Low yields and wine quality

July 28th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

It has been a while since I’ve written about this subject, but it’s worth writing about it again. What brought me back to the subject was an article on Palate Press by Blake Gray on the subject. It can be found at,

http://palatepress.com/2014/07/wine/lower-yields-mean-higher-quality/

While I pretty much agree with the conclusion Gray reaches, which is that the idea that lower yields translate into higher quality is a myth, I do have some pretty serious reservations about the method he uses. As I understand it, he basically takes some pretty broad brush statistics available to determine yield for the grapes which went into certain wines and then compares them to the prices of those wines on the secondary market. If the lower yield equates to higher quality thesis holds true, then, he reasons, you should see the prices higher for the lower yield wines. In fact, you see the opposite, although to a relatively slight degree.

I guess I can go along with Gray to the limited extent of saying that if lower yields had a clear and dramatic correlation with higher quality, then you would probably expect to see a dramatic increase in prices where yields were lower. Since you don’t, the thesis does not hold.

Of course, you don’t need a PhD in statistics to see that the methodology is broadbrush, to say the least.

But I do think you can get to pretty much the same place in a far more direct way.

When you are growing a grapevine, what you are looking for is balance between vegetative growth (shoots and leaves) and grapes. While there are various tests that people apply to determine when you achieve that balance, personally, I don’t think which one you choose is all that important, because the grapevine will produce high-quality fruit in a reasonably broad range of “balance”.

One test which is very easy to apply because of its simplicity is to aim for shoots that are in the neighborhood of 4 feet long. Why do you look at the shoots and not the grapes? Because the amount of fruit that you allow to hang largely determines how much vegetative growth you going to end up getting. And while you have some degree of control over vegetative growth by the amount of fruit you allowed to hang, there is no converse control that you have over the amount of fruit you produce by controlling for the amount of vegetative growth. So if you hang an amount of fruit that gives you four foot shoots, you’re not going to be very far off from optimal.

If you hang less fruit than that, you’re going to get more vegetative growth, which is going to lead to not just less fruit, but more shaded fruit, and often fruit that, contrary to what the proponents of low yield content, that gets less, not more, of the resources of the plant. Why? Because those resources are instead going to vegetative growth instead of fruit ripening.

It’s a nice idea that you can hang less fruit and expect that the vine will accommodatingly produce the same amount of food in the form of carbohydrates and direct it all towards the lesser amount of fruit, with the result that that fruit gets a megadose of nutrients, and therefore produces the Superman equivalent of fruit. But it just doesn’t happen that way.

One thing that Gray’s analysis does not take into account is that higher yields translating into better quality only works up to the point of optimal fruit quality. As you hang more and more fruit, the vine does not produce enough leafage to ripen the over abundance of fruit, and you get lower quality fruit. So it’s not a simple higher or lower yield, but the right yield.

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Good Reads Wednesday

July 23rd, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

Every Wednesday I post my recommendations of the best of last week’s postings concerning wine, whether blogs or news. I list them in the order I read them, so you shouldn’t infer anything about the order in which I list these posts.

What it Takes to Grow the Direct To Consumer Wine Channel

Fermentation

http://fermentationwineblog.com/2014/07/takes-grow-direct-consumer-wine-channel/

Wark’s suggestions on what would really help direct to consumer sales.

Terroir vs. personal preference: the critic’s dilemma?

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/07/15/terroir-vs-personal-preference-the-critics-dilemma/#sthash.56wdpnNQ.dpuf

I guess I more or less agree with Heimoff on this, but my overarching reaction is total exhaustion at yet another reiteration of the same issues that frame the whole issue of what makes for a good wine in a way that makes no sense whatsoever.

Wine scores and reviews: those who write them and those who need them

Wine Blog

http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2014/07/17/wine-scores-reviews-write-need/

This is a repost from 2006, but still totally relevant. It touches a lot of bases including how different tasters react differently to the same wine, as well as the difficulty of being a wine writer in general.

What Jane Goodall taught me about wine science

Erika Szymanski

http://palatepress.com/2014/07/wine/jane-goodall-taught-wine-science/

An interesting contemplation (for lack of a better word) on the low-tech things that make for good science as well as good winemaking. I don’t know if I agree with any of it, but I don’t know if I disagree with any of it either.

Another study agrees: We buy wine on price

Wine Curmudgeon

http://winecurmudgeon.com/another-study-agrees-we-buy-wine-on-price/

This title is a little misleading. It’s true that the largest single group is largely price conscious above other considerations, but there are plenty of others who gravitate in other directions. Nonetheless, this post is well worth reading.

For keeping up to date with what’s going on the in wine world, the best all around source is http://winebusiness.com.

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Finally open

July 21st, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

The day that I thought would never come actually came a week ago Saturday. That was the day that we opened for business and had our first customer. It was a very soft opening because we really didn’t know whether everything that we had put in place would work, and we certainly didn’t want to have a bunch of people and a major foul up at the same time.

So all we did was put up an open sign. I was not expecting very many people, but even so Saturday was quite a disappointment. Three people showed up.

But Sunday was quite a bit better, with maybe 20 people coming through the door. I didn’t keep count of what percentage of people bought, but it had to have been north of 80%, so we were pleased by that.

We are still trying to figure out what hours makes sense for us. As an experiment, I tried staying open late Wednesday afternoon, but it was a bust. I’ll probably retry that experiment when we do more to publicize our existence, but at this point I have no plans to repeat that experiment in the next few weeks.

Yesterday, Friday, we tried opening again and didn’t get as many customers as we did on Sunday, but sold nearly as much, so that was heartening.

It is unbelievable, however, how much time you spend on the most mundane of things. We have twice scheduled delivery of a number of pallets of wine, and we still don’t have them. We ended up picking up enough to get by with our pickup trucks, but we are still waiting for our major delivery.

The first trucking company flaked out on us at the last minute. Just decided that they weren’t interested in the pickup we had scheduled the week before. No real excuse except that they got busy with more established customers.

The second trucker showed up at the warehouse. The trucker said the warehouse knew nothing about them. The warehouse said that the trucker knew that they needed to schedule a pickup before hand, and not just show up unannounced, and that the product was waiting on the loading dock. The one person who could have actually figured it all out happened be on lunch at the time, so, bottom line, the trucker left, and we did not get our wine. And, of course, when the trucker ran into problems, instead of calling the phone number that I given him he called my home number where, of course, I wasn’t, since I’d gone to the winery to receive the shipment. And all this time I was frantically trying to get a hold of anyone and only reaching voicemail. So it was not a good day, to say the lease.

ln the end, it really doesn’t matter. The trucker and the warehouse can trade barbs til hell freezes over, but we are the ones that are still sitting here waiting for our shipment.

So at this point I have spent countless hours picking up wine in my pickup truck, contacting what at this point has to be a dozen truckers trying to arrange shipment, when what I really need to be doing is focusing on getting the word out that we are here and open. So that is as frustrating as it could be.

But, at least, we are open. And so for that, at least, I am thankful.

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Good Reads Wednesday

July 16th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

Every Wednesday I post my recommendations of the best of last week’s postings concerning wine, whether blogs or news. I list them in the order I read them, so you shouldn’t infer anything about the order in which I list these posts.

I have been crazy busy this last week, which led me to miss this Monday’s post altogether. Sorry about that, and hopefully that dereliction will not recur.

3 Secrets of Successful Wine Social Media

by Liz Thach, Terry Lease, Gergely Szolnoki & Carsten Hoffmann

http://www.winebusiness.com/news/?go=getArticle&dataid=135492

The subject of this study is the use of social media to increase wine sales. Clearly, respondents to the survey believe social media works. However, since these results are based upon self reporting without any objective backup, they have to be considered somewhat suspect. Nonetheless, it is some evidence that social media actually works.

I love natural wine, but…

jamie goode’s wine blog

http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/natural-wine/i-love-natural-wine-but

Goode believes that any wine that fits this definition should be considered natural:

Organic/biodynamic viticulture
No added yeasts
No added acidity
No sulfur dioxide additions, except a bit at bottling if needed
No filtration

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time believing that very many wines really meet this test. Nor should they. While I certainly subscribe to the notion that interventions should be kept to a minimum, I think it was Einstein who said that explanations of things should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler. I think the same thing applies here. While interventions should be kept to the minimum possible, they should not be go any lower than that.

For keeping up to date with what’s going on the in wine world, the best all around source is http://winebusiness.com.

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Good Reads Wednesday

July 9th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

Every Wednesday I post my recommendations of the best of last week’s postings concerning wine, whether blogs or news. I list them in the order I read them, so you shouldn’t infer anything about the order in which I list these posts.

It took me about 5 minutes to go through everything and find nothing worth recommending. Sorry.

For keeping up to date with what’s going on the in wine world, the best all around source is http://winebusiness.com.

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