The University of Toronto and the Georgian National Museum have uncovered evidence of what is now considered the earliest winemaking anywhere in the world. The discovery dates the origin of winemaking to the Neolithic period around 6000 BC. That’s 600 to 1000 years, earlier than the previous discovery made in the Zagros Mountains of Iran.

Click here to find out how chemical techniques detected “the fingerprint of winemaking.”

 

jar

(photo by Judyta Olszewski)

Since a 2010 discovery of a winery in Armenia near the village of Areni, it is known that winemaking dates as far back as 6,100 years. Mesopotamia has also been considered to be one of the earliest winemaking regions. Now researchers have discovered traces of wine in terracotta jars in a Sicilian cave dating back to the fourth millennia BC, which is also about 6000 years ago.  That means Italians have been making and drinking wine much longer than previously thought, which was suspected to be the first millennia BC. With this recent discovery some historians argue winemaking could go back as far as 10,000 years. It didn’t take long for early humans to craft the elixir of the Gods, did it?

 

This is an image from the Armenian discovery released with the UCLA/National Geographic press announcement. The ancient-winery study was led by UCLA’s Hans Barnard and partially funded by the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration.(Photo credit: Gregory Areshian)

 

In celebration of the upcoming National Pinot Noir Day, on August 18th, here’s some Pinot trivia for you.

What inspired the French to call a grape variety Pinot Noir? You might know that noir means “black” in French, but what does pinot mean?

The pinot noir grapes are smaller and come in tight clusters. To the French centuries ago it looked very much like a pine cone. Since the grapes are darker than other varieties the word black was also attributed to them. Hence the name Pinot Noir.  I guess they could have gone with Pinot Cône Noir, which does roll nicely off the tongue, but Pinot Noir is sufficient.

 

Pinot Noir cluster

Whole cluster Pinot Noir in the bin following sorting during the 2015 harvest, Russian River Valley

Have you come across crystals on your wine bottle or cork?  Is that a problem? Not at all.  Wine diamonds, as they’re sometimes called, are tartrates that are formed when potassium or calcium and tartaric acid bind together to form crystals. Both are naturally occurring products of wine grapes and you may know potassium bitartrate as cream of tartar. They are little gems that are often a result of handcrafted wine.

wine crystals

Here’s something interesting from Wine Spectator. In 2016, for the first time, investments in fine wine outpaced classic cars. To be clear, more money is spent on classic cars, about twice that of wine, but last year investments in wine were nearly triple that of classic cars. Investments grew considerably for Bordeaux wine and investors are also very interested in Northern Italy wines, specifically the Piedmonte region. If you have bundles of cash at your disposal fine wine is an investment to consider.

motorcar

Here are some things you may not know about Prosecco, the rival to champagne. It’s history goes back over 2,000 years. Pliny the Elder once referenced its benefits to a long life. Prosecco is made primarily with the Glera grape but others whites like Chardonnay & Pinto Grigio may be included. It’s popularity grew during the post recession because it’s less expensive than champagne and is just as refreshing. And it does hail from a town named Prosecco in Italy, formerly known as Puccino.

prosecoo

We Americans are continuing to consume wine at a greater pace as each year goes by. We are the highest wine consuming country by volume, drinking 341.5 million cases in 2016. Considering the size of our country that’s no surprise. That figure is expected to rise nearly 5% by 2020, to 358.3 million cases. However, our dominance may come to an end as I just read China is expected to grow faster and surpass us as the world’s largest consumer.

Americans

These days borders seem to be getting stronger rather than coming down but many of us still prefer the pleasures of travel, and meeting those who travel here to enjoy our wine country lifestyle. Thanks to VinePair.com for coming up with a list of how to say “cheers” in 30 different languages, pronunciations included. Pour yourself a glass and get studying!

Afrikaans – Gesondheid (Geh-soond-hate)
Albanian – Gëzuar (Geh-zoo-ah)
Arabic – في صحتك – (Fi-sih-tik)
Bosnian – Živjeli (Zee-veh-lee)
Chinese (Mandarin) – 干杯 (Gan-bay)
Croatian – Živjeli (Zee-veh-lee)
Czech – Na zdravi (Naz-drah-vee)
Dutch – Proost (Proost)
Filipino – Mabuhay (Ma-boo-hay)
Finnish – Kippis (Kipp-iss)
French – Santé (Sahn-tay)
German – Prost (Prost)
Greek – ΥΓΕΙΑ (Yah-mahs)
Hebrew – לחיים (Luh-kai-um)
Hungarian – Egészségedre (Eg-esh ay-ged-ruh)
Icelandic – Skál (Skowl)
Irish (Gaelic) – Sláinte (Slawn-chuh)
Italian – Salute (Sah-loo-tay)
Japanese – 乾杯 (Kan-pi)
Korean – 건배 (Gun-bay)
Norwegian – Skål (Skowl)
Polish – Na zdrowie (Nahz-droh-vee-ay)
Portuguese – Saúde (Sow-ood-uh)
Russian – Будем здоровы (Boo-dem Zdor-oh-vee)
Slovak – Na zdravie (Nahz-droh-vee-ay)
Spanish – Salud (Sah-lood)
Swedish – Skål (Skowl)
Thai – ไชโย (Chon-gow)
Turkish – Şerefe (Sher-if-fay)
Vietnamese – Dô (Djo)

Which grape can make a white, rose, red and sparkling wine?  Think about that before you read further.

 

If you guessed Pinot Noir  you are correct. You get Pinot Noir Blanc when you remove the juice from the skins immediately after pressing. As with all red grape varietals the skin give Pinot its color. Rose of Pinot Noir sits on the skins from 10 to 24 hours or so to get that rosy color. Red Pinot Noir has full contact on the skins during fermentation.  And you may know that Pinot Noir is one of the main grapes in sparkling wine and champagne, along with Chardonnay and occasionally Pinot Meunier. The sparkling Blanc de Noirs, is typically 100% Pinot Noir removed from the skins and made in the sparkling wine style.  You gotta love the versatility of Pinot Noir!

 

Wine Uncorked

 

Do you prefer cork sealed bottles of wine? Most do.

With more premium wineries trying screw capped bottles, a recent 6 year study ending in June 2016 showed that people are still willing to spend over $3 more per bottle for a cork closure than alternative closures. Also, bottles with cork saw a 42% increase in sales during that period while alternative closures only rose 13%. That’s a significant difference. The perception is cork suggests a guarantee of quality, a natural and environmentally friendly closure, and adds to the wine experience. And hey, it’s hard to buck tradition and nostalgia.

Wine Uncorked

Would you believe me if I said Mexico’s wine industry is growing? OK, that’s not so hard to believe because the wine industry is expanding everywhere. What if I told you the oldest winery in the Americas is in Mexico? It’s true, Casa Madero in the Parras de la Fuente valley in the state of Coahuila next to the Texas border. But this is what I found most interesting, Mexican wines are becoming popular in Canada. Sauvignon blanc, Merlot, Cabernet and Tempranillo are the most common.

Here’s good news concerning teenage drinking. A report compiled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the University of Michigan are reporting that drinking rates among 13-18 year olds have sunk to its lowest levels in twenty-five years. The key to bringing alcohol drinking level down in children was in educating parents and other adults about the consequences of providing alcohol to teens. Both monthly and annual alcohol use in 8th, 10th and 12th grades declined in 2016 which contributed to the lowest levels since 1991. That’s great to hear.

For more details on the report click here.

Photo compliments of The Drinks Business

Not necessarily.

If you think about it chocolate with Cabs, Zins and Pinot is not a good pairing. The tannins in wine do not play nicely with the bitterness of chocolate. You’d be better off saving that chocolate for sweeter wine like a Port, late harvest or red dessert wines. Another option is Lambrusco, the Italian sparkling red wine which is also slightly sweet. Give it a try and see if you agree.

Here’s more good news concerning the health benefits from red wine. A recent study led by researchers at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute has found evidence that resveratrol, a polyphenol antioxident found in grape skins, berries and other foods, can protect neural connections in the brain and muscle fibers from the adverse effects of aging.

For example, Neuromuscular Junctions are utilized when you brain tells your arm to lift a glass. Those junctions between cells degrade with age. Now it seems resveratrol can slow the degeneration process allowing you to have more opportunities to lift that glass.

To get the study details click here.

How have our drinking habits changed? According to BeverageDaily.com beer still tops the alcohol choice as the favorite of 38% of Americans. 31% of us prefer wine and 28% love their spirits or liquor. But wine drinkers today had a different favorite 10 years ago. 26% of today’s wine drinkers preferred spirits, 21% preferred beer.  Americans will continue to drink beer, as I still do, but preferences for wine as the favorite are growing.

     

Here’s an interesting stat. There are now over 11,000 wineries in the U.S., 11,095 to be exact.  98% of them are considered small wineries, producing less than 250,000 gallons annually. Of course California has the most wineries followed by Washington and Oregon. Texas added the most in 2016 with an increase of nearly 13 percent. That’s three times as much as the national increase of 4.3 percent.

On a side note E&J Gallo continue to dominate as the country’s largest producer with 75 million cases sold last year.

Here are three elements that lend to our enjoyment of wine.

Acidity – It’s a vital component helping the wine to taste fresh as well as preserving it. White wines with higher acidity usually age better than those with low.

Sweetness –  Sometimes there is residual sugar in wine, but there is also sweetness from the fruit. There may be no residual sugar but it may taste sweet from the fruit. Also, alcohol can add a certain sweetness to wine.

Bitterness and Astringency – Tannins are typically sensed by touch but tannins can also be sensed as bitter by the bitter receptors in the tongue.

When tannins, sweetness and acids are balanced in a harmonious way, according to your palate, then you have a lovely wine!

Now, the facts of cork. It’s harvested, primarily, from the bark tissue of the cork oak. A cork tree is first harvested at about age twenty-five years. Subsequent harvests occur once every nine years for a total of about fifteen harvests. That suggests cork trees live at least 135 years, some up to 200 years. Portugal is the main source of cork.

cork-tree-with-manBut did you know…

To remove the cork from a bottle it takes about 50 to 100 pounds of pulling force. Does that make you feel stronger? By the way, cork is recyclable. A cork’s afterlife can be found in:

  • Flooring tiles
  • Building insulation
  • Automotive gaskets
  • Craft materials
  • Soil conditioner
  • Sports equipment

Let’s keep them out of landfills. Many wineries collect them or you can search for organizations that help our environment like CorkClub.com.

Terroir is derived from the French word “terre,” meaning land.  In viticulture it describes the unique aspects of a vineyard; climate, sun exposure, soil type, topograpy, etc.  The vineyard’s terroir adds to the character of the grapes grown in that particular place. It’s especially important in single vineyard (or vineyard designate) wines. They reflect the “taste of place” and some can be exceptional, thanks in part to the terroir.

van-der-kamp-new

The Van Der Kamp vineyard on Sonoma Mountain

The Swiss spend just over $492 per person on wine every year, reports MoveHub. The main reason is the price of wine is a few dollars more than other European countries. As far as consumption is concerned the Swiss are the 6th biggest global consumers of wine per capita drinking the equivalent of 53 bottles per year. That’s behind the French in 4th place but well above Germany (16th) and Spain (30th). The U.S. is also far behind at just 10 1/4 bottles consumed per year per capita. The Vatican continues to top the list drinking just over 72 bottles of wine each year. Think of all the visiting dignitaries and sacramental wine consumed in an area less than a square mile.

Money