have been fine times for Hansen and Diamont to report on this "new trend" in wine -- but not now years later in 2012.

                        You might say the history of hedonistic fruit bombs is even briefer than you imply -- it's been over as a trend for years.

                        But the real proof of the fruit-bomb trend being over is in the drinking -- in drinking A LARGE ENOUGH AND DIVERSE ENOUGH SAMPLE OF CALIFORNIA WINES OVER THE PAST SEVEN YEARS so that ONE IS INFORMED ENOUGH to know the fruit-bomb trend was over years before Hansen and Diamant wrote about it.

                        1. re: maria lorraine
                          j
                          john gonzales Jan 1, 2013 01:05 PM

                          Maria, I appreciate the amount of wine information you bring to this site. Clearly you are extremely knowledgeable.

                          That said I think the above largely overstates the change in ripeness seen in wine. It makes for a great article, but I don't think the change has been that drastic in wines that are made for and preferred by the broad public. I think that perhaps the champions of the "edict" like Corti, Parr, Jancis or Gilman have had some effect, but IMO it is not as widespread in application as stated. There are alot of producers (Rhys etc) that have established themselves in a lower ABV niche, but still much more production at higher ABV levels. Had an Aubert chard lately?
                          Corti's 14.5 threshold really doesn't mean a lot. IIRC labelled 13.9 can legally be actually 14.9%, and tax issues make it beneficial to labe below 14%. That's nowhere near pre 1980 levels. Is a bottle of 14.5% pinot ror chard really a low alc/ripeness wine? Also, as you stated absolute ABV can be tweaked downward via technology, without even modifying brix.
                          Just as an excercise, and in relation to Robert's early query, I would like to hear some examples of dramatically lower ABV Napa cabs that are widely produced/popular. I would also question whether regions like Right Bank bordeaux, or CdP have displayed a trend decreasing ripeness over the 7 year period. Also, as I noted above, the vintage conditions over a number of most recent vintages (at least in Napa) have lent themselves to lower brix levels.

                          1. re: john gonzales
                            maria lorraine Jan 1, 2013 02:06 PM

                            <<That said I think the above largely overstates the change in ripeness seen in wine.>>

                            Not to me, because I've tasted it.

                            Were fruit-bombs still a consistent style, that would be evident in tastings everywhere across the State. What does stand out in all the tastings -- and I would never have arrived at my conclusion had the wines not told me so -- is how remarkably pleasing and in balance the vintages from 2007 to 2009 are.

                            The average Brix has dropped steadily and steeply over the last five years. So much so, It's unusual to see any winery allied with fruit-bomb winemaking, unless that is a style tied to brand identity or a single wine of a lineup.

                            But California wines will always be more fruit-forward than Europe's because This. Is. California. The mild temps, lots of sun and warmth play a large role in the style of wine a winemaker is *allowed* to make.

                            Combine the factor of climate/weather with a history of scientific fruit-growing expertise -- the apex of which is wine-grape growing -- are you have why California Brix levels will never fall back to 1990s levels. If you're hoping for that, it won't happen. The fruit can't even get there; the vines can't do that physiologically.

                            Give up on the idea -- if you have it -- that Euro wines should be grown and made in CA: Physical phenomena prevent that from happening. Drink wines from cooler climates with lower ABV instead, and stop insisting that a giraffe be a zebra.

                            2010 and 2011 were challenging harvests, again with lower Brix. But 2012 is an elegant beauty of a vintage, as close to Europe as you'll find in California.

                            So...you might circle back in about 2015 to the 2012 California vintage, to see that you think then. You won't enjoy even th3 2012 vintage if your only yardstick is Euro wines, or if you are deadset against liking any California wine.

                            IMO, if one wishes to draw a conclusion, and be credible, about the overall style of California winemaking or the general undesirability of the State's wines, one must have made a concerted effort to taste throughout all the regions of California at all price points. A large, informed picture emerges then. It's dangerous, meaning inaccurate, to draw conclusions about an entire State's wines based upon the wines in one's milieu.

                            1. re: maria lorraine
                              j
                              john gonzales Jan 1, 2013 02:49 PM

                              Ok, we may have to just disagree on the "drastic" nature of the change, and perhaps it is a matter of defining extent. You say fruit-bombs aren't being made unless brands are tied to the style or in the case of individual wines. That's quite a qualifier and can obviously encompass a ton of wines. Is one just to remove a producer like Kosta-Browne from inclusion in an anlysis of ripeness tendencies in winemaking simply because ripe is tied to their identity? That climate or plant physiology don't enable a return to pre 90s levels is also a reason, but in essence would lend one to believe we're not going to get to below 13% abv cab (eg). Both of the above points illustrate why there is a logical resistance to ultra-low abv, but neither show that there is a dramatic trend.
                              I will agree with you that one has to taste to be credible. Though it sounds like you might be making an assumption about my habits. Fwiw I drink and try a lot of wines. Perhaps not as many as some/you, but I surely try a 1500 wines a year and that might be a low estimate. Last night the total was 20+. I'm not in the wine biz but wine is my hobby and I've been collecting for 15+ years in addition to spending at least 2hrs a day on wineboards and/or reading one wine and attending about an event a week. I'm also good for at least four winetrips a year split amongst area, though Napanoma the most. My wife works for SWS in sales so between samples, trade tastings, account events I taste as much current release stuff (which often is outside of what I would buy) as anyone not in the biz. In actuality I find MORE ripeness in lower priced higher production wines then those I typically drink. Something like Cupcake comes to mind.

                              Anyhow, just trying to give some perspective on my "own world". I am sure you are more involved, but my take is not without some experience. Generalizing is tough and perhaps not real fruitful. I'd actually be interested in hearing what some of the most successful low alcohol Napa cabs are?

                              1. re: john gonzales
                                maria lorraine Jan 1, 2013 11:12 PM

                                <<Ok, we may have to just disagree on the "drastic" nature of the change>>

                                I don't think the shift in Brix and ABV and towards harmony is "drastic" or "dramatic" -- those are your words. It's a solid, steady downward trend year after year after year. Both the data and the wines show that.

                                (FYI: Dramatic was what Darryl Corti did, but it took someone with Darryl's chops to take on Parker.)

                                <<You say fruit-bombs aren't being made unless brands are tied to the style or in the case of individual wines.>>

                                Yes. That's my belief. They're not being made as a sweeping style anymore, or chosen as the style of a new wine or brand. They exist mainly when an historical brand identity is attached to that style. Like Kosta Browne (your example).

                                But here's an oddball thing about KB, and it makes me want to ask -- before proceeding --
                                What constitutes a fruit bomb?

                                Is it a high alcohol, very ripe wine?

                                Does the wine have to have an in-your face level of ABV and fruit to be a fruit bomb?

                                Does a fruit bomb have to have low acidity to be a fruit bomb? What if it doesn't?

                                Are there ever elegant fruit bombs?

                                For example, Kosta Brown's Rosella's Vineyard Pinot clocks in at 14.5% +/- .2 ABV. Had this as one of the wines on my birthday, and have enjoyed it on other occasions. The wine is beautiful; the alcohol integrated and silky. It's an elegant wine, and never have I tasted anything like 14.5 % or 14.7% ABV.

                                Is it a fruit bomb?

                                Let's say the KB Rosella tastes like 12.5 and is really 14.5 ABV. Fruit bomb then? Put another way, can a wine be a fruit bomb because of its numbers and not taste like a fruit bomb?

                                I know I've been fooled by numbers alone sometimes.

                                Is that an ABV beyond which any wine
                                is a fruit bomb? 15 or 16% or what?

                                For example, the KB Keever is 16% ABV, and that ABV constitutes fruit-bomb-ness in my book all by itself. But even so, KB wines often don't taste as powerful as they are.

                                I'm sincerely wondering. No one has a clear-cut answer on what constitutes a fruit-bomb and what doesn't. I know it when I taste it.

                                <<I will agree with you that one has to taste to be credible. Though it sounds like you might be making an assumption about my habits.>>

                                No assumptions made of you whatsover, but I'm glad you taste a lot. You're into it -- I love it.

                                <<In actuality I find MORE ripeness in lower priced higher production wines then those I typically drink.>>

                                Ripeness or sweetness?

                                Ripeness can mean fruit, but it can also be backblending, especially in cheap wine.

                                Sweetness can be residual sugar, backblending or ethanol (ethanol is sweet).

                                <<Anyhow, just trying to give some perspective on my "own world".>>

                                Thank you. Appreciate it.

                                <<I'd actually be interested in hearing what some of the most successful low alcohol Napa cabs are.>>

                                Happy to oblige. Define what low-alcohol is, for you. Bear in mind -- and this is related to Jason's story about Jerry Luper's Cabernet wine experiment with no oak -- Cabernet needs oak, and to have oak it has to have ripe fruit. So Cab won't drop below a certain ABV and keep its classic Cab flavor profie. So another varietal might be better. Up to you.

                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                  j
                                  john gonzales Jan 2, 2013 12:49 AM

                                  Lot's to reply to.
                                  Indeed "fruit-bomb" is a subjective term. Personally I don't like the term. IMO wines can carry higher ABV% and still be excellent and balanced. That's why I think arbitrary limits on ABV as those promoted by Corti or Parr are silly. I think elegant and fruit-bomb are largely mutually exclusive terms.
                                  Fwiw, among a bunch of wines last night we had 98 Grange, 90 Tropolong Mondot, 02 Insignia, and 89 Beaucastel. The first three are of much higher ABV, but showed just as balanced as the Beau. I would guess the Grange was close to 15% but everyone in the Eurocentric crowd thought it was excellent.
                                  Since it seems that this discussion was based on ABV% and brix, it seems apropos to assume that high relative levels of either lend us to characterize a wine as fruit-bomb. People seem to take exception with the heat and surmaturite flavors. In that regard the Grange, and the Kosta-Browne qualify as fruit-bombs to me. Some other recent cabs, Schrader, Bond, Harlan, Lewelling Wight, Mondavi Rsv, Chimney Rock, R.Strong Brothers, Mondavi Rsv all qualify as fruit-bombs to me if one is going to talk ABV. I think the 07 RM Rsv is 15+%, and IIRC all of these wines exceed 14.3-5%. Considering that the RM Rsv was below 13% into the 90s, I'd say 14+% moves into the high alc range, and noted move to lower alc would have seeing a bunch of cabs in the below 13.5% range.
                                  I am using cab because it has consistently been a part of this conversation and brix levels have been tossed about. I would consider low alc to be below 13.5%. We know historically that it has been done in Cal. I notice that you've made reference to climate, but climate has not changed that much in 15 years. I am no expert on rootstocks, but assume that if it were of primary concern, one could use rootstock allowing for lower abv.
                                  All of the popular, big production players seem to be well above that level. I'm a big fan of Shafer Hillside and they've been in the high 14% range up through the current 2008.
                                  I just can't really think of all these examples of a significant trend you refer to. Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain is conidered lower alc, but that's not Napa and IIRC it's still coming in at almost 14 these days. Ditto Togni and Dunn. I do think we'll see some lower % cab out of 2010 and 2011, but those were very cold growing seasons and things were tough to ripen even if that otherwise would have been the goal.
                                  It there are some in that niche they aren't big and they aren't really able to push the higher price points. I'd still love to hear of those you'd refer to without switching variety to something like pinot. IIRC you agree with the consensus that 07 was an excellent vintage. It seemd like the growing was easy that year and most styles were easily doable. If one looks over what was made, there's alot of pretty high alc cab.
                                  Adam Lee, winemaker/owner at Siduri has some really good thoughts on the low alc craze. He seems to agree that there are going to be low alc years (and higher alc years) because good winemakers know to make what nature gives them. He also admits that they all need to sell wine, so in that vein when it's a cool year with finesse wines, their going to tout those virtues.
                                  He's also brought up the valid point that just as people claim that fruit-bomb producers chase a critical Parker score, it's also reasonable that a decidedly low alc producer chases the praise of contarian critics like Gilman or Asimov. It makes sense that the new producers tend to pursue a niche in a low alcohol regime, though they may also prefer those wines. As a business why go up against the established bigger players as opposed to filling a lesser supplied category. We will have to see whether the market responds and the low alc niche producers can last, profit and grab a large market share. It's great to read about the cutting-edge, young, new breed. It's another to repeatedly see them sell 1,000+ cases of below 13.5% cab, and if there is a sweeping trend in consumer's desires we'd be seeing it.

                                  1. re: john gonzales
                                    maria lorraine Jan 2, 2013 01:37 AM

                                    Two quick thoughts.

                                    You're not going to find many low-alc wines at the super-premium or premium price level which seems most of the wines you've described. Gotta drop to a mid-price level, where most CA wine is sold.

                                    Please note: I am not talking about poorly made wine or cheap wine.

                                    Second, you're not going to find lots of low alc Cabernet, except for those like Dunn. Cab loses its vegetal character only when its fruit flavors are ripe and dominant enough to eclipse the vegetal ones. So Cab fruit must have a minimum level of ripeness, minimum ABV.

                                    Also, Cabernet needs structure and spice from oak, and that also requires fruit flavors of a certain intensity and ripeness (I did not say over-ripeness).

                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                      j
                                      john gonzales Jan 2, 2013 09:31 AM

                                      Wow Maria, either you're on a Euro junket, or stay up even later than I do!

                                      I realize there is somewhat of a circular argument in using the super-premiums in that to some extent one could claim that they are artificially propped by the critics. However a number of these that are well regarded by Parker's "replacement" Galloni, Laube (ie WS), and even Tanzer who clearly has quite a bit more of a finesse palate than Parker. Fwiw, I recall Tanzer giving the 09 Cos d'Estournel a very positive review despite the fact that it comes in at a monstrous 14.7%. Their 2010 is not much lower and there are handfuls of Right Bankers currently going for very high levels. (Yes it's easy for them to ripen the Merlot).
                                      Beyond the reviews, since we're talking about broad appeal, it seems relevant to use brands that are able to sell through large productions and/or command enough demand to price at a premium. Anticipating a reply to that, I am not one that believes something like Mondavi Rsv sells through all of those cases at that price just because The Advocate tells its blind followers to buy it. If Parker scores were like the emporers new close, the Bordelaise would not be able to continue raising their ripeness levels and their prices in the era when there is backlash against Parker and so many other voices have emerged.
                                      At the other end of the price or production spectrum one MIGHT find some new small producers. However, as I said, the question is; in looking at the broad market how does one consider the small fry making 200 cases at $40 to the sea of larger production wines. While a Corison does well as far as price/demand with her cab at under 14%, that's a relatively small example, whomped by something like Insignia. For both "story" purposes and competitive purposes it behooves a start-up to be different. I realize that there is an increased demand, but IMO we'd really have to see a bigger demand/production/price shift to sing ding-dong the fruit bomb's dead.
                                      It's harder for me to speak about the mid-level wines, not because I don't try them via samples/tasting, but just that the numbers don't stick with me. As I said with the Cupcake example, lower level drinkers also seem to be fine with the thick wines. Yes, sweetness and ripeness aren't necessarily the same but both tend to characterize the genre of heavy, fruity, lower acid wines finesse drinkers decry. The 07 Mondavi Napa was an easily sold and well-received wine. It was over 15%. That shows what is chosen to be made in a classic vintage allowing it. The 2010 is significantly lower but still about 14.5%, and again that is largely to a cold vintage with winemaking/growing techniques undoubtedly used to make sure insure that it stayed above 14%. Faust might best fit your mid-level category. IIRC even the 2010 is around 14.2%, and to me while not hot it is a very fruity wine.

                                      I'm sitll curious as to what your specific examples are. I agree that there are reasons as you state above that Cabs come in at above 14%. People don't like green thin cabs. They have also taken a liking to a wines with a ripe (not rs) profile and a thicker mouthfeel. Also most wine is consumed in a cocktail setting as opposed to paired with a meal. But that there are reasons actually reinforces the fact that higher abv cabs are not gone and never going to disappear. Corti and Parr can pine all they want and exclude wines at over some arbitrary abv. It's dumb IMO and only serves to make a point, not provide someone that drinks cab with the wines they would like. It excludes a lot of excellent wines. Wine is about balance. Would you believe that the bottle of 98 Grange I had the other night is not a very well made wine at the very least? I realize that it is syrah, but IMO Syrah can be successfully vinified at an even lower abv than cab. A 14.5% limit might work with Bojo or German Riesling, but it sure doesn't work as well (or apply equally) to Cal Cab.

                                      I have come up with more examples of "lower" abv cab than you've chosen to, but even these are still at or slightly above 14%.
                                      Where are those at the pre-80 level below 13%? Rootstock argument aside, the option is there, and people aren't doing it. To me there's at least some revisionist history going on with the 60s, 70s cabs. I like Cal wine and Cab so have always made a point to try a lot of current and aged cabs. Some stuff like older Mayacamas are great. They definitely have an herbal spice complexity that bombs don't have. Some of them clearly have the balance and acid to have aged better than most modern cabs do. But across the board rather than now after-the-fact picking a handful of classics, there were a lot of junk wines. Most notably possessing the green, vegetal quality you note above. There are always going to be those that actually love that, but to most those are flaws in cabernet.
                                      Btw I do agree with you that we are seeing a trend in Pinot. Eg. Rhys, Kutch, Anthill Farms. Even Adam Tomalch at Ojai has toned down his pinots, but not dramtically. Even there wines like Kistler and Marcassin will still be well-received big wines. Syrah as well, esp from places like Bennett. Copain is making some lower abv wines with pinot and rhones.

                                      1. re: john gonzales
                                        j
                                        john gonzales Jan 4, 2013 10:42 AM

                                        Ok, so I guess no one/Maria has examples of something like a 13%, even 13.3 or 13.4 cab that demonstrates this change in scenery to low-alc wines. I've maintained that the topic is more popular in seeking a "story" and selling cold vintage wines, but that it really isn't THAT eveident in broad wine production.
                                        At least for Cab for which brix levels are stated here.
                                        Anyhow, when Maria mentioned that maybe looking at only premium was skewing the issues, I actually figured I'd do a little homework. I looked at a bunch of samples we have. I also thought of Clos du Val so looked for it and did a quick survey at a retailer.
                                        Before the list I would also venture to guess that, in knowing a higher acl% is anathema to some people and a "hot" topic, wineries have greater incentive than ever to use allowable ranges to understate their alcohol %. So here' the list of basic cab bottlings and abv%. Honestly, I did not seek out higher figures or eliminate any low ones.

                                        13.5%- Simi, Franciscan,Coppola Director's, Layer Cake
                                        13.8%-Blackstone,Kunde,Bonterra
                                        13.9%-Gott,Souverain,WildHorse
                                        14%-Antica/Antinori,Trefethen
                                        14.2%-Markham,Ch.St.Jean
                                        14.4%-Etude, St. Supery
                                        14.5%-Atlas Peak,Provenance,Kenwood, BV Napa, Clos du Val, Beringer Knight's, KJ Napa, William Hill,Benzinger, Heitz Napa,Whitehall Lane, Charles Krug, R.Strong Alex
                                        14.6%-Roth,Atalon,St. Francis,Louis Martini, Clos dBois Alex.,Sterling
                                        15.1%-Arrowood Sonoma

                                        That's millions of bottles of the most popular brands. I did not find ONE that was labelled under 13.5%, and again a 13.5% label is very likely to be 14% these days. We all know that some of the old classics were around 12-12.5%. I notice that even the 6L empty of 87 Caymus SS from my wedding is 13.0%.
                                        Worth note is that even stuff like Martini, and Heitz are 14.5%. I agree that Heitz at 14.5% does not show like a complete bomb. But it IS saying something that, as longtime standards for classic ageable cabs who are touted as eschewing Parkerization, they have increased their ripeness, alc%, and use of new oak from the classic days of their 74,77,85 classics. As I said early, even Dunn, who rails against high alc is around 14% and he is known to R.O. some of his wines to get there. I'd say they do it because they know what MOST drinkers really want. It's easy to buck the broad demand and exist in a niche with 500 cases of wine to sell. Not so much when you have 30,000. Truth is, for every single Gilman-styled CAB-DRINKER out there, there are ten Parker-styled. I'm not saying which is better than ever, just that the fruit-bomb demand is not dead.

                                        As a total aside, I just looked for some of the 2007 Heitz Martha's which I've yet to try. $180. Yowza! I also wonder if perhaps Heitz is also able to go riper and higher oak and still shoot for ageability by doing more acidulation of their wines.

                                        1. re: john gonzales
                                          Robert Lauriston Jan 4, 2013 10:57 AM

                                          Which vintage is that list? Current releases of Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon are all 13.5. The only 14% wines I find on their web site are Syrah blends.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            j
                                            john gonzales Jan 4, 2013 11:37 AM

                                            Uh yeah, duh. They were one of the wines I went to specifically look at. I rechecked my notes. The 2009 Mayacamus is indeed listed at 13.5%. I think I got it transposed with the 07 Mayacamas (which is 14.5 and I also left off) when I tried to relist in a table form. I also left off Laurel Glen at 13.8%

                                          2. re: john gonzales
                                            maria lorraine Jan 4, 2013 01:57 PM

                                            <<Ok, so I guess no one/Maria has examples of something like a 13%, even 13.3 or 13.4 cab that demonstrates this change in scenery to low-alc wines.>>

                                            In my earlier post, i explained why Cabernet could never get below 13.5 or so [re-posting]:

                                            "You're not going to find lots of low alc Cabernet, except for those like Dunn. Cab loses its vegetal character only when its fruit flavors are ripe and dominant enough to eclipse the vegetal ones. So Cab fruit must have a minimum level of ripeness, minimum ABV.

                                            Also, Cabernet needs structure and spice from oak, and that also requires fruit flavors of a certain intensity and ripeness (I did not say over-ripeness)."
                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8643...

                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 4, 2013 02:18 PM

                                              You may have thought you explained why Cabernet Sauvignon could never get below 13.5%, but it can. The currently most popular one in California is 12.5%.

                                              I don't think any of the *best* ones made in California in recent vintages have been below 13.5%, but that's just a matter of fashion. Those wineries might have to change rootstock and yeasts if the fashion changes.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                maria lorraine Jan 4, 2013 02:40 PM

                                                The 12.5 is an exception that proves the rule.

                                                Low ABV Cab requires a balancing act between the earliest point of physiological ripeness that can also stand up the necessary amount of oak that Cab needs to be varietally correct. That point is a moving target because the vegetal component is different in every vineyard -- dependent on viticulture, weather and the vine, among other things.

                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                  j
                                                  john gonzales Jan 4, 2013 02:44 PM

                                                  Yep, Two Buck Chuck is about the only under 13% Cab I know of. It is obviously a dog wine and might be RO'd, but clearly it CAN be done. The 20 years of production from 1965 to 85 prove it as well. Climate or vine health have not made it impossible.
                                                  I agree that the desire for oak and no vegetal character tend to ask for ripeness/alc, but those are optional trade-offs and not mandatory characteristics. There were a lot of more vegetal cabs, and vegetal bordeauxs selling fine 20 years ago. Simply put Cab wines are still relatively ripe because thats what people like. The fact that no one's coming up with examples of dramatically lower abv cab just means that talk of lower alcohol in that genre might be de rigueur, but it isn't really happening in the wine as much as in wine blogs. At least until someone needs to sell that colder vintage 2011 and elects to tout their food-friendly, kinder Cab.

                                                  1. re: john gonzales
                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 4, 2013 03:11 PM

                                                    Most of the moderately priced Bordeaux blends I've had in recent years are still the same 12.5% they were when I first got into them 30 years ago.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                      j
                                                      john gonzales Jan 4, 2013 03:36 PM

                                                      Seriously?? You must be a Canon and Figeac lover. Though those may even be above "moderate", and lower ripeness is found lower on the price-scale. Many, many of the classified are significantly higher now, expecially St. Emilion. and we know lots of them are using tech to reduce abv.. I looked up the 90 Tropolong from NYE and I think it was 13.7.

                                                      I read an article recently about the 2000 Figeac. Apparently it was picked very early to preserve freshness and maintain their typical profile. Even those that appreciate the style and the proprietor question whether it was picked too soon.
                                                      The thing about the "vegetal component", and yes it is varient with site etc, is that it is appreciated by a smaller percentage of people these days. To me it travels with some herbal qualities and some people like the complexity. To more people it's a clear flaw in cab. I like some herbal, but not that vegetal action, and will sacrafice the former to rid the latter.

                                                      1. re: john gonzales
                                                        maria lorraine Jan 4, 2013 03:47 PM

                                                        It depends on the amount of "vegetal"-ness. A little is part of Cab's flavor profile -- a lot means a problem, either growing errors or ferm errors.

                                                        1. re: john gonzales
                                                          Robert Lauriston Jan 4, 2013 03:53 PM

                                                          Canon and Figeac are not what I would call moderately priced.
                                                          I'm talking more like Côtes de Bourg.

                                                      2. re: john gonzales
                                                        maria lorraine Jan 4, 2013 03:49 PM

                                                        << Two Buck Chuck is about the only under 13% Cab I know>>

                                                        But Two Buck Chuck Cab isn't Cab. Not varietally correct Cab. It's red table wine that's labeled Cab.

                                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                                          j
                                                          john gonzales Jan 5, 2013 12:36 AM

                                                          Ok, I'm almost embarassed to argue semantics over 2 Buck Chuck. For name/label purposes it is Cab. Without knowing details of each, and the belief that the better wines are almost all cab, we don't know that some of the other entry level wines whose Abv I listed aren't blended as well. I don't feel like looking into the Chuck, but guess it might have 10% Merlot? Merlot isn't a later ripening or dramatically lower ABV grape than Cab, so I don't see that it's inclusion is allowing them to knock a point off the ABV.
                                                          You know wine chemistry better than I do, but it doesn't seem like with Napa's typical sun, heat, dry soil,and some moderate leaf removal, it's necessary to produce a 13.5% cab to get rid of the vegetal (I assume pyrazine) flavors. Clearly Cab from Bord, Santa Cruz area, or Long Island would have more of an issue and some of those wines are released with remaining green notes. Were they able to remove more of the vegetal notes in cab 30 years ago at 12.5%? I doubt it. The oak thing is somewhat circular. They didn't use as much new oak 30 years back and were fine. So there's a problem in saying they need ripeness to match the oak, when the oak isn't really an essential, or a balance can still be acheived with less oak (at lower ripeness) What has changed isn't the necessity for ripeness to reduce vegetal character or balance oak. People have just come to prefer the entire package of almost no vegetal notes, higher oak, and more ripeness. Tracking the style of even a wine like Heitz Martha's reflects it. Many people that say they want 12.5% abv cab wouldn't like it if they got it even though producers could make it.
                                                          As an aside I just read an article from a UK journal about the recent (last 15 years) trend for producers to intentionally understate their ABV for marketing purposes. They posit that doing so is trend that has really grown over that period due to the abv backlash. They tested 129,000 wines. 57% significantly understated the abv. Overall (of those sampled) the average label stated 13.2%, whereas the actual measurement was 13.6%. It's possible that some of the understating is a result of labels not being resubmitted each year, but that's not that difficult for a large production operation. Also there would not be such a large mean difference between stated and actual, as cases of over-stating would balance the under-stateds. Bottom line is there's a bunch of fibbing going on, and it's not just to avoid increased taxation above the 14% mark.

                                                          1. re: john gonzales
                                                            maria lorraine Jan 5, 2013 01:52 AM

                                                            << it doesn't seem like...it's necessary to produce a 13.5% cab to get rid of the vegetal (I assume pyrazine) flavors.>>

                                                            It is. There's a minimum ABV at which Cab is physiologically ripe.

                                                            I'd put it at between 13 and 13.5% ABV. This is the exact ABV of the Heitz wines in the seventies.

                                                            It's not that you want all the vegetal flavors to go away in Cabernet -- you don't. Some vegetal flavors can serve as background flavor notes and are part of Cabernet's flavor profile.

                                                            But vegetal flavors go hand in hand with a lack of color and harsh tannins and all those are signs of physiological immaturity.

                                                            By the time the grape tannins have softened and the color is there in a Cab grape, you have a basic minimum ABV you cannot go below.

                                                            The winemaker actually has fewer options than you think in regards to Cab's minimum ABV. Sure, he can always pick later, but he really can't go below a minimum ABV.

                                                            <<So there's a problem in saying they need ripeness to match the oak, when the oak isn't really an essential>>

                                                            Nope. Cab needs oak, a minimum amount of oak. Not a lot of oak or too much oak or the wrong kind of oak, but it needs oak or it doesn't taste like Cab. The fruit flavors have to be of an intensity great enough to not be dominated by whatever amount of oak you hit them with, so again there has to be a minimum ripeness level.

                                                            That's why if we want to discuss minimum alcohol levels, we should really talk about other varietals than Cab. Cab's minimum ABV is locked in.

                                                            And, it sure would be easier to read your thoughtful posts if you would use paragraphs. ;>))

                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                              z
                                                              zin1953 Jan 5, 2013 09:43 AM

                                                              >>> Cab needs oak, a minimum amount of oak. Not a lot of oak or too much oak or the wrong kind of oak, but it needs oak or it doesn't taste like Cab. <<<

                                                              Does anyone (besides me) remember when Calaway first started and they aged their Cabernet Sauvignon in German Spessart oak . . . definitely the wrong kid of oak! ;^)

                                                              1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                Robert Lauriston Jan 5, 2013 10:08 AM

                                                                The 1966 and 1974 Krug were only 12% and they sure did not suck.

                                                                The 1961 Lafite was 12.5%.

                                                                The 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 1999 Mayacamas were all 12.5%.

                                                                I've had a lot of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from 1990 and earlier and 12.5% was the most typical number back then. Heitz was an outlier:

                                                                "David Heitz is quick to point out that his father Joe was always one of the latest harvesters back in the old days, and when many California cabernets would routinely top out around 12.5 percent in alcohol, the Heitz wines even back in the seventies were typically labeled at 13 or 13.5 percent."

                                                                http://www.heitzcellar.com/pdf/Celebr...

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                  z
                                                                  zin1953 Jan 5, 2013 12:10 PM

                                                                  Robert?

                                                                  How do you KNOW that the 1966 and 1974 Charles Krug Cabernet Sauvignons were only 12 percent? Have you seen the lab analysis reports?

                                                                  As I have said before, the LABELS are *not* accurate. Charles Krug pre-printed their labels the same as Louis M. Martini, and as long as you were within ±1.5%, your label was perfectly legal. Going by the labels -- while, admittedly, the only thing consumers can go by -- is notoriously INACCURATE.

                                                                  The same can be said for ANY label, domestic or import. Going by the number on the label and claiming accuracy is useless. This is but one reason why I've always been a big fan of using the alternative alcohol statement.

                                                                  You can pretend that the numbers are "spot on," but they never were . . . .

                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                    maria lorraine Jan 5, 2013 03:59 PM

                                                                    <<The 1966 and 1974 Krug were only 12% and they sure did not suck.

                                                                    The 1961 Lafite was 12.5%.

                                                                    The 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, and 1999 Mayacamas were all 12.5%.

                                                                    I've had a lot of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from 1990 and earlier and 12.5% was the most typical number back then. >>

                                                                    --

                                                                    That comparison shows a huge miscomprehension of why California wines are the way they are, or why wines grown anyplace in the world taste the way they do.

                                                                    A minimum ABV and most of the flavor of California wine is "hard-wired" -- the winemaker has nothing to do with it nor can he change it.

                                                                    Robert criticizes the ripeness of current California wines, pointing out, as he does above, that earlier vintages of Cab were harvested at a lower ABV.

                                                                    But that shows a striking lack of knowledge of how wine grapes grow and ripen physiologically.

                                                                    California can't go back to an earlier time because weather and climate have changed since that earlier time, and the rootstock is different -- more active metabolically.

                                                                    Climate, weather and rootstock will zoom the sugars to a certain minimum ABV before physiological ripeness happens.

                                                                    This is HARD-WIRED -- unchangeable.

                                                                    Robert needs to understand this, before he insists that California do things differently to suit his palate.

                                                                    The winemaker is actually dealt a very limited hand -- he couldn't change certain basic things about the wine if he tried, like minimum ripeness levels.

                                                                    For Cabernet, the grapes are not physiologically ripe at less than 13 to 13.5%.

                                                                    One CANNOT go lower with California's climate/weather and rootstock. It's set in stone. That's true for quite a few varietals. Robert misses this.

                                                                    Without question, the winemaker can let his grapes hang longer for an extra-ripe or over-ripe wine, but again, that's a matter of sugar levels, far different from physiological ripeness.

                                                                    There are so many factual misunderstandings in Robert's text (examples, his initial post about tannins and oak sweetness) that it's quite clear he hasn't learned the viticultural reasons why wines have a pre-set minimum ripeness/ABV or why California wine grapes taste the way they do, even before the winemaker enters the room. Or why wines grown in California or anywhere else taste the way they do.

                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                      j
                                                                      john gonzales Jan 5, 2013 05:14 PM

                                                                      Robert and I have different takes on things.
                                                                      However I don't think he's as "lost" as you do. I just think he fails to realize that the overwhelming majority of people don't want what he wants.
                                                                      Where you and I differ, is to whether wines that approach what he describes CAN be made. I am curious about a couple of the reasons you state that it can't be. First off, I (think I) have a basic grasp of physiological ripeness. However even that seems that it can be subjective and that the flavors associated with a ripeness scale (vegetal/pyrazines, tannins, glycerin etc) seem to continually vary along a scale themselves. That there just isn't a definitive flawed-beneficial breaking point for any of them. I have friends that really love vegetal and herbaceous cabs from cool, wet vintages/sites. I like them far less. So who decides if/where the cut-off exists?
                                                                      Climate? If we were to take a 3-4 year period from say 1987-90 vs 2010-2012, how much of a climate change could you substantiate? We're not talking about looking as far back as mid-40s Bordeaux. I don't know the answer or even know what the best index would be, but have a feeling that using any measure the climate has not changed that much in Napa over that short period.
                                                                      I don't know rootstalks well. I do know that places like Ridge are using different rootstalks within the same vineyard. So I would assume that there are some options. Is it not possible to utilize one rootstalk which can be managed to yield a wine of lesser ripeness than one that might make it more difficult, even if the difference is not large? Seems to me that like many viticultural decisons, there is always some reverse engineering starting with the wine they WANT to make.

                                                                      In a nutshell, my question is this. If I were to have a start-up with the mandate to make a cabernet at 13% (cognizant of the fact that I would have SOME more of the hallmarks in my flavor profile) and followed all of the site, planting, management, and winemaking techniques; could I? Put another way, what is stopping me from making a wine that tastes more like the early era Montebello?

                                                                      Lastly, if one were to accept your contention that adequate physiological ripeness is at a minimum of 13% abv, where are the 13% cabs being made?

                                                                      Btw, notice the paragraphs. I am a notoriously lazy writer on the web and rarely proofread or spellcheck

                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 11:10 AM

                                                                        I suppose I'm the last person who should criticize someone for phrasing their prejudices and opinions as statements of fact, but at least my hyperbole is a conscious choice, and I don't deny actual facts when they're inconvenient for my argument.

                                                                        Obviously you're in the industry. What's your job?

                                                                    2. re: maria lorraine
                                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 5, 2013 10:17 AM

                                                                      "Cab needs oak, a minimum amount of oak. Not a lot of oak or too much oak or the wrong kind of oak, but it needs oak or it doesn't taste like Cab."

                                                                      I've had a lot of unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon from the Veneto. It's a simple wine meant to be drunk young, and I prefer their Cabernet Francs and Merlots, but it's good and definitely tastes like Cabernet Sauvignon.

                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                        z
                                                                        zin1953 Jan 5, 2013 12:17 PM

                                                                        Robert?

                                                                        I am glad you've found some unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon you like. Granted, it's from that world-renowned area famous for their Cabernet Sauvignons, the Veneto, but -- hey! -- glad you like it. To my palate, those wines are -- how shall I put it? -- less than thrilling. And I generally am *not* a fan of most California Cabernet Sauvignons, and vastly prefer European wines to those from California. But Cabs from the Veneto? Feh . . . .

                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                          j
                                                                          john gonzales Jan 5, 2013 03:43 PM

                                                                          Of course at this point we can't be positive about the exact ABV numbers of most wines. Yes the labels can be and were inexact. But I have read details of actual analysis on some old wines, and heard/read accounts by winemakers. So there is a way to make educated guesses.

                                                                          Jason, beyond the obvous that the label does not tell all, what do you believe about the ABV in 60s,70s cabs like the Martini, Mayacamas, BV, Mondavi, Ridge etc.??
                                                                          I believe that plenty of them were in the 12.5-13% range. and that the average was clearly below 13%. Maria cited the 74 Heitz, but I believe Robert is correct that Joe liked to harvest later and riper than many of his counterparts, thugh still below current standards. They certainly had less reason in th 70s to intentionally understate abv. Once you come up with a guesstimate as to that historical abv average Jason, can you think of specific Cabs being made at that level now?

                                                                          While we're going for best estimate Jason, what do you think the average ABV for Napa cab is now. Labels would have us believe it is around 13.7%. I would guess that 14% is more accuate.

                                                                          I also think there is no doubt that the amount of oak (esp new) has increased over time. So what is being used now clearly exceeds what was deemed adequate 30 years back.

                                                                          So why is it that a wine like the 2007 Mondavi Rsv Cab clocks in at 15+% wth 100% new oak? It isn't because the winemaker COULDN'T make a 13.2% abv cab with less oak, that wasn't flawed. It's because that different taste might well be like a 70s cab, but would not sell as well.

                                                                          We could switch varieties and talk about all the ripe Merot being made still too. I hardly think the fruit-bomb is dead there either.

                                                                          1. re: john gonzales
                                                                            z
                                                                            zin1953 Jan 5, 2013 04:41 PM

                                                                            >>> Of course at this point we can't be positive about the exact ABV numbers of most wines. Yes the labels can be and were inexact. But I have read details of actual analysis on some old wines, and heard/read accounts by winemakers. So there is a way to make educated guesses. <<<

                                                                            MY point, John, is that I was working in Napa Valley in the late-1970s. I don't recall any of the Cabs being 12%, regardless of what the labels said. Most of the Cabs were I was then working were around 13 or so. BUT . . . wines like Mayacamas and Ridge "don't count" in the discussion, in that mountain-based vineyards frequently came in at lower sugar levels than valley floor vineyards.

                                                                            Remember the "Monterey vege"? Even Napa could have the "Monterey vege" if/when Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were picked too low.

                                                                            And as I've said previously, Ridge would use fractions on their labels when they were lying and hoping ATF wouldn't catch them; decimal points when being accurate.

                                                                            Robert is correct about some things, and Joe picking late is certainly one of them. The 1974 Martha's is an exception to the rule because Joe got hurt in a winery accident, and David made the 1974.

                                                                            My problem is with opinions stated here as if they were indisputable fact, when -- in fact -- they are VERY disputable.

                                                                            With the exception of a recent trip to NYC to see a relative (who drinks nothing but high-end California Cabernet Sauvignon, and has a cellar-full to prove it!), I never drink that stuff. Indeed, I had more high-end Cal Cab on that four-day trip than I've had in probably five years . . . some were rich, opulent, and delicious; some were hot and alcoholic, and over-oaked. That's why I don't drink them.

                                                                            I believe that, regardless of label readings, the average abv for California Cabernet Sauvignon is now >14.0%, especially among those sourcing fruit in the flats (e.g.: Napa Valley).

                                                                            There were wine producers using 100% new oak 20, 30, and 40 years ago and more; and there are wine producers using 100% new oak today. That hasn't changed. What HAS changed is the *number* of wineries who use all new oak. That has gone up, you're absolutely correct.

                                                                            Let's presume -- since neither one of us works for Robert Mondavi -- your numbers are accurate (no "fudging"). So the 2007 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is all new oak and 15+% abv. Contrast this with the 2007 Ridge Monte Bello Santa Cruz Mountains Proprietary Red Table Wine -- all new oak, 13.1% abv.

                                                                            Why the difference?

                                                                            Well, part of it is certainly "house style" -- no one will/should confuse a Robert Mondavi wine with one made by Ridge -- but part of it is also location (both in terms of terroir and climate). Between the cooler climate, poorer soils, etc., etc.

                                                                            /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                                            As far as Merlot is concerned, I have a significant preference for those Merlots from Washington State over those from California, but I still don't drink them very often. ;^)

                                                                            1. re: john gonzales
                                                                              maria lorraine Jan 5, 2013 05:16 PM

                                                                              <<So why is it that a wine like the 2007 Mondavi Rsv Cab clocks in at 15+% wth 100% new oak?>>

                                                                              That's Genevieve's decision. If Genevieve wants the flavor and structure of oak -- she must have fruit of a specified intensity or ripeness to take on that oak.

                                                                              The amount of oak correctly used is always calibrated to the ripeness of the grapes, to its Gestalt of flavors, and to the wine's body.

                                                                              Bear in mind that the oak in the RM Cab takes a while to resolve. This is not a wine made to be drunk upon release -- another factor that goes into Genevieve's decision on the amount of oak.

                                                                              1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                maria lorraine Jan 5, 2013 05:22 PM

                                                                                <<Maria cited the 74 Heitz, but I believe Robert is correct that Joe liked to harvest later and riper than many of his counterparts, thugh still below current standards. >>

                                                                                I cited all the 70s Heitz Cabs -- all were in the 13 to 13.5% alcohol range.

                                                                                As to the lower ABV of Cabs back then, climate and weather was different then. Rootstock delivered a lower ABV then.

                                                                                And BTW, wineries have always lied about their ABV.

                                                                                Yes, the use of new oak has increased since the 1970s. But it's also decreased since 2000 -- used less in general, or for a shorter amount of time. More precision on barrel-toasting also. Large format neutral casks are the new rage.

                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 11:19 AM

                                                                                  Bordeaux's climate has gotten warmer. Napa's has not changed.

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                    z
                                                                                    zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 11:56 AM

                                                                                    It hasn't?!?!?!?

                                                                                    1. re: zin1953
                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 12:04 PM

                                                                                      The stats I've found show Napa's average temperature bouncing around in roughly the same range from 1930 to the present.

                                                                                      http://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gis...

                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                        z
                                                                                        zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 12:18 PM

                                                                                        I know you love generalizations, but it doesn't work on several counts.

                                                                                        1) Napa State Hospital is on the southern edge of the town of Napa, 15+ miles from the Rutherford Bench and even farther from St. Helena and Calistoga.

                                                                                        2) Few if any vineyards are situated there today; NONE were planted near there in the past.

                                                                                        3) Those are annual figures, which I would submit are irrelevant to the discussion. One needs to focus on the daytime temperatures during the growing season for an accurate and relevant comparison.

                                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                                          Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 12:48 PM

                                                                                          There's a very slight warming trend in Napa (less than .05 degree per year), but it's insignificant compared with the substantial variations in growing degree days from year to year. E.g. in 2011, Oakville was 7.7% warmer than 2011 but 4% cooler than the 22-year average.

                                                                                          http://www.napavintners.com/about/nvv_climate_exec_summary.pdf

                                                                                          http://pacgeodata.com/index.php?optio...

                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                            z
                                                                                            zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 01:41 PM

                                                                                            Robert?

                                                                                            As I have mentioned somewhere recently (you have several, rather lengthy threads going at once presently), one of the key factors in growing is the difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures -- too low at night, and it interrupts the growing season, and that was precisely why Walter Schug believed California was a more harsh climate in which to grow grapes than Germany (Napa v. Rhein).

                                                                                            From the study you referenced:

                                                                                            "Temperature records from the longer-term stations in the region indicate that NV [Napa Valley] has experienced warming over the last several decades. At several of the stations, the warming that is detected is stronger during the nighttime than the daytime, and it has occurred preferentially during the year -- primarily during January through August. Relatively high rates of warming in NV are found in the 6-9 decades of temperature records within the NV from the Napa State Hospital and St. Helena cooperative observer (COOP) stations. Similar warming trends are found at other cooperative stations surrounding NV."

                                                                                            Now it is important to acknowledge that there IS some question regarding the placement of some of these recording stations, and that may explain some of the warming seen. However, the study goes on to say,

                                                                                            "As a general pattern, Brix increases with later harvest dates. However, recent trends (last 8 years) have been very high in Brix, and not anomalously late."

                                                                                            1. re: zin1953
                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 03:36 PM

                                                                                              "Recent Brix increase is believed to be due to stylistic and winemaking preferences, but needs further investigation."

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                z
                                                                                                zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 03:44 PM

                                                                                                I have no doubt this is a factor, Robert, and have said so.

                                                                                          2. re: zin1953
                                                                                            j
                                                                                            john gonzales Jan 6, 2013 01:24 PM

                                                                                            Rather than shoot down the generalizations,what do you think on the general point using whatever metric you chose?
                                                                                            How much warmer is it now than the mid/late 80s?
                                                                                            I am willing to bet that 2011 was no warmer than one of the warmer vintages from that era. We'll see less ripe/ABV wines in 2011 than in 2007,8,9 but not as low on a ripeness/abv scale as mid/late 80s.
                                                                                            Climate may play a very small part in the overall ripeness/ABV trend but not much over such a short window. That doesn't even dicuss the fact that vinters do have waysto adapt to a season of variant climate/heat to acheive a desired ripeness/abv. They're largely at the whim of nature, but DO have mitigating practices.
                                                                                            Oh and I brought up the 100% new oak in the 07 Mondavi in part because I know that in the early 80s they made the same Rsv cab, with LARGELY the same vineyards, with 90% new oak for a significantly longer duration, yet put it out at 2-2.5% less ABV. I realize that there are some assumptions therein. My simple point is that one can use adequate levels of oak, even new, and not "need" to have 14% cab. There is a huge marketing component to the fact that Mondavi, Heitz etc are making much bigger wines.

                                                                                            1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                              z
                                                                                              zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 02:54 PM

                                                                                              John, I tend to question generalizations when they focus on the wrong issue. To (again) quote from the very source (albeit secondarily) that Robert pointed to,

                                                                                              /\/\/\/\/\

                                                                                              "Temperature records from the longer-term stations in the region indicate that NV [Napa Valley] has experienced warming over the last several decades . . . .

                                                                                              "As a general pattern, Brix increases with later harvest dates. However, recent trends (last 8 years) have been very high in Brix, and not anomalously late."

                                                                                              /\/\/\/\/\

                                                                                              (Then again, I'm one of those weird people who believe in global warming, too, so take how many ever grains of salt you deem appropriate.)

                                                                                              Robert has made so many generalizations, it's sometimes hard for me to follow WHAT he means.

                                                                                              Be that as it may, let me try to simply and/or cut through the obfuscation.

                                                                                              1) I believe the planet is getting warmer, and Napa Valley (to continue to focus on California's "poster child") is no exception to that.

                                                                                              2) I believe that -- specifically with Cabernet Sauvignon, but with other varieties as well -- grapes are being picked at higher levels today than they were 30,40, or 50 years ago.

                                                                                              3) I believe that the higher alcohols found in dry wines today are due to a combination of factors, principally a) increased sugar levels at harvest in the grapes themselves, and b) commercial yeast strains that are -- somehow -- more "efficient" at converting sugar to alcohol, which my limited knowledge of science says is impossible, but it's a fact nonetheless.

                                                                                              [In these last two points, I agree -- I think -- with Robert.]

                                                                                              The one thing that (to my mind) seems to be missing the many threads Robert has been extending/creating of late is the advancement in understanding. There have been tremendous strides in both knowledge and technology since the 1970s in both viticulture and its practices, AND in oenology and its practices. Now, obviously, not all "advances" in technology are positive -- just because one CAN do something doesn't mean one SHOULD -- but overall the advances have led (IMHO) to better quality fruit coming out of California's vineyards, and better quality wines (from an objective, technical standpoint) coming out of California's wineries.

                                                                                              I've been around long enough to know that winemaking styles tend to follow something like a pendulum. If all you do is travel, say, 60 percent of the way through the arc, you'll never know that a better wine could be made if you travelled 65, 70, or 80 percent of the distance . . . OK, I know that's somewhat abstract, but the point is one MUST push the boundaries as far as one can to know where to stop . . . if all you do is travel down Main Street, you'll never discover the best chocolate chip cookies are from that bakery over on 3rd.

                                                                                              /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                                                              I'm sorry. I don't understand your last paragraph. You seem, unless I'm misreading you (and I probably am) that oak and abv are somehow tied together . . . I doubt you are actually saying that, but --

                                                                                              1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                maria lorraine Jan 6, 2013 07:15 PM

                                                                                                Hi, John,

                                                                                                One needs to differentiate between minimum Brix and stylistic Brix.

                                                                                                Minimum Brix/ABV for Cab is nearly 13% but that depends on other factors, as I've explained elsewhere in this thread.

                                                                                                But you probably wouldn't like the way a 13% alcohol Caberent tasted. It would taste green and a little harsh, like many releases during the 60s and 70s.

                                                                                                Consumers wouldn't like it either. And, to your earlier point, consumers have come to expect a certain amount of sensory pleasure in wines -- we want the rough edges smoothed, nearly all the green flavors gone.

                                                                                                With Cabernet, that means the winemaker usually picks slightly later, to get rid of those harsh notes and too much "green" flavor. But not by much, on average, in Napa. If the winemaker is using a good amount of oak, the grapes are picked slightly later still -- but only slightly -- so they have adequate intensity to balance the oak.

                                                                                                Why don't you research this?

                                                                                                You're curious, know something about winemaking, and can understand the chemistry. Lots of documents, studies, papers, reports out there on what constitutes minimum phenolic ripeness, the the Brix:TA ratio at which that happens, etc.

                                                                                                You'll see for yourself the minimum Brix/ABV below which the grape cannot be harvested.

                                                                                                But best to direct your attention to varieties other than Cab, certainly other than Napa Cab -- because it's the State of California wines that are the subject here.

                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 07:43 PM

                                                                                                  Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is the poster child for radical changes in California winemaking styles.

                                                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                    j
                                                                                                    john gonzales Jan 7, 2013 09:38 PM

                                                                                                    M, I think I have a decent grasp on the concept of phenolic ripeness. Fwiw, one of the reasons I find your postings interesting is the chemical/sensory information. I like that aspect of wine as I was a chem minor, psych major in college.

                                                                                                    My entry into this topic was essentially to question whether "fruit-bombs" or high alcohol wines have gone by the wayside. So whether the lower end of the range is 12.0% or 13% doesn't make an essential difference if, as Jason seems to agree, most cabs are still clocking in at 14+%. I still believe that a cab can be made at 12.7%, but that indeed it would show some greenness and obviously not be as phenolically ripe as something at 14%. But I do believe that the wine made at 12.7% now could taste very similar to the wine made at 12.7% and sold commercially as recently as the mid-80s. Jason has questioned the use of the labels as a data source, and I agree that they are inaccurate. But I've read winemakers interviews, and publications that seem to support the fact that 12.7% is not an inaccurate figure for a lot of older cabs. I also get that impression from tasting quite a few older cabs.

                                                                                                    That those cabs might be seen as green and harsh is a large part of my point that the higher abv cabs are not gone and probably not soon t disappear. The flavor profile that people want and buy is contrary to the dream of cabs at the 70s level of 12.7% (eg). People might not love the alcohol level considered in a vacuum, but it won't vary dramatically without them sacraficing the ripe, smooth aspect of the wine that is actually more important to them.

                                                                                                    I tried to ask, and looked myself for real-life examples of reduced ABV cabs. To me one can talk all they want (in respect to alcohol) about trends bloggers talk about, and even what winemakers talk about. But to me the real trend should be evidenced in that wines that are actually made and sell. In all these posts, none of us have come up with many if any cabs at below 13.5%, whereas my quick search found a bunch at over 14.5% at premium level, and millions of bottles in the 13.5%-14.5% range. I DO agree that there have been small changes, and certainly more changes in Pinot. However, cabs still represent The King in Napa/Cal and they are still firmly in the fruit-bomb phase.

                                                                                                    Jason asked me about my point in Mondavi doing the 07 Rsv Cab at 15.5+% and all new oak. Part is to illustrate it as an obvious fruit-bomb, which many 07s are. But also, to say that the oak and the ripeness travel together, and both are to a lagre degree optional. The oak is not a foregone, thus demanding a 15% wine. Use a little less oak and you can definitely go a little less ripe. Lastly, the "same" Rsv wine, from almost identical sources, was made at around 13% (labelled as less) back in the 80s with almost the same oak treatment. Extended time in 90-100% new oak is not new for this wine.

                                                                                                    1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 08:18 AM

                                                                                                      The 1961 Lafite, the preeminent model for California winemakers in the 70s and 80s, was (atypically) 100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged in 100% new oak.

                                                                                                      When I first tasted it around 1990, to me it tasted very much like a top 1985 Napa Valley cab, remarkable for a 30-year-old wine, if disappointing for the price.

                                                                                                2. re: zin1953
                                                                                                  maria lorraine Jan 6, 2013 06:09 PM

                                                                                                  Jason wrote:
                                                                                                  <<< Those are annual figures, which I would submit are irrelevant to the discussion. One needs to focus on the daytime temperatures during the growing season for an accurate and relevant comparison. >>>

                                                                                                  This is correct.

                                                                                                  Additionally, one actually needs to focus on climate change for the entire state, since we're talking about California wines in general.

                                                                                                  But, sticking with Napa for the moment...
                                                                                                  One needs to focus on the rise in temperatures in Napa is during **harvest months** -- when the grapes are growing and ripening, since that is the time critical period that influences the MINIMUM Brix for the earliest time the grape can be picked.

                                                                                                  The data showing the rise in temperatures for the months of August and September go back at least as far as 1980, and sometimes as far back as 1940.

                                                                                                  The data for Napa show an average September temperature increase of 3 degrees Celsius since 1980.

                                                                                                  +3 degrees Celsius is the benchmark climate change marker given by The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report.

                                                                                                  Not only were temperatures 3 degrees Celsius higher during harvest, but harvest was an average 10 days earlier than in 1980, and veraison was earlier by
                                                                                                  nearly 3 weeks.

                                                                                                  Which means, as I've been saying all along, the data show:

                                                                                                  The sugar in the grapes is higher **earlier** in the growing season.

                                                                                                  Put another way, the minimum Brix has gone up at he earliest moment the grape can be picked since 1980.

                                                                                                  That means the minimum percentage of alcohol at which Cab can be picked has also gone up since 1980.

                                                                                                  This minimum percentage of alcohol is hard-wired -- you cannot go below it.

                                                                                                  If you compare average **yearly** data going back to 1980 and earlier, you will not see the rise in temps during the critical time period we're discussing -- ripening and harvest. The average **yearly** Napa temps do show a steady night-time increase over the decades, but that greatly affects plant physiology and its nutrition delivery system.

                                                                                                  The night-time temps, BTW, are attributed to heat island effect, and not climate change. The hotter temps during the growing season are correlated with climate change.

                                                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 07:32 PM

                                                                                                    Who picked ten days earlier? Everything I read says later.

                                                                                                    "Generally, the trend has been toward later harvest dates, though it varies by variety (Pinot earlier; Cab Franc, Cab Sauvignon and Merlot about 2-3 weeks later over 30+ year period)."

                                                                                                    http://www.napavintners.org/memberservices/resources/nvv_climate_exec_summary.pdf

                                                                                                    “Temperatures have changed but nothing like as dramatically as the [grape] sugars… just over a period of two decades we have seen a huge increase in sugars and our claim is that most of this is due to fashion and winemaker choice. We are picking later than we used to, even if we have more warmth.”—Christopher Howell, winemaker and general manager, Cain Vineyard and Winery

                                                                                                    http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2011...

                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                      maria lorraine Jan 6, 2013 07:58 PM

                                                                                                      I didn't use only one report. I have many.

                                                                                                      You're on the right track with research, though, as long as you focus on growing months and not on yearly averages. That's the flaw of the Cayon et alia report.

                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 08:03 PM

                                                                                                        That you have many reports doesn't help much if you won't cite any. None of the data I can find match what you're saying.

                                                                                                    2. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                      j
                                                                                                      john gonzales Jan 9, 2013 12:57 AM

                                                                                                      3 degrees Centigrade??
                                                                                                      Maria, can you tell me whre I might find that temperture data?
                                                                                                      If my math isn't failing me 3 deg C is 5.4 deg Farenheit.
                                                                                                      You're saying the average temperature has gone up 5.4F in 30 years? Measured how?

                                                                                                      1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                        PolarBear Jan 9, 2013 08:17 AM

                                                                                                        http://news.yahoo.com/2012-hottest-re...

                                                                                                        1. re: PolarBear
                                                                                                          j
                                                                                                          john gonzales Jan 9, 2013 09:28 AM

                                                                                                          Thanks, and I am not trying to deny that climate change is occurring. So the data you linked states 3 degrees farenheit, NOT Cent/Cel which would be 80% more. Admittedly one can't tell from that article whether Napa (or even more specific growing areas like the mountain areas) had a greater or lesser increase than the average.
                                                                                                          Most importantly you/that is just a one year (2012) temp avg compared against the norm. I'd be willing to bet that 2013 will not be as warm as 2012, nor was 2011 as warm a vintage as 2012.
                                                                                                          Another thing about the climate effect ignores the fact that one can debate the extent, but one can't deny that one can ameliorate the conditions through a number of techniques (eg canopy mgmt, irrigation). I took a read at a couple articles by Gregory Jones (as Maria suggested) and even he and his cohort Diffenbaugh discuss techniques for accomodating the temperature change. There's a reason why the Cain GM/winemaker (as Robert linked) said that the modern wines are based on "fashion and winemaking" not necessary sugar levels.
                                                                                                          Another thing to look at, and I don't know the answer, is whether the wine and/or fruit from some of the vineyards at very cool end of climate have been dramatically improved. So far Mondavi hasn't elected to throw their cooler climate Monterey County Cab fruit in the Reserve. (joking)

                                                                                                          1. re: PolarBear
                                                                                                            Robert Lauriston Jan 9, 2013 09:40 AM

                                                                                                            2012 was the hottest year on record for the US as a whole, but if you look at the map, it was slightly cooler than average in Northern California.

                                                                                                            http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/20...

                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                              PolarBear Jan 9, 2013 09:57 AM

                                                                                                              True, which is why climatologists employ 30 year averages plotted annually to determine changes. Studies close to 20 years ago were already documenting the changes in plant communities (i.e. northward movement) across the entire US showing bud burst occurring earlier and earlier.There is an enormous body of evidence regarding changes in precipitation patterns, re-emergence of infectious diseases, and a host of other factors, one needs only to do a little research on the topics.

                                                                                                              1. re: PolarBear
                                                                                                                Robert Lauriston Jan 9, 2013 10:10 AM

                                                                                                                The global warming trend results in various local climate changes including in some cases cooling.

                                                                                                                Some climatologists project that in 50 years Napa will be too warm (by current standards) to grow wine grapes, but there are a lot of variables.

                                                                                                                http://blog.wblakegray.com/2012/09/le...

                                                                                                          2. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                            Robert Lauriston Jan 9, 2013 09:34 AM

                                                                                                            The executive summary for the Cayan et al. study maria likes to dismiss says, "Comparisons between the COOP stations and other temperature records from sites that are less affected by human alterations suggests that the amount of nighttime warming has been significantly less than the .05°F/yr that is derived from the raw COOP records, and that daytime temperature warming has been close to zero."

                                                                                                            Over 30 years that would be significantly less than 1.5°F.

                                                                                                            Is that the significant change in diurnal temperature variation maria claims has occurred? And isn't narrower variation supposed to narrow the gap between sugar and phenolic development? Seems like more study is required.

                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                              maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 12:26 AM

                                                                                                              Related to why increases in temperature, especially nighttime increases in temperature, increase the percentage of alcohol in the wine....

                                                                                                              Problems with the Cayan report:

                                                                                                              Cayan glosses over the important increase in night-time temps, improperly downplays their importance, and misses one of the main reasons grapes have higher potential alcohol:

                                                                                                              "When nighttime temperatures plunge down to or below 50°F, the berries go to sleep at night and ripening ceases. When night temperatures hover somewhere above that threshold, ripening continues into the night hours. Assuming that the daytime temperatures approach optimum temperatures for ripening, the smaller diurnal temperature swings generally produce maturity more quickly than climates with larger diurnal fluctuations, relative to sugar accumulation."

                                                                                                              From " Climate and the Ripening Process," by Mark Greenspan,
                                                                                                              http://www.winebusiness.com/wbm/index...

                                                                                                              These higher sugars from nighttime temps form a higher percentage of alcohol.

                                                                                                              In addition, Cayan's daytime numbers differ from the NASA CISS data and the California data, from which they're drawn, serving to downplay the increases and diminish the importance of the increases.

                                                                                                              IMO there's too much "public relations" in the Cayan report in an attempt to reassure landowners and investors. Chris Howell's comments seem totally PR-driven.

                                                                                                              ML

                                                                                                            2. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                              maria lorraine Jan 9, 2013 11:55 PM

                                                                                                              <<Maria, can you tell me whre I might find that temperture data>>

                                                                                                              Here are some research links where you can check the climate and temperature data yourself:

                                                                                                              You can access California temperature data (and other kinds of weather data)
                                                                                                              at the CIMIS website, and selecting a weather station. http://wwwcimis.water.ca.gov/cimis/welcome.jsp

                                                                                                              You can access global temperature data, and all other kinds of weather data going back as far as 1890 by visiting the NASA GISS site at http://www.giss.nasa.gov/.

                                                                                                              Find data for any wine-grape growing region in California by selecting a weather station here: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/sta...

                                                                                                              -----

                                                                                                              This is all in relation to the increase of temperatures causing high sugars in grapes and thus high alcohol -- one reason why California winemakers cannot make a low-alcohol wine...

                                                                                                              ML

                                                                                                              1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                                maria lorraine Jan 9, 2013 11:59 PM

                                                                                                                See photo for the increase in US surface air temperature since 1880. The data is from NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Science.

                                                                                                                ----

                                                                                                                An increase in temperatures in wine-growing regions causes high sugars in grapes which convert to a higher-alcohol wine. This is one reason why California winemakers cannot make a low-alcohol wine...

                                                                                                                ML

                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                  j
                                                                                                                  john gonzales Jan 10, 2013 08:45 PM

                                                                                                                  Hard to read but it looks like less than 1 degree F from 1980 to most recent

                                                                                                                  1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                                    maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 09:59 PM

                                                                                                                    Sorry, that's a chart for global temps instead of US, as I wrote. Increase of one degree, correct.

                                                                                                                    Use the links above to generate your own reports
                                                                                                                    for wine-growing regions. See what you get.

                                                                                                                2. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                                  maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 12:00 AM

                                                                                                                  More land surface temperature increases information from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Survey here:
                                                                                                                  http://berkeleyearth.org/results-summ...

                                                                                                                  --

                                                                                                                  Higher temperatures cause a higher percentage of alcohol in wine.

                                                                                                                  ML

                                                                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                    j
                                                                                                                    john gonzales Jan 10, 2013 08:48 PM

                                                                                                                    Like the previous, seems about 1 degree F since 1980

                                                                                                                    1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                                      maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 09:58 PM

                                                                                                                      Not at Berkeley Earth.

                                                                                                                      Check out the charts at the link:

                                                                                                                      The text reads:

                                                                                                                      "Global land temperatures have increased by 1.5 degrees C over the past 250 years."

                                                                                                                      and an increase in the US:

                                                                                                                      "United States 2.32 ± 0.26 C."

                                                                                                                  2. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                                    maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 12:06 AM

                                                                                                                    An increase of temperatures causes sugars to rise in wine grapes and a correspondingly higher percentage of alcohol in the wine. This is one reason why California winemakers cannot make a low-alcohol wine...

                                                                                                                    The data from NASA/Goddard Space Institute also show Napa's average temps during the ripening months of August and September have increased more than 2° Celsius since 1950.

                                                                                                                    See photo:

                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                      j
                                                                                                                      john gonzales Jan 10, 2013 08:54 PM

                                                                                                                      This one seems to show, from the 70s to 00s, a little less than 1degree F increas in Jul and Aug, and a very small DECREASE for SEP.

                                                                                                                      1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                                        maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 10:00 PM

                                                                                                                        Generate your own reports at the NASA CISS website and other websites.

                                                                                                                        Something like, ripening months for grapegrowing regions like Napa, Sonoma, Healdsburg, Ukiah, Lodi, Fresno, etc.
                                                                                                                        going back to 1960.

                                                                                                                        See what the data show you.

                                                                                                                        At the various websites, see if you can find the 3-hour interval data for afternoons and over-night.

                                                                                                                    2. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                                      maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 12:11 AM

                                                                                                                      An increase in night-time temperatures is one of the most important ways wines increase their percentage of alcohol.

                                                                                                                      When grapes don't cool down at night like in the past, they continue making sugar all night, raising the potential percentage of alcohol in the wine.

                                                                                                                      This is another important reason why winemakers cannot return to a lower percentage alcohol in wine even if they wanted to -- an increase in nighttime temperatures:

                                                                                                                      "When nighttime temperatures plunge down to or below 50°F, the berries go to sleep at night and ripening ceases. When night temperatures hover somewhere above that threshold, ripening continues into the night hours. Assuming that the daytime temperatures approach optimum temperatures for ripening, the smaller diurnal temperature swings generally produce maturity more quickly than climates with larger diurnal fluctuations, relative to sugar accumulation."
                                                                                                                      From " Climate and the Ripening Process," by Mark Greenspan,
                                                                                                                      http://www.winebusiness.com/wbm/index...

                                                                                                                      ML

                                                                                                                      1. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                                        maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 12:42 AM

                                                                                                                        The best data to show the direct increases in sugars that increase the percentage of alcohol in the wine:

                                                                                                                        1--

                                                                                                                        GDD (Growing Degree Days) showing the direct relationship between afternoon heat spikes and sugar spikes.

                                                                                                                        You need hourly data for this, or 3-hour interval data.

                                                                                                                        Because:
                                                                                                                        Heat increases cause alcohol percentage increases.

                                                                                                                        I'm working on getting this for you. Getting it for the entire state will be difficult, so I won't do it, though it does exist.

                                                                                                                        2--

                                                                                                                        Night-time temperatures during the growing months
                                                                                                                        that show temperatures above or below approx. 15 Celsius.

                                                                                                                        Because:
                                                                                                                        Below this temperature the vine shuts down for the night and stops producing sugars. Above this temp, and the vine works all night, making sugars and increasing the alcohol potential of the wine.

                                                                                                                        Which relates to, my contention earlier:

                                                                                                                        We cannot produce California wines with the same
                                                                                                                        alcohol percentages as in the 1960s and 1970s because the sugar levels that would produce those percentages arrive before the grape is ripe.

                                                                                                                      2. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                        maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 12:13 AM

                                                                                                                        An increase of temperatures causing high sugars in grapes and thus high alcohol is one reason why Napa winemakers cannot make a low-alcohol wine, even if the wanted to....

                                                                                                                        Here's a presentation on climate and Napa winegrape growing .
                                                                                                                        "Climate and Winegrape Phenology in Napa Valley," by Kimberly NIcholas Cahill
                                                                                                                        http://www.climatechange.ca.gov/event...

                                                                                                                        Here is Ms. Cahill's chart on September warming in Napa since 1980:

                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                    3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                      maria lorraine Jan 6, 2013 05:25 PM

                                                                                                                      <<The stats I've found show Napa's average temperature bouncing around in roughly the same range from 1930 to the present. >>

                                                                                                                      That's the *surface temperature* of Napa State Hospital, whose weather station is situated on an irrigated lawn next to a black top driveway and a building with a large window air conditioning unit.

                                                                                                                      But again, Napa is not California. The data needs to be for California.

                                                                                                                  3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                    maria lorraine Jan 6, 2013 05:04 PM

                                                                                                                    <<Bordeaux's climate has gotten warmer. Napa's has not changed.>>

                                                                                                                    Let's sort out some of this confusion.

                                                                                                                    First, there is an enormous amount of data that show climate change in California by a good number of different data gathering techniques, and all show the increase of average temps during the wine growing season going back to at least 1980.

                                                                                                                    This affects the minimum Brix at which phenolic ripeness is reached, as I have stated.

                                                                                                                    Second, the climate change/degree days/winegrape phenology data you cite should be for the State of California, since that is the region under discussion, but even if you use Napa County only, the temperature increases during harvest months are striking.

                                                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 05:14 PM

                                                                                                                      Do you have any data to back up that claim?

                                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                        maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 12:20 AM

                                                                                                                        You can read about climate change and temperature increases in wine-growing regions ALL OVER THE WORLD here.

                                                                                                                        Most of these were written by Gregory Jones, a professor of environmental studies at Southern Oregon University.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2010): Nature, Nurture, or Economics: What’s Driving Higher Alcohol in Wines? Wine and Spirits Magazine: Special Issue on High and Low Alcohol Wines with Food (Fall 2010 issue). Gregory V. Jones, PhD.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G. V. and Davis, R. E. (2000). Using A Synoptic Climatological Approach to Understand Climate/Viticulture Relationships, International Journal of Climatology, 20:813-837.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G. V. and Davis, R. E. (2000). Climate Influences on Grapevine Phenology, Grape Composition, and Wine Production and Quality for Bordeaux, France, American Journal of Viticulture and Enology, 51,No.3:249-261.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., White, M.A., Cooper, O.R., and Storchmann, K., (2005). Climate Change and Global Wine Quality. Climatic Change, 73(3): 319-343.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2006). “Climate and Terroir: Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Wine”. In Fine Wine and Terroir - The Geoscience Perspective. Macqueen, R.W., and Meinert, L.D., (eds.), Geoscience Canada Reprint Series Number 9, Geological Association of Canada, St. John's, Newfoundland, 247 pages.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., (2005). Climate change in the western United States grape growing regions. Acta Horticulturae (ISHS), 689:41-60.

                                                                                                                        White, M.A., Diffenbaugh, N.S., Jones, G.V., Pal, J.S., and F. Giorgi (2006). Extreme heat reduces and shifts United States premium wine production in the 21st century. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(30): 11217–11222

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2007). Climate Change: Observations, Projections, and General Implications for Viticulture and Wine Production. Practical Winery and Vineyard, July/August 44-64.

                                                                                                                        Blanco-Ward, D., Garcia-Queijeiro, J.M., and G.V. Jones, (2007). Spatial Climate Variability and Viticulture in the Miño River Valley of Spain. Vitis, 46(2) 63-70.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. and Goodrich, G.B., (2008). Influence of Climate Variability on Wine Region in the Western USA and on Wine Quality in the Napa Valley. Climate Research, 35: 241-254.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2008). Il cambiamento climatico: osservazioni, proiezioni e conseguenze sulla viti-vinicoltura. Italus Hortus, 15(1): 3-14.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2008). Canvi climatic: observacion, prognostics i implicacions en la producció vinícola. ACE Revista d’Enologia, 25(83):4-17.

                                                                                                                        Ramos, M.C., Jones, G.V. and J. A. Martínez-Casasnovas (2008): Structure and trends in climate parameters affecting winegrape production in northeast Spain. Climate Research, 38:1-15.

                                                                                                                        Hall, A. and G.V. Jones (2008): Effect of potential atmospheric warming on temperature based indices describing Australian winegrape growing conditions. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 15(2):97-119.

                                                                                                                        White, M.A., Whalen, P, and G.V. Jones (2009). Land and Wine. Nature Geoscience, 2:82-84.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., M. Moriondo, B. Bois, A. Hall, and A. Duff. (2009): Analysis of the spatial climate structure in viticulture regions worldwide. Le Bulletin de l'OIV 82(944,945,946):507-518.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V, Duff, A.A., Hall, A., and J. Myers (2010). Spatial analysis of climate in winegrape growing regions in the western United States. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, 61:313-326.

                                                                                                                        Hall , A. and G.V. Jones (2010). Spatial analysis of climate in winegrape growing regions in Australia. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 16:389-404.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. and Webb, L.B. (2010). Climate Change, Viticulture, and Wine: Challenges and Opportunities. Journal of Wine Research, 21: 2(103-106).

                                                                                                                        Schultz, H.R. and Jones, G.V. (2010). Climate Induced Historic and Future Changes in Viticulture. Journal of Wine Research, 21:2(137-145).

                                                                                                                        Tomasi, D., Jones, G.V., Giust, M., Lovat, L. and F. Gaiotti (2011). Grapevine Phenology and Climate Change: Relationships and Trends in the Veneto Region of Italy for 1964-2009. American Journal of Enology and Viticulture, 62:3(329-339).

                                                                                                                        Diffenbaugh, N.S., White, M.A., Jones, G.V., and M. Ashfaq (2011). Climate adaptation wedges: a case study of premium wine in the westen United States. Environmental Research Letters, 6(024024). doi:10.1088/1748-9326/6/2/024024

                                                                                                                        Santos, J.A., Malheiro, A.C., Pinto, J.G., and G.V. Jones (2012). Macroclimate viticultural zoning in Europe: observed trends and atmospheric forcing. Climate Research, 51:89-103. doi: 10.3354/cr01056.

                                                                                                                        Anderson, J.D., Jones, G.V., Tait, A., Hall, A. and M.T.C. Trought (2012). Analysis of viticulture region climate structure and suitability in New Zealand. International Journal of Vine and Wine Sciences, 49(3):149-165.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2012). Climate, grapes, and wine: structure and suitability in a changing climate. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 931:19-28.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. and Alves, F. (2012). Impact of climate change on wine production: a global overview and regional assessment in the Douro Valley of Portugal. Int. J. Global Warming, 4(3/4): 383-406.

                                                                                                                        Malheiro, A.C., Santos, J.A., Pinot, J.G., and G.V. Jones (2012). European viticulture geography in a changing climate. Bulletin l’OIV, 85(971-972-973): 15-22.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2012). Sustainable Vineyard Developments Worldwide. Bulletin l’OIV, 85(971-972-973): 49-60.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2006). Climate and Terroir: Impacts of Climate Variability and Change on Wine. In Fine Wine and Terroir - The Geoscience Perspective. Macqueen, R.W., and Meinert, L.D., (eds.), Geoscience Canada Reprint Series Number 9, Geological Association of Canada, St. John's, Newfoundland, 247 pages.

                                                                                                                        Schultz, H-R. and Jones, G.V. (2008) Veranderungen in der Landwirtschaft am Beispiel de Weinanbaus in Warnsignal Klima: Gesundheitsrisiken Gefahren für Pflanzen, Tiere, und Menschen. Eds. J.L. Lozán, H. Graßl, G. Jendritzky, L. Karbe, and K. Reise. Frankfurt, Germany, (In Press).

                                                                                                                        White, M.A., Jones, G.V., and N.S. Diffenbaugh (2009).
                                                                                                                        Climate Variability, Climate Change, and Wine Production in the Western United States. In Warming in Western North America/Evidence and Environmental Effects. Eds. Wagner, F.H., University of Utah Press. pp 77-88.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., Reid, R., and A. Vilks (2012). Climate, Grapes, and Wine: Structure and Suitability in a Variable and Changing Climate, pp 109-133 in The Geography of Wine: Regions, Terrior, and Techniques, edited by P. Dougherty. Springer Press, 255 pp.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2011). Le climat, les Raisins, et le Vin : Structurer et Stabilité dans un Climat Changeant in Histoire, écologie et anthropologie Trois générations face à l’œuvre d’Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, edited by Francine-Dominique Liechtenhan. University of Paris-Sorbonne Press, Paris, France. pp 61-80.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G. V. and Light, S. (2001). Site Characteristics of Vineyards in the Rogue and Applegate Valley American Viticultural Areas. Open Report to the Oregon Wine Advisory Board and the Rogue Chapter of the Oregon Winegrape Growers Association. 55 pp.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G. V. (2003). Umpqua Valley AVA: A GPS and GIS Vineyards Mapping and Analysis of Varietal, Climate, Landscape, and Management Characteristics. Open Report to the Oregon Wine Advisory Board and the Umpqua Chapter of the Oregon Winegrape Growers Association. 65 pp.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G. V. and Duff, A. (2007). The Climate and Landscape Potential for Quality Wine Production in the North Olympic Peninsula Region of Washington. Open Report to the Clallam Economic Development Council.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G. V. and Duff, A. (2011). The Climate and Landscape Potential for Quality Wine Production in the Snake River Valley AVA. Open Report to the Idaho Wine Commission. 113 pp.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2012). A Climate Assessment for the Douro Wine Region: An Examination of the Past, Present, and Future Climate Conditions for Wine Production. In Collaboration with: ADVID - The Association for the Development of Viticulture in the Douro Region. 97 pp.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G. V. (2004). Making Wine in a Changing Climate. Geotimes, August 2004, Vol. 50, No. 7, pp. 22-27.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2005). "Wärme and Wachstum: Wie Reagieren Reben auf den Globalen Klimawandel", Alles Über Wien, 23(1): 24-29, February-March 2005.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2005): How Hot is Too Hot? Wine Business Monthly, 7(2), February 2005.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2005): "Climate Variability and Change: Observations for the East (U.S.)." Wine East, 32(6): 10-15, March-April 2005.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. and Schultz, H. (2005). "Climate Change", Oxford Companion to Wine. In press Summer 2005.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2006): Climate change and wine: Observations, impacts and future implications. Australia and New Zealand Wine Industry Journal, 21(4): 21-26.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2006): Weather and Climate of the Rogue Valley. Jackson County Master Gardner’s Guide.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2007): Climate Change: Observations, Projections, and General Implications for Viticulture and Wine Production. Working Paper #7, Economics Department, Whitman College.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2010): Washington State Wines. Association of American Geographers Newsletter (October 2010 issue).

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., (2005). Climate change in the western United States grape growing regions. Proceedings of the 7th International Symposium on Grapevine Physiology and Biotechnology. Davis, California, June 2004. Acta Horticulturae (ISHS), 689:41-60.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., White, M.A., Cooper, O.R., and Storchmann, K-H., Climate and Wine: Quality Issues in a Warmer World. Proceedings of the Vineyard Data Quantification Society’s 10th Œonometrics Meeting. Dijon, France, May 2004.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., Duchene, E., Tomasi, D., Yuste, J., Braslavksa, O., Schultz, H., Martinez, C., Boso, S., Langellier, F., Perruchot, C., and G. Guimberteau (2005). Changes in European Winegrape Phenology and Relationships with Climate, GESCO 2005. August 2005.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., Duff, A.A., and J.M. Myers (2006). Modeling Viticultural Landscapes: a GIS Analysis of the Viticultural Potential in the Rogue Valley of Oregon. Proceedings of the VIth Terroir Congress, Bordeaux and Montpellier, France. July 3-7, 2006.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2007). “Changement de climat : Les observations, les Projections, et les Implications Générales pour la Production de Viticulture et Vin.” UNESCO Wine and Culture Symposium, Dijon, France. March 28-30, 2007.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2007). Climate Change: Observations, Projections, and General Implications for Viticulture and Wine Production Congress on Climate and Viticulture, Zaragoza, Spain. April 10-14, 2007.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., and Goodrich, G.B. (2007). “Influences of Climate Variability on the U.S. West Coast Wine Regions and Wine Quality in the Napa Valley.” GESCO (Groupe d'Etude des Systèmes de COnduite de la Vigne), Porec, Croatia June 20-23, 2007.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2007). Climate Change and the Global Wine Industry Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference, Adelaide, Australia. July 28-August 2, 2007.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2007) “Climate Change and Wine: Observations, Projections, and Implications” Romeo Bragato, 13th Annual New Zealand Wine Industry Conference, Aukland, New Zealand. August 23-25, 2007.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. and Garcia-Cortzar, I. (2007) “La Situation de la Viticulture dans le Monde” Le Viticulture face au Changement Climatique : Enjeux et Adaptations, EUROVITI. November 28, 2007.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2008) Climate Structure, Variability, and Suitability for Viticulture and Wine Production in the Puget Sound of Washington. Western Washington Horticultural Association Annual Meeting, January 9-10, 2008. Everett, WA.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2008). Mudanças Climáticas: observações, projeções e implicações na produção de uvas e vinhos. XII Congresso Brasileiro de Viticultura e Enologia, 22-24 September, 2008. Bento Gonçalves, Brazil.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2009). Is there an ideal climate for Cabernet. Cabernet Symposium - A Global Perspective, American Society for Enology and Viticulture Annual Meeting, June 26, 2009. Napa, California.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., Moriondo, M., Bois, B., Hall, A. and A. Duff (2009). Analysis of the Spatial Climate Structure in Viticulture Regions Worldwide. 32nd World Congress of the Vine and Wine, 7th General Assembly of the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, June 28-July 3, 2009. Zagreb, Croatia.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V., Duff, A.A., and A. Hall (2009). Updated analysis of climate-viticulture structure and suitability in the western United States. Proceedings of the 16th International GiESCO Symposium, Davis, California. July 12-16, 2009.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2009). Climate Variability and Change: Influences on Viticulture and Wine Production. Proceedings from the 4th International SASEV Conference on Enology and Viticulture, July 28-29, 2009.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2009). Climate, Grapes, and Wine: Structure and Stability in a Changing Climate. Proceedings of the Conferência Ibérica de Viticultura e Enologia, Lisbon, Portugal. November 11-13, 2009.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2009). Le climat, les Raisins, et le Vin : Structurer et Stabilité dans un Climat Changeant. Histoire, écologie et anthropologie Trois générations face à l’œuvre d’Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. Fondation Singer-Polignac and Sorbonne, Paris, France. 15-16 January 2010.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2009) Climate, Grapes, and Wine: Structure and Stability in a Changing Climate. Proceedings of the Viticulture 2010 and the 39th Annual New York Wine Industry Workshop, February 17-19, 2010. Rochester, New York.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2010) Climate, Grapes, and Wine: Structure and Stability in a Changing Climate. Proceedings of the 8th International Terroir Congress. 14-18 June, 2010. Soave, Italy.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2010) Climate, Grapes, and Wine: Structure and Stability in a Changing Climate. Proceedings of the 28th International Horticultural Congress, Viticulture & Climate Symposia, 22-27 August, 2010. Lisbon, Portugal.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2011). Sustainable Vineyard and Winery Developments Worldwide. Proceedings of the XXXIV World Congress of Vine and Wine (OIV). 20-27 June, 2011, Porto, Portugal.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. (2011). Climate, Grapes, and Wine: Structure and Suitability in a Variable and Changing Climate. Proceedings of Enoforum 2011. 3-5 May, 2011, Arezzo, Italy.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. and F. Alves (2011). Impacts of Climate Change
                                                                                                                        on Wine Production: A Global Overview and Regional Assessment in the Douro Valley of Portugal. Proceedings of the Global Conference on Global Warming 2011. 11-14 July, 2011, Lisbon, Portugal.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. Santos, J.A., Malheiro, A.C., and J.G. Pinto (2011). Macroclimate Viticultural Zoning in Europe: Observed Trends and Atmospheric Forcing. Proceedings of the 17th GiESCO International Symposium. 29 August – 2 September, 2011, Asti and Alba, Italy.

                                                                                                                        Moriondo, M., Bindi, M., Jones, G.V., Bois, B., Ferrise, R., and G. Trombi (2011. The impact of climate change on grapevine cultivated area. Proceedings of the 17th GiESCO International Symposium. 29 August – 2 September, 2011, Asti and Alba, Italy.

                                                                                                                        Bois, B., Blais, A., Moriondo, M., and G.V. Jones (2012). High resolution climate spatial analysis of European winegrowing regions. Proceedings of the 9th International Terroir Congress, pp 2:17-20. 25-29 June, 2012, Burgundy and Champagne, France.

                                                                                                                        Jones, G.V. and F. Alves (2012). Spatial Analysis of Climate in Winegrape Growing Regions in Portugal. Proceedings of the 9th International Terroir Congress, pp 3:1-4. 25-29 June, 2012, Burgundy and Champagne, France.

                                                                                                                        ---

                                                                                                                        Temperature increases in grape growing regions all over the world are causing the percentage of alcohol to increase wherever wine is made.

                                                                                                                        ML

                                                                                                                  4. re: john gonzales
                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 11:16 AM

                                                                                                                    I trust Mayacamas's labels because they changed from vintage to vintage, even when it was just a quarter point.

                                                                                                                    The old numbers match what I've tasted. 13% is riper and richer than 12% or 12.5%. The increase in alcohol also matches the state's figures for average Brix.

                                                                                                                    Engaging in historical revisionism does not strengthen an argument.

                                                                                                                3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                  maria lorraine Jan 5, 2013 04:51 PM

                                                                                                                  <<I've had a lot of unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon from the Veneto.>>

                                                                                                                  Cabernet in the Veneto? Or Cabernet grown anywhere in Italy? It tastes completely different from California Cabernet or Bordeaux.

                                                                                                                  Taste Chardonnay in Italy? One doesn't recognize it. It is so vastly different.

                                                                                                                  Italy's different climate and weather, rootstock AND soil chemistry all determine why Cabernet there tastes absolutely nothing like Cabernet in California or Bordeaux.

                                                                                                                  Even before any winemaking or oak.

                                                                                                                  So this example of Cabernet in the Veneto is absurd.

                                                                                                                  <<First, most California vineyards are planted with inappropriate varieties.>>

                                                                                                                  That shows a lack of understanding of why grape varieties thrive in one area and do poorly in others. Of why varietals taste so differently when grown in different locations.

                                                                                                                  Certain wine grapes simply do not grow well in California. Oh, the vines can grow and produce fruit. But neither the wine grapes nor the wine taste varietally correct. They don't taste right. They don't taste like **what they are.**

                                                                                                                  Take Sangiovese, mentioned earlier in this thread. It doesn't taste right when it's grown in Northern California, even when it's grown by the world's Sangiovese experts. It doesn't taste like Sangiovese. That's why you don't often see it.

                                                                                                                  Likewise for a whole whack of other varietals -- they don't taste like they're supposed to when grown here. Just like Chardonnay grown in Italy tastes nothing like it's supposed to.

                                                                                                                  If Sunset Magazine has analyzed a myriad number of plants that do well in different growing zones, doesn't Robert get that wine grape analysis has gone a thousand times further identifying each grape variety's best soil chemistry and climate/weather?

                                                                                                                  Robert is missing that this is so dialed in.

                                                                                                                  Does Robert think that California viticulturalists have simply been misguided all these years about the correct varieties to grow in this state?

                                                                                                                  And that **if they only saw the light** or saw things from his point of view, that the varieties would change?

                                                                                                                  Doesn't Robert know that other varieties have been tried and tried again and then abandoned because they didn't taste right when grown here? Even when grown by the very best of growers?

                                                                                                                  I'd like to see a bit more diversity in wine grapes myself, honestly. But I know that quite a few wine grapes grown in California do not have the same prototypical flavors as their "home" region, and so those grapes will not succeed.

                                                                                                                  I'd personally like to see a bit more Barbera, since it seems to do OK here -- one of the few Italian varietals that does -- and perhaps a few other grapes, but more acreage of those grapes is likely not commercially viable.

                                                                                                                  Money is an issue. Varietal selection is tailored to both climate/weather, soil chemistry -- and -- making a profit. That's a big deal in California, where land is expensive.

                                                                                                                  A winery owner may have the choice of several different varietals to plant on his particular plot of land, based on that plot's climate/weather and soil chemistry. But the price per ton each variety commands varies widely and that is a big factor in the decision on which one to plant.

                                                                                                                  Even if other varieties *could* be grown correctly on a piece of land, the expense of pulling out one variety and planting another, and then waiting years for the first sales from the first harvest, makes it cost-prohibitive.

                                                                                                                  To insist that California winegrowers change grape varieties -- when those decisions are based on viticultural science and California's climate and weather -- shows a limited understanding of the many factors that properly go into grape selection.

                                                                                                                  To insist that California wine growers grow grapes that are not financially successful is ridiculous.

                                                                                                                  This entire argument about California wine is misinformed.

                                                                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 11:29 AM

                                                                                                                    "Cabernet in the Veneto? Or Cabernet grown anywhere in Italy? It tastes completely different from California Cabernet or Bordeaux. Taste Chardonnay in Italy? One doesn't recognize it. It is so vastly different."

                                                                                                                    The finer points of the flavor vary with the soil, climate, and viticultural choices, but there's a fundamental varietal character that is the same everywhere. To fail to recognize the many common elements between 100% Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay from the Veneto and Napa ... I guess you'd have to be unable to distinguish oak from fruit?

                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                      z
                                                                                                                      zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 11:55 AM

                                                                                                                      With the acknowledgement that I have never tasted a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Veneto directly from stainless during or immediately following fermentation (versus the many I *have* tasted from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Luis Obispo, Amador, El Dorado, and Riverside Counties), I would ***imagine*** that the two would be very dissimilar from one another.

                                                                                        2. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                          Robert Lauriston Jan 1, 2013 03:11 PM

                                                                                          How about dropping this straw man about my not liking California wine? I've posted about numerous California wines I've liked in recent years. You make sweeping claims about the style and quality of the wines but won't name names.

                                                                                          Nature doesn't dictate that California winemakers use riper fruit today than they did 20 years ago. That's a deliberate choice. Some winemakers choose otherwise and make wines that appeal to people who don't like the riper style wines, which in many cases are made right next door.

                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                            j
                                                                                            john gonzales Jan 1, 2013 10:35 PM

                                                                                            Likewise it's not particularly insightful to look at something like the brix level of cabs in 2011 as proof of a drastic anti-ripeness goal by winemakers. That ignores the fact that something like average brix is greatly influenced by nature, not simply the will of the producer. Nature dealt a very tough growing season for cab in 2011 with early frost, a good deal of rain throughout, and generally lower temperatures. There was even an uncharacteriscally large amount of loss to rot. Even those shooting for high ripeness knew they couldn't acheive it.
                                                                                            The same natural influence affected what people tout as some sort by grand design change from the 03/04 vintages into the 05. The 05s are undoubtedly less ripe as much becauset there was not a repeat of the 03/04 heat, as they are due to a dramatic change in philosophy.
                                                                                            Cab producers still make big cabs because it still sells big and most drinkers don't prefer the taste of 12.5% cab. They don't want green, thin wines. As you say they could implement changes and routinely hit 12.5% if they wanted. Some people would love it but the majority wouldn't, and that isn't just because of Parker.

                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                              maria lorraine Jan 2, 2013 12:07 AM

                                                                                              <<Nature doesn't dictate that California winemakers use riper fruit today than they did 20 years ago.>>

                                                                                              Actually it does. Both weather and rootstock, for starters.

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                maria lorraine Jan 2, 2013 12:40 AM

                                                                                                <<How about dropping this straw man about my not liking California wine?>>

                                                                                                Robert, for some time your posts have been VERY FORCEFUL about how bad California wines are, and about HOW MUCH you dislike them.

                                                                                                Just a day ago, you began this thread:
                                                                                                "Why are most California red wines not delicious or food-friendly?"
                                                                                                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/884280

                                                                                                In that thread, others wrote you had a grudge against California wine, and that you WANT to dislike CA wine.

                                                                                                So, no straw-man fallacy IRT your dislike of CA wines. You prolly tied your own noose on this one.

                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 2, 2013 08:52 AM

                                                                                                  You're turning "most" into "all."

                                                                                                  I've been drinking California wines my whole adult life so my baseline is the 70s and 80s, before the red wines followed Parker off a cliff.

                                                                                                  Parker still has the power to grant higher prices and increased sales through high scores. Not to belittle Darrell Corti's authority or reputation, but the only real power he has is to keep wine out of one store in Sacramento.

                                                                                                2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                  z
                                                                                                  zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 03:32 PM

                                                                                                  >>> How about dropping this straw man about my not liking California wine? <<<

                                                                                                  Robert?

                                                                                                  It doesn't seem like that much of a "straw man" to me. You keep trying them, and complaining how -- let me see; how did you phrase it -- "Why are most California red wines not delicious or food-friendly?" Seems like a rather negative statement vis-a-via California wines to me. Even this thread, "(t)he brief history of hedonistic fruit bombs," is overwhelmingly focused on California in a less-than-positive light.

                                                                                                  There are very few "absolutes" in life -- unless one leaves off the "e": http://www.absolut.com/us -- and so even if one said, word-for-word, "I hate all __________ wines," it's highly unlikely that that really means each-and-every wine, 100% of the time . . . .

                                                                                        3. Robert Lauriston Jan 1, 2013 10:13 AM

                                                                                          The fruit-bomb trend is hardly over in the wine stores. Skimming K&L's Napa Cabernet Sauvignon inventory, about a third is from 2004-2008, the peak Parker years.

                                                                                          I think what the new normal looks like is still anybody's guess.

                                                                                          The steep decline in average Brix after 2008 strongly suggests that the fad is waning in the vineyards, but the numbers still aren't back to the normal pre-1990s range.

                                                                                          "By 2009, lower ABVs were the norm ..."

                                                                                          In 2009, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon was 25.1 Brix. That was higher than any year recorded prior to 2002.

                                                                                          In 2010 it was 24.5, higher than any year recorded prior to 1997.

                                                                                          In 2011 it was 23.8, still higher than any year recorded prior to 1997, and that was a cold year and the grapes did not get as ripe as many winemakers would have preferred:

                                                                                          http://www.winespectator.com/webfeatu...

                                                                                          It'll be interesting to see 2012's numbers. At this point my money's on them rebounding into the Parker zone rather than continuing down toward historical norms.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                            z
                                                                                            zin1953 Jan 1, 2013 06:55 PM

                                                                                            Brief Digression:

                                                                                            In 1982, Zinfandel was the most widely planted red wine grape variety in California:

                                                                                            Zinfandel -- 21,289 total acres planted.
                                                                                            Cabernet -- 16,620 total acres planted.

                                                                                            By 1992,
                                                                                            Zinfandel -- 32,584 acres in production
                                                                                            Cabernet -- 29,006 acres in production
                                                                                            BUT
                                                                                            Zinfandel -- 34,142 total acres planted
                                                                                            Cabernet -- 34,567 total acres planted (1st time, IIRC, Cab exceeded Zin)

                                                                                            By 2001,
                                                                                            Cabernet -- 55,901 acres in production
                                                                                            Zinfandel -- 47,312 acres in production, AND . . .
                                                                                            Merlot -- 45,202 acres in production
                                                                                            BUT
                                                                                            Cabernet -- 73,962 total acres planted
                                                                                            Zinfandel -- 50,200 total acres planted, AND . . .
                                                                                            Merlot -- 51,310 total acres planted (the first time, IIRC, Merlot exceeded Zin)

                                                                                            And in 2011?
                                                                                            Cabernet -- 75,804 acres in production
                                                                                            Zinfandel -- 47,869 acres in production
                                                                                            Merlot -- 44,849 acres in production (less than Zin)
                                                                                            BUT
                                                                                            Cabernet -- 79,290 total acres planted
                                                                                            Zinfandel -- 48,354 total acres planted
                                                                                            Merlot -- 45,589 total acres planted

                                                                                            /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                                                            Since alcohols are, in many cases, down, I would also suggest that de-alcoholization plays a role.

                                                                                          2. c
                                                                                            collioure Jan 1, 2013 12:56 PM

                                                                                            Maybe I'm not such a wine snob after all.

                                                                                            I prefer wines with deep, even concentrated fruit, and if the alcohol rises to 15% as it occasionally does here in wines from a "canicule," I don't mind. I often say that I don't taste the labels.

                                                                                            Fruit bomb, eh? Perhaps not a problem at all for me.

                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: collioure
                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 1, 2013 01:14 PM

                                                                                              It's all a question of balance. A French winery that makes high-alcohol wine only in occasional hot vintages may be more likely to approach balance than a California winery that's deliberately letting the fruit get super-ripe every year.

                                                                                              In the 70s through the early 90s I drank many Zinfandels in the 14.5-15% range that were balanced. Same grape (Primitivo) in Puglia, they traditionally fermented to as high alcohol as they possibly could, sometimes hitting 16.5%, and up through the 80s and early 90s the wines tended to be flabby and short-lived. Since then they've developed various techniques to make more balanced wines.

                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                c
                                                                                                collioure Jan 1, 2013 01:39 PM

                                                                                                Thanks. i appreciate that wines need structure and acidity and I recognize instantly when such is lacking.

                                                                                                No vintners I consistently frequent are deliberately making high alcohol wines here. Many of my friends here complain about higher alcohol wines. Not me because that usually means great fruit.

                                                                                                1. re: collioure
                                                                                                  z
                                                                                                  zin1953 Jan 1, 2013 03:52 PM

                                                                                                  FWIW, red Bordeaux, red Burgundies, red Rhônes, reds from the Languedoc -- all are significantly higher in alcohol than they were in the 1960s and 1970s . . .

                                                                                                  (Can't speak from personal experience about reds from the Loire or the Sud-Ouest, because I wasn't drinking them back then.)

                                                                                                2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Jan 5, 2013 08:00 PM

                                                                                                  Robert,

                                                                                                  I agree 100%, in that a wine is all about "balance." I have stated that, in many threads. I seldom even bother with the specs. of a wine, until I encounter one, that lacks that balance. Then, I wonder why, and check the "numbers." Before that point, the numbers are meaningless, at least to me.

                                                                                                  High ABV is OK, only when everything else is in balance. Same for "oak," or other aspects. If a winemaker DOES keep a balance, then the numbers mean nothing to me. Loose the balance, and then... I wonder why.

                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                    z
                                                                                                    zin1953 Jan 5, 2013 08:04 PM

                                                                                                    >>> If a winemaker DOES keep a balance, then the numbers mean nothing to me. Loose the balance, and then... <<<

                                                                                                    EXACTLY!

                                                                                              2. Bill Hunt Jan 5, 2013 07:56 PM

                                                                                                Robert,

                                                                                                First, I have great respect for you, and appreciate your contributions, but feel inclined to ask, based on many recent posts, is it your position that no US wines are worthy of drinking?

                                                                                                I realize that might seem harsh, and it is not intended to be so, but I am at a loss to explain some recent postings.

                                                                                                While not a fan of many US wines (preferring other countries' options, in certain circumstances), it seems that you are trying to make a point against any US wines. I hope that I am wrong, and just mis-reading the various posts.

                                                                                                If that IS the point, then I agree with you, that there are MANY non-US wines, that are perfectly fine. Many ARE food-friendly, depending on the dish, or the prep, but it seems to be a problem that you are experiencing with US wines, in particular. Again, hope that it is just my reading, and that is NOT what you are implying.

                                                                                                Hunt

                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 11:37 AM

                                                                                                  Of course there are domestic wines worth drinking. I just bought three cases this week. But there's also a lot of good fruit being ruined by the fads for high alcohol and new oak.

                                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/863634

                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                    z
                                                                                                    zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 11:58 AM

                                                                                                    Which still does not explain the lengths to which you voluntarily torture yourself.

                                                                                                    1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 12:15 PM

                                                                                                      What torture? If I taste it and don't like it, I dump the rest.

                                                                                                      I probably taste at least 100 wines a month, sometimes many more than that. That pretty much guarantees I'm going to try some I don't like.

                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                        z
                                                                                                        zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 12:20 PM

                                                                                                        Torture as in "glutton for punishment," not as in "water boarding."

                                                                                                2. Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 03:51 PM

                                                                                                  The Napa State Hospital weather station data are problematic, but that's the data we have. Variations from year to year are so extreme that you can't blame higher Brix on the >.05 degree per year warming trend.

                                                                                                  http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMO...

                                                                                                   
                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 03:59 PM

                                                                                                    Same chart for Sonoma.

                                                                                                    http://www.wrcc.dri.edu/cgi-bin/cliMA...

                                                                                                     
                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                      z
                                                                                                      zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 04:01 PM

                                                                                                      Just curious . . . are you replying to yourself?

                                                                                                      Me things, Robert, thou doth protest too much . . .

                                                                                                      1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 04:24 PM

                                                                                                        I used Reply because you can't edit a post to add another photo.

                                                                                                        I'm posting these charts to counter maria lorraine's claim that the weather had something to do with the higher Brix and ABV. Average Brix climbed steadily from 1994 to 2007.

                                                                                                        Alcohol levels went up because growers chose to pick the grapes riper. Brix levels in 1998 and 1999 were the second and third highest on record despite those years being much cooler than average.

                                                                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                        maria lorraine Jan 6, 2013 06:37 PM

                                                                                                        Let's clarify:

                                                                                                        We are talking about TWO different Brix issues:

                                                                                                        The first issue relates to the MINIMUM Brix -- the minimum percentage alcohol of a wine -- at which the grape can be picked.

                                                                                                        The second Brix issue refers to STYLISTIC Brix -- the sugar level at which the winemaker chooses to pick wine based on sensory decisions about the wine he wants to make. Those Brix levels increased over the years for many red grapes, but only increased slightly for Cabernet, as the data have already shown in this thread.

                                                                                                        But the MINIMUM Brix level for Cab has gone up to about 23.5 degrees Brix, or about a 12.9 MINIMUM percentage of alcohol.

                                                                                                        Can't get down to 11% alcohol -- as Robert might like -- or 11.5%, or 12%, or even 12.5%.

                                                                                                        BTW, 12.9 percent alcohol is not an absolute -- the minimum Brix varies depending on grape yields per acre, the degree of foliage and total acidity.

                                                                                                        For example, two grapes grown in different vineyards can have the same Brix but be at a different level of flavor ripeness because of a different number of vines per acre, the amount of vine foliage and total acidity. But 12.9 is pretty much the lowest Cab can go.

                                                                                                        So again, Cabernet is the wrong grape to discuss if you're talking about lowering the minimum percentage of alcohol.

                                                                                                      3. Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 05:22 PM

                                                                                                        "... the Napa Valley-specific climate study titled Climate and Phenology in Napa Valley: A Compilation and Analysis of Historical Data by Dr. Daniel R. Cayan, Dr. Kimberly Nicholas, Mary Tyree, and Dr. Michael Dettinger ... finds that the region has experienced some warming, approximately 1° to 2° Fahrenheit over the past several decades, but considerably less warming than would be inferred from the standard cooperative observer weather stations in Napa Valley. The warming has been primarily in winter, spring and summer, and it has concentrated during nighttime rather than daytime. Over the last several decades in growing season temperatures, there has been little warming in the daytime and the available observations provide little evidence that the growing cycle of the grapevines has changed substantially."

                                                                                                        http://www.napavintners.com/trade/Nap...

                                                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                          z
                                                                                                          zin1953 Jan 6, 2013 06:02 PM

                                                                                                          I'm puzzled as to why you post this repetitively. Does posting it more than once make it "truer"?

                                                                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                            Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 07:03 PM

                                                                                                            I moved it. It gets confusing when the posts are nested too deep and stop indenting.

                                                                                                          2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                            maria lorraine Jan 6, 2013 07:25 PM

                                                                                                            <<Climate and Phenology in Napa Valley: A Compilation and Analysis of Historical Data>>

                                                                                                            Yes, I already discussed this research. I have the entire report.

                                                                                                            It paints the wrong picture because it doesn't focus on when grapes grow and are AFFECTED by weather -- during the growing season. That report only shows yearly averages.

                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 6, 2013 07:58 PM

                                                                                                              How do you get the full report?

                                                                                                              The executive summary and press release give the impression that they had fairly detailed data from some of the 80 weather stations. How else could they conclude that "warming has been primarily in winter, spring and summer, and it has concentrated during nighttime rather than daytime"?

                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                maria lorraine Jan 8, 2013 06:37 PM

                                                                                                                Here's a good write-up that describes higher sugar levels before the grape ripens, and why.

                                                                                                                Climate and the Ripening Process
                                                                                                                by Mark Greenspan
                                                                                                                Wine Business Monthly:

                                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                  maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 02:46 AM

                                                                                                                  Link: http://www.winebusiness.com/wbm/index...

                                                                                                          3. maria lorraine Jan 7, 2013 01:35 AM

                                                                                                            Let's frame the discussion:

                                                                                                            Your contention is that California red wines should now be made at the same alcohol level of California red wine made in the 1960s and 1970s.

                                                                                                            My contention is that this is no longer possible, because the sugar level that will produce the alcohol level of the 1960s and 1970s now arrives before the grape is ripe.

                                                                                                            By the time the grape does become ripe, it has already passed the sugar level that will produce the alcohol level of the 1960s and 1970s.

                                                                                                            Two terms:

                                                                                                            Sugar ripeness = sugar level = Brix level = potential alcohol.

                                                                                                            Ripeness = flavor ripeness = physiological ripeness = phenolic ripeness.

                                                                                                            If grapes achieve sugar ripeness before phenolic ripeness, what are the choices?

                                                                                                            The winemaker can make an astringent, tannic wine at the lower alcohol level, or wait for additional ripeness, which means a higher alcohol level in the wine.

                                                                                                            The phenomenon of high sugar ripeness before phenolic ripeness is not limited to California.

                                                                                                            It's happening in Bandol, Châteauneuf du Pape and the Mosel, where alcohol levels have gone from 13% alcohol to often 15% because sugar ripeness happens so much earlier than flavor ripeness.

                                                                                                            The winemaker at Domaine Tempier [Bandol], Daniel Ravier, says, "It has it has been really difficult in the past vintages to avoid having such high alcohol levels because the phenolic maturity is lagging behind." ***

                                                                                                            Why does this sugar ripeness, or potential alcohol, occur earlier now than in the 1960s and 1970s?

                                                                                                            There are several reasons, but two main reasons.

                                                                                                            First, temperatures have increased during the growing months.

                                                                                                            Higher temperatures increase the sugar level of grapes.

                                                                                                            Put another way, increased heat increases potential alcohol.

                                                                                                            But IS there more heat now during the growing months over the last ten years than there was during the growing months of the 1960s and 1970s?

                                                                                                            ARE temperatures higher than before during the growing months?

                                                                                                            How do we check?

                                                                                                            Here in California, we can start with these factors:
                                                                                                            1-- average high temperature
                                                                                                            2 --average low temperature,
                                                                                                            3--growing degree days
                                                                                                            during the growing months,
                                                                                                            in grape-growing regions,
                                                                                                            going back 50 years, or as much of that as we can find.

                                                                                                            We can choose to be more specific:
                                                                                                            We can choose to measure those three factors above
                                                                                                            during the months that most affect sugar ripeness and flavor ripeness --
                                                                                                            the two months preceding harvest --
                                                                                                            in grape-growing regions,
                                                                                                            going back 50 years, or as much of that as we can find.

                                                                                                            If we can determine the grape-growing season is hotter for the last decade, then we can say with some confidence that sugar levels and potential alcohol levels are probably higher too when the grapes become ripe.

                                                                                                            Second, there's another reason that wines cannot be made at the alcohol levels of the 1960s and 1970s:

                                                                                                            Grapevines, or, more specifically, rootstock.

                                                                                                            The grape vine rootstock used today is different from the grapevine rootstock used to grow the same variety of grape during the 1960s and 1970s.

                                                                                                            How is it different?

                                                                                                            Different rootstock clones are used. The new rootstock clones form sugar compounds that are different from the sugar compounds formed by the 1960s and 1970s rootstock. The new sugar compounds convert to a higher percentage of alcohol than the sugar compounds from the older rootstock do.

                                                                                                            This has nothing to with yeast. This has to do with the sugar compounds themselves -- they create a higher percentage of alcohol -- even before any yeast ever enters the picture. This is not about more-efficient conversion rates of yeasts.

                                                                                                            Weather and rootstock biochemistry -- both of which boost the alcohol potential of the wine -- are nothing the winemaker can control, or lessen. They are set in stone, and cannot be changed.

                                                                                                            You can research the rootstock differences, and read the viticultural literature yourself -- it will have more an impact if you find it yourself, and it's easy to do.

                                                                                                            The data on temperatures and degree days for California are available to anyone, and you dig that up, too.

                                                                                                            You will also find numerous wine industry and viticultural articles that affirm the contention I've expressed over and over in this thread:

                                                                                                            We cannot go back to the low alcohol percentages of the 1960s and 1970s because the sugar level that produces those alcohol percentages now arrives before the grapes are ripe.

                                                                                                            Two choices when that happens: "The grower must then either pick early, perhaps making wine with astringent tannins and a green streak, or must allow the grapes to hang longer, achieving higher sugars and wines of potentially higher alcohol."**

                                                                                                            To reiterate: The focus here is on the level of potential alcohol when flavor ripeness is reached.

                                                                                                            The focus here is not on the level of potential alcohol when grapes are left to ripen on the vine after phenolic ripeness has been reached. The focus here is not on the level of potential alcohol that is created when grapes are allowed to become very-ripe or over-ripe.

                                                                                                            Here's a good place to begin reading. The writing is easy to read, and the comments section talks about climate change also.

                                                                                                            **"Two Kinds of Ripe"
                                                                                                            http://brooklynguyloveswine.blogspot.com/2009/06/two-kinds-of-ripe.html

                                                                                                            *** Higher sugar ripeness at phenolic ripeness at Domaine Tempier, Chateauneuf du Page, Grenache and Mosel:
                                                                                                            http://brooklynguyloveswine.blogspot....

                                                                                                            29 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                              z
                                                                                                              zin1953 Jan 7, 2013 07:40 AM

                                                                                                              Maria, let me start off by saying that I largely agree with you, but this post (immediately above) is the first time you have phrased your point as follows:

                                                                                                              >>> We cannot go back to the low alcohol percentages of the 1960s and 1970s because the sugar level that produces those alcohol percentages now arrives before the grapes are ripe. <<<

                                                                                                              I agree that -- due to several factors -- this is now true. It is also true (IMHO) that, in and of itself, the "shift" in focus from "harvesting by the numbers" to "harvesting at physiological ripeness" resulted in an immediate increase in the sugar level of harvest, simply because -- back in the 1980s -- (specifically Cabernet Sauvignon) grapes were not physiologically ripe when picked at the "sugar-acid balance" numbers winemakers were then focused on.

                                                                                                              However, several times I have *almost* posted to comment on sentences like this:

                                                                                                              >>> The first issue relates to the MINIMUM Brix -- the minimum percentage alcohol of a wine -- at which the grape can be picked. <<<

                                                                                                              To me, this sounds too much like the INAO restrictions on harvesting prior to the grapes reaching the minimum potential alcohol. In other words, it has often sounded (to me) that you were citing some sort of regulation in California that forbade harvesting grapes before they reached a minimum °Brix, just as the regulations of appellation d'origine contrôllée forbid harvesting before the grapes reach a natural minimum potential alcohol.

                                                                                                              I am glad you finally made the distinction clear.

                                                                                                              The scary thing (to me) is that the use of various techniques to REMOVE alcohol from the finished wine is, I believe, here to stay. As much as I am opposed to manipulation in theory, it is a "necessary evil" that I believe is more and more essential.

                                                                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                Robert Lauriston Jan 7, 2013 09:25 AM

                                                                                                                The rootstock theory makes sense. If the sugars are going up before the other ripeness factors, then picking at 23 Brix would result in "greener" wine than it did 20+ years ago. That would explain why the old-school wineries went up from 12.5 to 13.5. But there are many varieties of rootstock with different characteristics, so in the long run it's still a stylistic choice.

                                                                                                                "Too much of a Good Thing?: Causes and Consequences of Increases in Sugar Content of California Wine Grapes" (Journal of Wine Economics Vol 6, No 2, 2011, Julian M. Alston, et al.) discusses de-alcoholization. The authors say ConeTech alone treated 3.3 million gallons a year in 2005-2008.

                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                  z
                                                                                                                  zin1953 Jan 7, 2013 04:59 PM

                                                                                                                  Robert?

                                                                                                                  Yes, there ARE dozens if not hundreds of different rootstocks.

                                                                                                                  No, there are only a handful in what could be described as "regular" usage.

                                                                                                                  Yes, there is certainly more diversity in rootstocks used within the California vignoble after the AXR-1 debacle.

                                                                                                                  No, there remain a relatively small number of "principal rootstocks" in primary usage.

                                                                                                                  1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 7, 2013 05:20 PM

                                                                                                                    The introduction to "Wine Grapes," which covers 1,368 grape varieties used to make significant commercial quantities of wine, says that they could write another book of similar size just about varieties used for rootstock.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                    maria lorraine Jan 7, 2013 05:52 PM

                                                                                                                    <<But there are many varieties of rootstock with different characteristics, so in the long run it's still a stylistic choice.>>

                                                                                                                    No, it's not.

                                                                                                                    Not if you're not willing to rip out a vineyard, spend hundreds of thousands of dollars replanting per acre, and then receive no income on that replanting for 5 years, for red wine.

                                                                                                                    What you're proposing is unrealistic financially.

                                                                                                                    Even if you were able to find rootstock
                                                                                                                    that produced the same sugar compounds as the 60s and 70s rootstock.

                                                                                                                    Even if you did, even if you spent all that money, you'd still have higher alcohol from hotter temps.

                                                                                                                    Far from merely stylistic.

                                                                                                                    1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                      j
                                                                                                                      john gonzales Jan 7, 2013 10:25 PM

                                                                                                                      I did say "in the long run". Vineyards are being planted and replanted continually. I am not suggesting that someone would rip out a currently viable vineyard to replant.
                                                                                                                      Did no one know about the characteristics of the rootstocks when they did plant them? Are the only rootstocks available those that maximize abv.?

                                                                                                                      I am also curious if you believe that winemakers chose to pick at the same standard of physiological ripeness 20+ years ago. As far as I know there has not been an age-old measurement that has been used for centuries. To me some (even many)of the older wines taste as though, sugar ripeness aside, they were picked at a different physiological ripeness.

                                                                                                                      I read the blogs you linked about climate. I assume the haven't extensively changed rootstock in Bandol. So we're supposed to conclude that the "10-15% increase in alcohol levels" over fewer than 20 years is due to global-warming?
                                                                                                                      How about the 15% increase in alcohol at the larger right-bank chateau? Please? I guess I haven't seen "An Inconvenient Truth" enough times :)

                                                                                                                      I am not not accusing you of this, but many of the AFWE, just seem not be able to accept the fact that money talks. Unfortunately a majority of Cal wine buyers like the flavor and texture of ripe wines. The biggest reason the trend isn't over is that those wishing it would be are largely outnumbered, and large production wineries follow the money. It doesn't matter who's right, or even what goes with food, what sells gets made.

                                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 08:26 AM

                                                                                                                        As John says, no one's going to rip out a vineyard just to get 0.75-1% less alcohol, but most growers replant every 20-30 years, more often if the rootstock proves to be less pest-resistant than promised.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                          z
                                                                                                                          zin1953 Jan 8, 2013 05:33 PM

                                                                                                                          a) 30-40 years, just as the vines get good and mature; b) while it's probably true no one will rip out a vineyard to get 1% less abv, they have do and will continue to rip out and/or bud over to different varieties to stay with the market; and c) AXR-1 was the proverbial cluster****, but no one at Davis can they weren't warned . . . .

                                                                                                                  3. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 7, 2013 08:56 AM

                                                                                                                    "Begin reading," the nerve of you. I've been reading about this stuff for decades. The literature does not support your views about warmer weather being a significant factor. You just keep repeating your unsubstantiated conclusions without citing any data.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                      maria lorraine Jan 7, 2013 05:03 PM

                                                                                                                      So far you have not read about sugar ripeness before phenolic ripeness as the cause of high alcohols, so yes, **begin reading** about it.

                                                                                                                      I'm not going to spend more of my time than I already have just because you won't read and research. I've given you plenty of leads to chase down the information.

                                                                                                                      Read CURRENT climate data on growing-season temps. You haven't yet, except for the Cayan article, and didn't understand the meaning of that data.

                                                                                                                      The Cayan report you linked to earlier showed higher night-time temps in Napa.

                                                                                                                      That's a big deal, actually, as reduced DTR (Diurnal Temperature Range) -- the nights don't cool down -- represents a big temp increase.

                                                                                                                      Especially for grapes, known to favor a high DTR (hot days, cool nights) to keep acids high and alcohol down. When that range lessens because of hotter nights, acids drop and alcohol increases.

                                                                                                                      You already have enough data to prove the point about climate change, but get more to satisfy yourself and put this monster to bed.

                                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 08:34 AM

                                                                                                                        The most recent complete year's data on growing temperatures and harvest tonnage and brix is from 2011, which was cool and challenging. ("Cabernet and Merlot—pick at 23 brix or hope for more but risk more botrytis?—John Ruel, Trefethen)

                                                                                                                        You seem to be twisting data to reach the conclusions you want to believe. The slight average increase over decades is negligible compared with the radical difference from vintage to vintage. Statewide and global weather averages can be misleading.

                                                                                                                        "Paradoxically, higher regional temperatures could make the Napa Valley cooler, as heat farther east creates a 'vacuum effect' that draws ocean fog inland. The hottest years on record globally—1998, 2005, 2006 and 2010—were among the valley’s coolest ..."

                                                                                                                        http://www.bendbulletin.com/article/2...

                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                          maria lorraine Jan 8, 2013 10:31 AM

                                                                                                                          Get some good data. Read Gregory Jones.

                                                                                                                        2. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                          Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 09:32 AM

                                                                                                                          I've read and heard about "physiological ripeness" hundreds of times in trades such as Wines & Vines and in discussions with winemakers, but always in the context of ~15-16% ABV wines, in which context it seems to me like a dishonest technical rationalization of an extreme stylistic choice.

                                                                                                                          This is the first I've heard it suggested that, due to the changes in rootstock, if you picked at 23 Brix to make a 12.5% wine it would taste much greener than wines made in the 70s and 80s. It's a reasonable theory, but I don't see that it's generally accepted by academics as proved, and the relative old-school 13.5% wines made in recent years seem less green to me than older vintages.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                            maria lorraine Jan 8, 2013 10:29 AM

                                                                                                                            Careful not to mix things up.
                                                                                                                            Brix at phenolic ripeness is what you should be checking.

                                                                                                                            Separate issue:
                                                                                                                            Rootstock converting sugar compounds to higher alcohols has been around at least since 2007.

                                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 11:06 AM

                                                                                                                              "Rootstock converting sugar compounds to higher alcohols has been around at least since 2007."

                                                                                                                              The steady increase in Brix in the state's annual figures started in 1995 and the peak was 2003-2008. Red wines that had traditionally been around 12.5% were virtually all 13% and up by 2000.

                                                                                                                              "Brix at phenolic ripeness is what you should be checking."

                                                                                                                              Checking for what purpose? They used to pick at 23. At the peak of the fad people were picking at 30 and up (probably some still are). They justified that by talking about phenolic / physiological ripeness but in retrospect that sure seems like rationalization.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                maria lorraine Jan 8, 2013 02:51 PM

                                                                                                                                "Rootstock converting sugar compounds to higher alcohols has been around at least since 2007."

                                                                                                                                Winemakers have **known** the sugar compounds converted to a higher rate of alcohol since about 2007. The rootstock were planted earlier, obviously, but the discovery about the sugar compounds came later.

                                                                                                                                "Brix at phenolic ripeness is what you should be checking."

                                                                                                                                You're not understanding. That shows that grapegrowers are forced to pick at higher Brix because phenolic ripeness lags behind sugar ripeness now. It shows that 13 to 13.5% alcohol is not a choice, but the minimum option available.

                                                                                                                                Just like the rootstock info shows the winemaker has less choice on the minimum alcohol level, also.

                                                                                                                                This refutes what you have been saying -- that winemakers could make wine with alcohol levels popular in the 1960s and 1970s.

                                                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 04:20 PM

                                                                                                                                  You're saying Brix before phenolic ripeness is irrelevant. I got that.

                                                                                                                                  Winemakers might be stuck with higher alcohol until the next time they replant. At that time it'll be a conscious choice.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                    maria lorraine Jan 8, 2013 04:44 PM

                                                                                                                                    It's not at all irrelevant.

                                                                                                                                    It's one of the major winemaking topics around the world now.

                                                                                                                                    Winemakers would like to make wines at lower alcohols, Robert, as you would like also.

                                                                                                                                    The point is, they can't. Their hands are tied.

                                                                                                                                    Certainly high Brix, high alcohol wines are a choice,
                                                                                                                                    but there is no choice on a minimum alcohol level.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                      maria lorraine Jan 8, 2013 04:47 PM

                                                                                                                                      <<Winemakers might be stuck with higher alcohol until the next time they replant. At that time it'll be a conscious choice.>>

                                                                                                                                      If...rootstock biochemistry has changed by then. Not a given.

                                                                                                                                      And

                                                                                                                                      If...cooler varietals are not planted in areas too hot for them.
                                                                                                                                      Not a given, either.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 05:13 PM

                                                                                                                                        Rootstocks already vary in how they affect ripening rates / Brix, e.g.:

                                                                                                                                        http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/reposit...

                                                                                                                                        I don't believe that has been studied nearly as much as other aspects and it certainly has been of little concern compared with pest and disease resistance, drought / wet resistance, etc.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                          maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 12:53 AM

                                                                                                                                          I don't see a new rootstock clone among the bunch. If you can get the list of new clones and their ethanol percentages, that might be useful for comparison. This is an old report.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                            maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 02:56 AM

                                                                                                                                            So let's roll up our sleeves and ALSO learn how new rootstock clones increase alcohol levels!

                                                                                                                                            If you can get the list of new clones and their ethanol percentages, pretty much in the same format as the chart to which you linked, I'll dig out the research I have on how sugar compounds produced by the new clones convert to a higher percentage of alcohol, and then we'll have a useful comparison!

                                                                                                                                            And we'll learn ANOTHER reason why California wines cannot be made with the same alcohol percentages as the wines made in the 1960s and 1970s.

                                                                                                                                            I'd like some California wines to be quaffer wines too -- with low alcohol levels --
                                                                                                                                            but no can go no mo.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                              Robert Lauriston Jan 10, 2013 08:42 AM

                                                                                                                                              You can't get any rootstock in California right now.

                                                                                                                                              http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-n...

                                                                                                                                        2. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                          Bill Hunt Jan 8, 2013 05:47 PM

                                                                                                                                          And rootstocks are often chosen for other reasons than potential ABV. Many considerations in those choices.

                                                                                                                                          Hunt

                                                                                                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                            maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 03:02 AM

                                                                                                                                            Flavor, vigor, pest resistance, fruitset, a zillion reasons.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                              Bill Hunt Jan 10, 2013 07:13 PM

                                                                                                                                              Exactly.

                                                                                                                                              Choosing a root-stock, at replanting is not an easy task, as so much will depend on the choices.

                                                                                                                                              Often, things go smoothly, but not always, as we well know.

                                                                                                                                              The "hot" root-stock today, might fall from favor in 5 years, when it has had time to be totally evaluated.

                                                                                                                                              Hunt

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                                                z
                                                                                                                                                zin1953 Jan 10, 2013 08:36 PM

                                                                                                                                                >>> The "hot" root-stock today, might fall from favor in 5 years, when it has had time to be totally evaluated. <<<

                                                                                                                                                Yes, well, let's not forget that "the powers-that-be" were warned about using AXR-1, but chose to ignore the warnings.

                                                                                                                                                (Silly rabbit!)

                                                                                                                                                But you also need to factor in location (i.e.: some rootstocks are preferred for mountain vineyards; others for flat lands; etc., etc.).

                                                                                                                                                1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                  Bill Hunt Jan 11, 2013 07:19 PM

                                                                                                                                                  That was my allusion.

                                                                                                                                                  Hunt

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                      maria lorraine Jan 8, 2013 06:40 PM

                                                                                                                                      "The steady increase in Brix in the state's annual figures started in 1995 and the peak was 2003-2008."

                                                                                                                                      Interesting that Brix levels peaked in 2008.

                                                                                                                                      "Red wines that had traditionally been around 12.5% were virtually all 13% and up by 2000."

                                                                                                                                      I think those are final alcohol levels, which represent some choice, and not minimum potential alcohol, which is not a choice.

                                                                                                                          2. Robert Lauriston Jan 7, 2013 09:36 AM

                                                                                                                            "Certain wine grapes simply do not grow well in California. ... neither the wine grapes nor the wine taste varietally correct. Sangiovese ... doesn't taste like Sangiovese."

                                                                                                                            Grapes don't care about longitude. Find similar soil and climate and use similar vineyard practices and the wines will taste similar. This is amply demonstrated by the international wine styles. An experienced palate could probably distinguish California, Argentine, and international-styled French wines made from the same grape variety in a blind tasting, but not because the wines don't taste generally similar.

                                                                                                                            I went to a big California Sangiovese tasting a few years ago, if I remember correctly there were about 40 wines. A few of them could have passed for super-Tuscans in a blind tasting. None tasted like Chianti or Patrimonio, but they clearly weren't trying to make that kind of wine.

                                                                                                                            23 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                              z
                                                                                                                              zin1953 Jan 7, 2013 04:56 PM

                                                                                                                              Robert?

                                                                                                                              Remember when I said you know a lot for a consumer, but that there were times when I was shocked at the gaps in your knowledge? that maybe it was simply *my* expectations, because I thought of you first as a restaurant owner, second as a consumer? Well, this statement

                                                                                                                              >>> Find similar soil and climate and use similar vineyard practices and the wines will taste similar. This is amply demonstrated by the international wine styles. <<<

                                                                                                                              is one of those times when I am shocked by how little you know.

                                                                                                                              So-called "international" wines do *not* taste alike because they are grown in similar soil and climate, and use similar vineyard practices . . . apparently "terroir" now means nothing? "International" wines taste that way -- indistinguishable as to origin -- PRECISELY because the Hand of the Winemaker has so obliterated terroir and anything even remotely individualistic and unique as to the sense of place, the origin of the grapes is IMPOSSIBLE to discern by tasting. (Ergo, the raison d'être behind the terminology, "international wine.")

                                                                                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                Robert Lauriston Jan 7, 2013 05:14 PM

                                                                                                                                I think that's far too broad a generalization. Many of the vineyards for better international-styled wines were carefully selected to match the characteristics of vineyards where the variety has proven to do well.

                                                                                                                                Gruet in New Mexico's a good example. They sent soil samples to France for testing. I've read similar stories about pioneering wineries in many of the newer wine producing areas around the world.

                                                                                                                                http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/16/din...

                                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                  maria lorraine Jan 7, 2013 06:01 PM

                                                                                                                                  You're missing so much here about what makes a wine taste like it does. Similar climate and similar soil do not produce a similar wine, even before winemaking.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 7, 2013 06:06 PM

                                                                                                                                    The same rootstock and grape varieties with similar soil and climate do not produce similar wine? That sounds like magic, not enology.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                      maria lorraine Jan 7, 2013 06:16 PM

                                                                                                                                      Welcome to reality.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                        z
                                                                                                                                        zin1953 Jan 8, 2013 07:42 AM

                                                                                                                                        Robert? Uh, no -- sounds EXACTLY like "wine growing" to me! And that IS reality . . .

                                                                                                                                        (even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with "international wines.")

                                                                                                                                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                      z
                                                                                                                                      zin1953 Jan 8, 2013 07:41 AM

                                                                                                                                      Robert?

                                                                                                                                      You want to talk of generalizations? YOU want to talk about generalizations?!?!?!? How about,

                                                                                                                                      >>> Why are most California red wines not delicious or food-friendly? <<

                                                                                                                                      or

                                                                                                                                      >>> new oak makes the wine taste sweeter, exacerbating the super-ripe fruit flavors. <<<

                                                                                                                                      or -- oh, heck! why go on?

                                                                                                                                      Robert? This

                                                                                                                                      >>> Many of the vineyards for better international-styled wines were carefully selected to match the characteristics of vineyards where the variety has proven to do well. <<<

                                                                                                                                      has NOTHING to do with the definition of "international wines" or "internationally-styled" wines. Well, OK, it might be *your* definition, but it isn't the common definition in widespread use within the "World of Wine."

                                                                                                                                      Your comment makes me question if you even know what an "international wine" is? It is *not* a matter of (for example, for illustrative purposes only) a large Champagne house searching the world over to find just the right spot on the planet to "reproduce" their beloved tête-de-cuvée (or even their non-vintage Brut) and thus discovering the Napa Valley, Carneros, Mendocino, Arroyo Grande, New Mexico, Australia, Brazil or Argentina . . . or elsewhere on this spinning blue ball.

                                                                                                                                      You are entitled to your opinions, Robert, as is everyone. But I would respectfully suggest that these sort of discussions are best served when commonly used terms are used appropriately, in accordance with their commonly accepted meanings. This would go far to eliminating the mis-communication and/or obfuscation that occurs . . . .

                                                                                                                                      Indeed, you haven't answered or addressed my point at all because you have decided to interpret a commonly used and understood term in a way that is unique to yourself.

                                                                                                                                      Gruet is NOT even remotely close to an example of an "international wine." (insert look of disbelief here)

                                                                                                                                      1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 09:22 AM

                                                                                                                                        Yeah, bad choice of terms, "international style" is generally used as a derogatory term for one-dimensional products or for European wines made for export.

                                                                                                                                        My point remains that I've tasted lots of wines that successfully copied a style from one country in another. Gruet in New Mexico, Roederer in Anderson Valley, Ahlgren and Kalin Semillon, Voss Sauvignon Blanc, numerous 1985 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvigignons. I know what I've tasted.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                          z
                                                                                                                                          zin1953 Jan 8, 2013 05:30 PM

                                                                                                                                          Let me say that:

                                                                                                                                          1) THANK YOU for admitting that "international wines" was a bad choice of terms on your part;

                                                                                                                                          2) I look at the names you have posted (Gruet, Roederer Estate, Ahlgren, Kalin, Voss). I don't know about you, but I have NEVER mistaken wines from those producers for anything but what they are . . . in other words, I don't take a sip of (e.g.) Roederer Estate or Gruet -- both of which I like and drink reasonably often¹ -- and said, "Ah, what a beautiful French Champagne . . . " These are clearly NOT Champagne, but very fine examples of méthode traditionelle sparkling wines. The same holds for Ahlgren, Kalin and Voss.

                                                                                                                                          3) Now, are Gruet and Roederer Estate SUCCESSFUL as producing sparkling wines? Absolutely. Are they of high-quality? You bet. Can they "hold their own" next to Champagnes? That depends what one means by "hold their own." If one means, "You can't tell the difference between that and 'real' Champagne," I would strongly disagree. (Always picked them out when they were "ringers" in blind tastings of Champagne; always picked then out when a Champagne was the "ringer.") But if one means "They're really good, and no one would be embarrassed serving them at a party, at a wedding, at a formal dinner party," then I would wholeheartedly agree. The same goes for Ahlgren, Kalin and Voss.

                                                                                                                                          4) Are the wines you cite "interchangeable" with their French "counterparts"? Again, it depends what one means by "interchangeable." They are all very well-made, sound wines of high quality. But they are definitely Californian -- well, except for the Gruet; since I haven't tasted dozens of New Mexican sparkling wines from multiple producers, let's just say it's definitely *not* "Old World" tasting.

                                                                                                                                          C'est la vie . . .

                                                                                                                                          ¹ Although, I admit not as often as I drink "true" Champagne (i.e.: French).

                                                                                                                                          1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                            Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 06:46 PM

                                                                                                                                            I think that most people who have good enough palates to generally distinguish Champagne from first-rate California sparkling wine would not be able to pick a Roderer Estate NV rosé from a blind tasting of its French counterparts. I think even some pros might be fooled, especially if they had not had it before, or in recent years.

                                                                                                                                            A sufficiently trained palate can identify just about anything, but that doesn't mean the wines taste wildly different. I've had many wines over the years that were very, very close to ones I've had in other countries in the past.

                                                                                                                                            I thought I'd never again taste a Zinfandel like the ones Deron Edmeades made in the 70s, but the Zlatan Plenkovic Crljenak Kaštelanski was similar, far closer than any California Zinfandel I've had in the meantime.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                              z
                                                                                                                                              zin1953 Jan 8, 2013 07:47 PM

                                                                                                                                              Robert?

                                                                                                                                              My WIFE can tell the difference, and by and large, she prefers Martinis . . . .

                                                                                                                                              Now, shall we both quote Harry Waugh¹ on the finer points of blind tastings, or are we going to waste more bandwidth on the topic?

                                                                                                                                              You wrote:

                                                                                                                                              >>> My point remains that I've tasted lots of wines that successfully copied a style from one country in another. Gruet in New Mexico, Roederer in Anderson Valley, Ahlgren and Kalin Semillon, Voss Sauvignon Blanc, numerous 1985 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvigignons. I know what I've tasted. <<<

                                                                                                                                              I realize now in re-reading your post the key sentence (and sentiment) in this paragraph is "I KNOW" -- insert chest-thumping here -- 'WHAT I'VE TASTED!" (Yes, Robert, emphasis added.) I have no doubt about that, Robert; I am *sure* you've know what you've tasted.

                                                                                                                                              I, on the other hand, have tasted so many wines over the past 49 years, that I'm sure I've forgotten many of them . . . .

                                                                                                                                              Now, you write:

                                                                                                                                              >>> A sufficiently trained palate can identify just about anything . . . <<<

                                                                                                                                              So are you saying that, with the hundreds of wines you taste every year you do NOT have a sufficiently trained palate? Hmmmm. OK. I'll accept that.

                                                                                                                                              On the other hand, of course, even Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers and professional winemakers will mistake Wine X for Wine Y -- and on a reasonably frequent basis (i.e.: it is NOT a once-a-year occurrence). So -- just because I have never mistake Gruet Brut for a French Champagne in a blind tasting so far is no guarantee that I never will . . .

                                                                                                                                              I note that you have a love of obfuscation and hyperbole. To wit,

                                                                                                                                              a) You start by citing five wineries -- Gruet, Roederer (Estate), Ahlgren, Kalin, and Voss -- by name. Combined they easily produce -- what? -- three dozen, four dozen different wines? Next you choose ONE example from among all their wines as an illustration of not being able to pick it from its French/European counterpart.

                                                                                                                                              b) Continuing, you misstate my comments -- at least be implication -- by talking about wines tasting "wildly different." I'm sorry, where did I ever state the wines taste "wildly different"? I merely stated that they were clearly Californian, or rather "New World," in origin². (Gruet complicates the simplicity of example, but not the point at hand.)

                                                                                                                                              c) "Very close" -- even "very, VERY close" -- is not the same as "identical." At least not in any dictionary I know, but we have already seen you misuse terminology a couple of times recently, so perhaps "very close" and "identical" are synonyms. Who knows?

                                                                                                                                              d) While Jed Steele made some nice wines, including Zinfandel, at Edmeades, I would be quite happy never having another wine in that style. Before you get all agitated and defensive, I'm not saying those were bad wines. (I just said they were nice, didn't I?) But rather, my tastes have changed and evolved over the past 40 years, and those types of wines are not something that interest me. In other words, Robert, this is why there is more than one winery on the planet: we all have our own personal tastes.

                                                                                                                                              ¹ Harry Waugh -- noted British wine writer, founder of "The Zinfandel Club" in London, head buyer/director of the famed wine merchant Harvey's of Bristol, director of Château Latour, and mentor to Michael Broadbent and just about every other noted British wine merchant and writer through the latter half of the 20th century -- was once asked by a reporter if he had ever mistaken a Bordeaux for a Burgundy. He famously replied, "Not since lunch."

                                                                                                                                              ² I cannot recall off the top of my head what percentage of DNA Man shares with Chimpanzee, but it's over 95 percent if I recall correctly. I dare say Man and Chimpanzees are "wildly different." The fact that Roederer Estate Brut n.v. is *different* from Louis Roederer Brut Premier n.v. is indeed just that: a fact. Objectively, on paper, a fact. Different grapes, different soil types, different techniques, etc., etc., etc. That doesn't mean one is better than the other; that is a subjective personal preference. Indeed one can enjoy both! (I know I do.)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                                maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 12:56 AM

                                                                                                                                                "I think that most people who have good enough palates to generally distinguish Champagne from first-rate California sparkling wine would not be able to pick a Roderer Estate NV rosé from a blind tasting of its French counterparts."

                                                                                                                                                That's the silliest thing I've ever read that you've written.

                                                                                                                                                A beginner could tell that one wine tasted markedly worse than the others. No training necessary.

                                                                                                                                                Worse = harsher, bigger bubbles, not as yummy.

                                                                                                                                                Bear in mind:

                                                                                                                                                Roederer Estate has slipped off the cliff in quality in the last ten years (it's truly wretched now), and Rosé Champagnes are among the finest of all Champagnes. So a monkey could pick out the Roederer.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 10, 2013 08:52 AM

                                                                                                                                                  Yeah, in the 1976 "Judgment of Paris" tasting the French experts were easily able to identify the California wines, since they tasted nothing like the French wines.

                                                                                                                                                  I tasted Roderer Estate with Champagne at a couple of dinners in the past months and I don't think anyone who was there would agree with you.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                                    z
                                                                                                                                                    zin1953 Jan 10, 2013 10:46 AM

                                                                                                                                                    Robert?

                                                                                                                                                    >>> Yeah, in the 1976 "Judgment of Paris" tasting the French experts were easily able to identify the California wines, since they tasted nothing like the French wines. <<<

                                                                                                                                                    I have no idea what this statement is even TRYING to say, but . . . if and when we ever meet, remind me to tell you the TRUTH about that tasting.

                                                                                                                                                    >>> I tasted Roderer Estate with Champagne at a couple of dinners in the past months and I don't think anyone who was there would agree with you. <<<

                                                                                                                                                    Is Roederer Estate $#|+? No, of course not.

                                                                                                                                                    Is Roederer Estate good? Yes. Absolutely.

                                                                                                                                                    Is Roederer Estate as good as it used to be? Well, not in my opinion . . .

                                                                                                                                                    Regular visitors to these pages will know that I have long maintained that (IMHO) Equinox is the finest sparkling wine produced in the US -- or, at the very least, California.

                                                                                                                                                    Now, for a very long time and concurrent with that opinion, was my belief that Roederer Estate was the best "commercial" producer of sparkling wines in California -- "commercial" being defined in this instance as "readily available in major markets," something that a 300-case/year producer like Equinox clearly is not. But I haven't felt that way for a few years. Schramsberg has made a significant resurgence since the Nixonian debacle. Gloria Ferrer and Domaine Carneros are consistently fine, as is Iron Horse, and -- of course -- Argyle in Oregon is excellent (albeit more difficult to find).

                                                                                                                                                    Now, as I have said on many occasions, we ALL have our own individual taste buds. By definition my taste buds are different than yours, which are different from both Maria Lorraine's and my own, while all three of ours are different from, say, Bill Hunt's or John Gonzales' . . . thus, in matters of SUBJECTIVE taste, it's in the palate of the taster. But I would advise caution (as well as respect) when making absolutist statements about matters of opinion . . .

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                      Robert Lauriston Jan 10, 2013 03:01 PM

                                                                                                                                                      Is there more truth about the 1976 Paris tasting than in the 350 pages of George Taber's book? Because that's really more than any reasonable person would want to know.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                                        z
                                                                                                                                                        zin1953 Jan 10, 2013 04:03 PM

                                                                                                                                                        I wouldn't know. I haven't bothered to read it. Rather, I interviewed (and spent many hours with) Stephen Spurrier in 1977, shortly after the Judging.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                          Robert Lauriston Jan 10, 2013 05:26 PM

                                                                                                                                                          Taber interviewed everybody, or close to it. There are two long chapters devoted to detailed descriptions of how Winiarski and Grgich made the winners.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                                            z
                                                                                                                                                            zin1953 Jan 10, 2013 05:52 PM

                                                                                                                                                            Yes, well . . . you -- and Taber -- don't know what you think you know. Let's leave it at that.

                                                                                                                                    3. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                      maria lorraine Jan 7, 2013 05:02 PM

                                                                                                                                      <<Grapes don't care about longitude. Find similar soil and climate and use similar vineyard practices and the wines will taste similar. This is amply demonstrated by the international wine styles. An experienced palate could probably distinguish California, Argentine, and international-styled French wines made from the same grape variety in a blind tasting, but not because the wines don't taste generally similar.>>

                                                                                                                                      That's hooey. So uninformed.

                                                                                                                                      You hate these high-alcohols in wines?

                                                                                                                                      Did you ever consider that one of the reasons for that
                                                                                                                                      is that cooler-climate wines are being planted in hotter areas?

                                                                                                                                      And it's the wrong location that makes them too high in alcohol?

                                                                                                                                      Zinfandel grown on mountain vineyards is cool enough for the grape to keep its acidity and lower alcohol.

                                                                                                                                      But because Zinfandel is popular, it's planted in areas that are not cool enough. The grapes get too ripe and the wine is too high in alcohol.

                                                                                                                                      Higher alcohols are sometimes simply a location error -- planting vines in too hot a place for that vine. Especially when they're a popular variety like Zinfandel.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 7, 2013 05:28 PM

                                                                                                                                        Yes, of course people are planting grape varieties in the wrong place. That's one of my main complaints. UC Davis recommended Cabernet Sauvignon for regions I and II, not III and IV. Zinfandel baked in Puglia's scorching summers and produced flabby wines. The whole sad history of the California Merlot fad, the sad state of most California Syrah ...

                                                                                                                                        There are far more ways to make bad wine (where are all those tons of Ruby Cabernet going, anyway?) than to make good wine.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                          z
                                                                                                                                          zin1953 Jan 8, 2013 07:54 AM

                                                                                                                                          And, Robert, could you please tell me how much Cabernet is planed in Region IV? How much in Region I, for that matter?

                                                                                                                                          To the best of my recollection, Cabernet is NOT recommended for Region I except in the warmest parts of the broader definition of "Region I," but that's just off the top of my head (i.e.: I haven't looked it up at 8:00 this morning). And there have been several excellent Cabernets that came from the Livermore Valley, which -- IIRC -- is a Region III.

                                                                                                                                          Regions I-V are far to broad to make the sort of statement you have made above. This is why UC Davis goes on to talk about a "high Region III" or a "low Region II," etc.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 7, 2013 06:14 PM

                                                                                                                                        Here's another way of talking about wines from different regions that have important elements in common:

                                                                                                                                        "I think in that [1976] Paris tasting we showed that we were capable of transcending our regional limitations, and we could produce wines that are good any place and every place, any time and every time, simply because they embody these classical characteristics and are not simply good because they represent a region."

                                                                                                                                        http://www.rpmwinetour.com/PDF/winiar...

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                          maria lorraine Jan 7, 2013 06:17 PM

                                                                                                                                          That has little bearing here.

                                                                                                                                      3. Robert Lauriston Jan 8, 2013 08:24 PM

                                                                                                                                        Re wine grapes being planted in regions warmer than those recommended, I believe grape pricing districts 11-15 are mostly IV and V, maybe a little III, not much if any II.

                                                                                                                                        http://www.nass.usda.gov/Statistics_b...

                                                                                                                                        In 1979, 13% of the state's Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% of Merlot, and 6% of Pinot Noir came from those districts; in 2011, it was 52%, 62%, and 40%.

                                                                                                                                        Here's a comparison of what they crushed there in 1979 and 2011, in hundreds of tons:

                                                                                                                                        Barbera 134 / 43
                                                                                                                                        Cabernet Sauvignon 11 / 202
                                                                                                                                        Carignane 171 / 11
                                                                                                                                        Grenache 150 /64
                                                                                                                                        Merlot .5 / 178
                                                                                                                                        Petite Sirah 30 / 34
                                                                                                                                        Pinot Noir .2 / 69
                                                                                                                                        Rubired 82 / 255
                                                                                                                                        Ruby Cabernet 121 / 74
                                                                                                                                        Zinfandel 58 / 293
                                                                                                                                        total 855 / 1368

                                                                                                                                        1. Robert Lauriston Jan 10, 2013 08:48 AM

                                                                                                                                          I get maria lorraine's point that an increase in diurnal temperature variation can lead to higher Brix at phenolic ripeness.

                                                                                                                                          Per the Cayan report, in Napa nights have been getting slightly warmer as daytime temperatures have stayed the same.

                                                                                                                                          That's a *decrease* in diurnal variation, which should lead to lower Brix at phenolic ripeness.

                                                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                            maria lorraine Jan 10, 2013 04:33 PM

                                                                                                                                            <<I get maria lorraine's point that an increase in diurnal temperature variation can lead to higher Brix at phenolic ripeness.>>

                                                                                                                                            This was never my point.

                                                                                                                                            So you either don't understand or don't want to understand.

                                                                                                                                            The FIRST situation that causes high potential alcohol:
                                                                                                                                            higher maximum temperatures during the ripening months since 1960. Hotter temperatures increase alcohol.

                                                                                                                                            The SECOND situation that causes high potential alcohol:
                                                                                                                                            high NIGHT-TIME temperatures that don't allow the grape to STOP producing sugars. This increases potential alcohol.

                                                                                                                                            The THIRD situation that causes high potential alcohol:
                                                                                                                                            use of new rootstock that produces sugars that convert
                                                                                                                                            to a higher percentage of alcohol that sugar compounds
                                                                                                                                            in the past.

                                                                                                                                            All related to...
                                                                                                                                            Why California wines cannot be made at the low alcohol percentages of the 1960s and 1970s.

                                                                                                                                            If you have ANY DOUBTS, EDUCATE YOURSELF.

                                                                                                                                            Avail yourself of all the research links I have listed and linked. Go the websites for wine magazines, climate magazines, agricultural databases, climate databases, UC-Davis, other university resources. Ask questions of those resources instead of arguing with me.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: maria lorraine
                                                                                                                                              z
                                                                                                                                              zin1953 Jan 10, 2013 04:48 PM

                                                                                                                                              OK, thank you.

                                                                                                                                              I *thought* this was the case -- that "high NIGHT-TIME temperatures that don't allow the grape to STOP producing sugars. This increases potential alcohol."

                                                                                                                                              But when Robert took a 180° U-turn, it threw me for (yet another) loop, and all the twists-and-turns have already made me somewhat nauseous.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                PolarBear Jan 10, 2013 06:01 PM

                                                                                                                                                If I may insert another parallel misunderstanding, water system managers up and down the Pacific northwest are very concerned about sustainable water supplies.

                                                                                                                                                The layman reads (like Robert suggests, along with warming there are areas of cooling, which make yearly averages totally meaningless) projections that, for example, the San Joaquin Valley may likely see an increase in precipitation, in our area for example from 10.5 to as much as 17 inches/yr, wonderful for a semi desert climate right? No, it would come as rainfall at the worst time possible, causing flooding and erosion of the topsoil and less snowpack in the Sierra that is critical for life and agriculture here as we know it.

                                                                                                                                                It's not a simple solution, the systems and their interactions require us to become more knowledgeable.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: PolarBear
                                                                                                                                                  z
                                                                                                                                                  zin1953 Jan 10, 2013 06:15 PM

                                                                                                                                                  Agreed. Absolutely right!

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: PolarBear
                                                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 11, 2013 08:57 AM

                                                                                                                                                    Our models aren't good enough to predict where and how local climates will diverge from the global averages, but in a hundred years Napa Valley probably won't be wine country.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                                      PolarBear Jan 11, 2013 09:30 AM

                                                                                                                                                      It has nothing to do with predictive modeling and comparisons to global averages. Search out the GIS modeling on the northward creep of the beginning of spring in the US over the past decades and the documented evidence of the subsequent plant and animal communities migration patterns. Look at the distances the rate of change has advanced and tell me you still think it will take 100 years.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: PolarBear
                                                                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 11, 2013 11:15 AM

                                                                                                                                                        Gregory Jones predicted that Napa Valley will be as warm as a table grape region by 2050, but there are a lot of variables. Napa Valley becoming a bad place to grow wine grapes doesn't seem as safe a bet to me as Idaho and British Columbia becoming much better places.

                                                                                                                                            2. Robert Lauriston Jan 11, 2013 09:24 AM

                                                                                                                                              "The differences in grape volatile compounds and other secondary metabolites may be one important reason for the apparent difference of opinion on the importance of cool night temperatures or the diurnal range. It certainly seems evident that for some varieties grown in certain regions, significant differences in the day and nighttime temperature may not be that important."

                                                                                                                                              http://www.apps.fst.vt.edu/extension/enology/EN/32.html

                                                                                                                                              "... many estates/regional promoters tout the fact that their estates are located in areas of high diurnal variation because of, as they see it, the benefits conferred on grapes grown in the region. ... The organization sees the cool evenings as preserving malic acid in the grape which 'translates through fermentation to wine and adds freshness and balance.' ... There is a second school of thought which decries significant DTRs and views balanced wines as a product of balanced temperatures. ... According to adherents, the factory that is the vine operates on all cylinders during the daytime with the presence of light allowing for photosynthesis and the accumulation of sugars into the berry. Photosynthesis ceases with the onset of darkness, but, according to this school, if the nighttime temperature does not fall below a certain level, respiration and flavor and tannin synthesis will continue, resulting in more rapid and complete phenolic ripening of the fruit at lower sugar levels. Diurnal variation in arid regions, according to this school, allows production of high levels of sugar during the daylight hours and the cool nights take the vines out of the effective metabolic range. This slows the phenolic ripening process thus allowing the accumulation of higher sugar levels over the longer ripening period and an unbalanced wine."

                                                                                                                                              http://mowse.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-effects-of-high-diurnal-temperature.html

                                                                                                                                              "... if you have a site that is often very hot, and is usually quite cool at night, then your sugar development is likely to outpace your phenolic development. That would leave you with two choices: either pick early and have underdeveloped phenolics (herbaceous or other unattractive flavors); or, pick later with much higher sugar levels which must be dealt with at the winery with water-back or de-alcing strategies."

                                                                                                                                              http://www.callunavineyards.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=95&Itemid=103

                                                                                                                                              "Damping the diurnal temperature fluctuation of grape berries significantly increased the rate of ripening, exemplified by higher sugar content ..."

                                                                                                                                              http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/48218/PDF

                                                                                                                                              "Warmer night temperatures allow for better fruit maturation despite the cooler daytime temperatures."

                                                                                                                                              http://www.andrewwill.com/home/sites/aww/files/pdf/Two%20Blondes%20Weather%20Report%20-%202011.pdf

                                                                                                                                              "... biological chemical reactions are driven by enzymes. These enzymes’ activity levels are a function of temperature. So it is likely that the enzymes relating to phenolic development do not work as well in extremes of temperature."

                                                                                                                                              http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?tag=winemaking&paged=2

                                                                                                                                              "At night, or at low temperatures, excess imported malic acid is transformed to glucose by gluconeogenesis. This is one of the reasons why regions with high diurnal temperature variation produce higher quality grapes."

                                                                                                                                              http://enology.umn.edu/2011/07/29/veraison/

                                                                                                                                              "By increasing night temperature and also decreasing day temperature (reducing the daily temperature swing), grape berries matured more quickly. Although temperatures were changed by more than 10 degrees, the production of tannins was not changed."

                                                                                                                                              http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publ...

                                                                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                                                                              1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                Robert Lauriston Jan 11, 2013 12:13 PM

                                                                                                                                                What I take from the quotes I posted and other things I've read on the subject is that diurnal temperature variation has complex effects that can result in higher or lower Brix at phenolic maturity depending on other factors.

                                                                                                                                                I replied to my original post because when replies get nested more than four deep it becomes hard to tell which post is a reply to which.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                                  z
                                                                                                                                                  zin1953 Jan 11, 2013 12:32 PM

                                                                                                                                                  (Let's try this again, without the part where the Chowhound Moderators told me it wasn't nice to chastise you for replying to your own posts, instead of in the conversational flow of things.)

                                                                                                                                                  I shall attempt to respond to what I *think* you're trying to say . . . but, before I begin, can I just say you do yourself a great disservice by QUOTING OUT OF CONTEXT . . .

                                                                                                                                                  "Warmer night temperatures allow for better fruit maturation despite the cooler daytime temperatures."

                                                                                                                                                  http://www.andrewwill.com/home/sites/aww/files/pdf/Two%20Blondes%20Weather%20Report%20-%202011.pdf <<<

                                                                                                                                                  Now, if you actually read all 20 pages of "2011 Vintage Weather Summary for Two Blondes Vineyard," by Mark Greenspan, Ph.D., of Advanced Viticulture, Inc. -- www.advancedvit.com -- you might find that a more appropriate quote from the very same article might be:

                                                                                                                                                  "Dips in night temperature from time-to-time can also retard flavor ripening, causing flavor maturity to occur at higher brix levels." (pages 8 and 9)

                                                                                                                                                  OR

                                                                                                                                                  "Comparing diurnal temperatures in 2005-2011 (Figure 9), the night temperatures were warmer in 2011 than they had been in past years by about 2-4°F." (page 9)

                                                                                                                                                  "The ripening temperature differences between the upper and lower vineyard locations is evident in the average diurnal temperature curves (Figure 10). It is clear to see that the top station experienced warmer temperatures during the nighttime as well as the daytime, typical of that seen in previous years. The effect is stronger for the nighttime temperatures." (page 12

                                                                                                                                                  )

                                                                                                                                                  ALSO (a propos of another discussion):

                                                                                                                                                  "This limited, but continually-growing data set suggests that there are sufficient heat summation units available to ripen all Bordeaux varieties. On average, the site receives about 3140 degree days F, putting it in a cool Region III on the Winkler scale. The lower portions of the vineyard receive about 155 fewer degree days than the upper portions, which may make ripening of the later-season varieties more difficult, but still possible, as slightly warm night temperatures allow for 'night ripening' of fruit."

                                                                                                                                                  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                                                                                                                                  I have neither the time nor the inclination to go through your other citations, but considering the one I've referenced above, and others I've referenced previously when an "incorrect" conclusion or "out-of-context" quotation was employed, I also see little reason to.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 11, 2013 12:43 PM

                                                                                                                                                    "Dips in night temperature from time-to-time can also retard flavor ripening, causing flavor maturity to occur at higher brix levels."

                                                                                                                                                    Right, and on the other hand, marria lorraine says *warmer* nighttime temperatures in Napa Valley are one of the causes of higher Brix levels at phenolic ripeness.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                                                                                                                                      z
                                                                                                                                                      zin1953 Jan 11, 2013 06:21 PM

                                                                                                                                                      Robert?

                                                                                                                                                      Why do you view those two statements as mutually exclusive?

                                                                                                                                                      Let's try this again, and welcome to the Real World.

                                                                                                                                                      When the temperature drops below a certain level, the grapes shut down, and all processes stop. This happens during cool(er) nights. It takes longer "hang time" for the grapes to develop flavors, and there is the ***opportunity*** for higher sugar levels to develop as the flavor development slowly reaches maturation.

                                                                                                                                                      During warm nights, sugar will continue to increase, but NOT flavor development. Thus, by the time the flavors DO mature, guess what? The grapes are already "über-high" in Brix.

                                                                                                                                                      Everything is site specific, and -- I have no doubt -- varies with the cultivars involved. That said, I was never trained as a viticulturist -- I have lots of friends who are -- but not me. And the one thing that EVERY grower (and every winemaker) will tell you is that no two years are identical.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: zin1953
                                                                                                                                                        Robert Lauriston Jan 12, 2013 11:44 AM

                                                                                                                                                        There's no need to repeat that argument, I get it. This paper goes into great detail about the results of artificially altering diurnal temperature variation in controlled conditions and finds that a narrower range results in higher Brix at phenolic ripeness:

                                                                                                                                                        http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/48218/PDF

                                                                                                                                                        On the other hand, this describes an opposite effect:

                                                                                                                                                        "At night, or at low temperatures, excess imported malic acid is transformed to glucose by gluconeogenesis. This is one of the reasons why regions with high diurnal temperature variation produce higher quality grapes."

                                                                                                                                                        http://enology.umn.edu/2011/07/29/ver...

                                                                                                                                                        These are not mutually exclusive, they just complicate matters and indicate the extent to which this is new territory for enologists requiring further study.

                                                                                                                                                        As the introduction to the first paper says, "it is important to improve our understanding of the effect of day and night temperatures as well as variations in the diurnal temperature range on the metabolism of secondary metabolites in grapes. This would allow grape growers and winemakers to be well equipped when faced with cultivation decisions in the years ahead."

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