Take a tour of La Cité du Vin

By: Kathy Kelley

Just a few months ago, On June 1, La Cité du Vin (City of Wine), a.k.a. “the world’s first wine theme park” and “a Guggenheim for grape lovers” (http://bit.ly/1qKzP1h) welcomed its first visitors. I was able to visit this amazing facility at the end of June as part of the 10th Annual American Association of Wine Economists’ Conference that took place in Bordeaux, France (http://www.wine-economics.org).  Just as I provided a bit of information about last year’s visit to the Brotte Wine Museum, Chateauneuf du Pape, France (http://bit.ly/2c325uQ), I wanted to share some images  from my La Cité du Vin visit with our readers.

The impressive structure resides along the Garonne River and took three years to complete and cost approximately 91.5 million U.S. dollars (excluding Value Added Tax, http://bit.ly/2cavUJU).  According to the architects, the design reflects “a space shaped by symbols of identify: gnarled vine stock, wine swirling in a glass, eddies on the Garonne.  Every detail of the architecture evokes wine’s soul and liquid nature” (http://bit.ly/2bcpEB9).  Even from a great distance it is fairly easy to navigate to the building as it shimmers in the sunlight.

Screenshot 2016-08-23 10.22.15

Click on the following URL to see an aerial view of the structure: http://bit.ly/2be9ep6

As I’m sure you can imagine, our group of 100+ was anxious to get inside and explore.  As soon at the doors opened at 9:30 a.m. (the entrance time that was booked for us) little time was wasted before we climbed a flight of stairs to the permanent exhibit.

Though tickets (approx. $22) are sold with entrance times on the hour and half hour, there is no limit as to how long visitors can spend in the permanent exhibit.  Because of our group’s schedule for the afternoon (which consisted of a winery tour and tasting and a visit to Saint Emilion, a small town in the region), we had approximately one and a half hours to explore.  With so much to see and since many displays are interactive – we could have easily spent half a day or more in La Cité du Vin.  With a restaurant and café on site – we could have probably spent the entire day.  What I describe below is just a portion of what we saw during or short time in the permanent exhibit.

Learning about some of the basics

One of the first displays that we visited was called e-vine.  The handheld audio device that we received at the exhibit’s entrance allowed us to scan codes on the display and learn about topics such as biodiversity and specific grape varieties.  For example, by scanning the code on the Viognier leaf I could either listen to a narrator talk about the grape, aromas, wines made from the grape, main producing countries, and similar or read the text that appeared on my device’s screen.

Screenshot 2016-08-23 08.52.17

Wine portraits: The six major wine families

Other displays in La Cité du Vin also had this level (or greater) degree of interactivity. After entering the wine portraits display (below), we were encouraged to enter one of six bottle-shaped booths, each focusing on one of the “six major families” (http://bit.ly/2bt2moE): dry white, red, rosé, sparkling, fortified, and sweet.

I first chose the sparkling display.  By touching the screen I could make “bubbles” and pull up a menu of related topics that included production methods, economic importance, history, and sensory characteristics.

Screenshot 2016-08-23 09.06.59

A tête-à-tête with wine experts & testing my wine knowledge

Imagine being able to have a one-on-one (sort of) with some of the world’s most renowned wine experts. During my visit, I had the opportunity to learn from Olivier Poussier (winner, world’s best sommelier, 2000) about the intricacies of wine.  While he did all of the talking, it was a pretty interesting way of learning about his thoughts and his approach to enjoying wine.

I also got the chance to test my wine knowledge.  After selecting one of the four levels of difficulty, ranging from young audiences to expert, I answered 10 true/false and multiple choice questions.  Again, an interesting and interactive way to learn about wine.

Screenshot 2016-08-19 13.40.45

“The Buffet of the 5 Senses”

Anyone visiting the La Cité du Vin would expect a display or two on the senses and wine, thus “The Buffet of the 5 Senses” exhibit.  Do you want to really experience the aromas of what can be detected in wine?  This can be achieved by leaning into a funnel connected to a bell jar that is filled with lemons/lemon oils, honey combs, etc.  By simultaneously pumping a black rubber squeeze bulb and breaking in through the nose – visitors can experience the pure essence of these and other “everyday smells” such as pencil shavings and mint.

Screenshot 2016-08-19 16.57.02

How important is wine to cultures and economies? 

Interested in learning about how wine economies across the globe differ?  Perhaps you are even interested in learning about how wine has impacted culture and how the industries have evolved in old and new world wine countries.  Or, perhaps you would like a refresher on how climate impacts what grape varieties are grown in different regions and where they originated.  In the worlds of wine display visitors can spin different globes and learn about these topics specific to various regions and/or countries.  The corresponding information is then projected on the screen attached to the globe.

By spinning the wine and economy globe and positioning the screen in front of western Europe – I could see symbols that represent the extent to which the wine industry impacts each country’s economy.

Screenshot 2016-08-19 17.11.41

How Bordeaux has changed over time 

Not only do visits learn specifically about wine, but how Bordeaux has changed in appearance, size, and purpose since the Middle Ages.  In essence, “how a great commercial port gave birth to a land of mythical wine” (http://bit.ly/2bzwoZe).

In the “Bordeaux: the city and its wine” display, visitors can place one of the four different chess-piece like figurines, each representing a specific period in time, on the interactive board.  A series of corresponding digital images and text then appears on the screen above.  For example, by placing the figurine that corresponds to the medieval period (that I have circled in red, see image below) on one of the white circles on the interactive board (at the point of the red arrow) I was able to explore the city as it would have appeared prior to the 16th century, including the port of Tropeyte, which (as you might guess), wine was “the main export product” (https://nda.revues.org/2577#tocto1n2).

Screenshot 2016-08-23 10.10.53

A tasting and a view

How else could you end a tour of this much anticipated, experiential wine theme park?  With a wine tasting of course.  The entrance fee includes a tasting of one wine or, for those who don’t imbibe or children, grape juice.  Never had the chance to try Chinese, Croatian, or Greek wine?  You can taste one of these at the Belvedere – a tasting room 115 feet above street level.

Though wine glasses are not allowed on the deck surrounding the tasting room, visitors can enjoy a nearly 360 degree view of the Garonne River and the surrounding cityscape.

Screenshot 2016-08-19 18.06.43

Plenty of souvenirs available to commemorate a visit

Just as you might pick up a souvenir at a traditional theme park, there are plenty of items for purchase at  La Cité du Vin.  In addition to the tradition gift shop and the types of items you might expect to find, visitors can walk through Latitude20 and view more than 800 wines  with selections from Syria, Ethiopia, Namibia, Peru, Bali, and Tahit.  If buying a bottle doesn’t appeal, there are 50 wines that are sold by the glass.

Screenshot 2016-08-19 17.45.53

Again, that is just a portion of what you will find when you visit La Cité du Vin.  Just like visiting a theme park – visitors would benefit from planning their day in advance.  To prepare for your visit, click on the link to La Cité du Vin: http://www.laciteduvin.com/en.  In addition, the following article published by the Decanter provides information on traveling to Bordeaux, finding the La Cité du Vin, and a helpful presentation of the floor plan: http://bit.ly/2bfEVeC.

Vineyard Investment: Observations and Recommendations

By: Kevin Martin, Penn State Extension Educator

The following article illustrates the business cycle of the juice grape market.  Long-term demand for juice has been stagnant.  Long-term demand for boutique and local wine has been growing slowly.  At the moment the U.S. wine industry is hitting its stride and in a very different stage of the price cycle.  In fact, the U.S. wine industry is providing an important buffer to juice grape growers, which are finding more and more of their commodity being used in fermented and craft beverages.

Despite the differences in trends and the business cycle wine grapes remain a global economic market subject to a similar business cycle.  Small growers and value added growers will remain somewhat isolated from macroeconomic trends but will likely still see some exposure to these risks.  The following observations illustrate the importance of using working capital when prices are relatively higher to prepare an agricultural operation for periods of declining prices.

Current juice grape markets also directly impact the actual price of some native grape varieties as well as the relative value of hybrid grape varieties.  Growth in the wine industry is driving an increase in the price of acid, relative to the price of sugar.  While brix previously defined commodity value, earlier harvest dates allow juice to be utilized to support newer trends in wine production.  We are now seeing a shortage of acid in the market and a shift of actual acreage and production toward fulfilling that need.

As Lake Erie vineyard owners move through this grape market cycle, observing the various strategies employed to position the operations for future continued success is both interesting and informative.  While bulk prices have fallen by 60% from peak, farm gate value of Concords with markets has fallen between 20% and 60%.  While there is no average grower, the weighted average decline in farm gate value is 30%.

Growers entering the period of price decline in varying financial positions.  As a result, we are seeing varying strategies on operations.  Equipment investments are almost holding steady.  Primarily the focus has been on mechanization and renewal of depleted assets.  Many of these investments are sometimes less than optimal for the vineyard but they remain evidence of strong farm finances thus far.  Controlling capital expenses can improve financial efficiency, unless the investments provide significant improvements in operational efficiency.  That being said, it does indicate that some growers remain in a position of relative strength.

As markets were disrupted by marketing contract cancellations and reductions, we are seeing an increase in the growth of average farm size.  These investments make a great deal more sense.  The increase in farm size usually shows a decrease in the amount of capital per acre.  Over the long-term these investments, when priced correctly, should provide positive returns for these growers.  The main concern in increasing business size during a commodity price trough is planning cash flow for the entire length of the recovery.

In prior cycles we have seen this work out to varying levels of success.  With credit now tightening a bit growers that over extend themselves sometimes rely on reducing production costs in an attempt to weather the storm.  Sometimes in a dry year like this, there is money to be saved on spray applications.  Overall, though, consistent and forced frugality based on available finances tends to lead to vineyard decline.  In a business where maximum production is highly correlated with maximum gross profit, this can undermine a business plan that justifies a mortgage very quickly.

On the other side of things, growers that have the financial resources and make conservative yield and price estimates tend to do well.  For instance, if a grower can make a land purchase work operating under the assumption of 85% of historical yields at current prices for 5 years, that grower is in a sustainable position to survive under some of the greatest historical challenges the industry has faced.  His risk would be a challenge of unprecedented proportions based on a new normal, rather than historical information.

We are seeing some growing pains as the number of vineyard operators managing more than 300 acres is growing very quickly.  Despite multi-row equipment, new harvesters, and innovative strategies at these sizes full-time laborer(s) are a new normal.  Traditionally the growth of acreage has not outstripped the pace of technological innovation.  Now we are seeing a dramatic increase in paid labor costs between May and August.  This was a period in time when only the largest growers hired help.  Now, we have a significant number of 100 – 200 acre growers finding a need for full time labor.  Those growers are no longer the largest growers in the industry.

At 200 acres a farm can justify some year-round paid labor.  With the average age of growers very close to social security early retirement age, I don’t see outside labor putting an undue strain on farms if kept to a minimum and managed well.  There’s the rub, of course.  Growers typically specialize in growing, not managing a workforce.  Farms less than 175 acres also require year round labor that should likely total less than full-time, unless the grower owner is above retirement age.

One real struggle with full-time labor management will be the balance of a growers’ ability to pay as compared with the workers’ ability to find opportunities elsewhere.  The trend of increasing paid labor during the growing season began during the 2007 downturn, when local unemployment got very close to double digits.  Contrast that with today, a market with declining unemployment, increasing wages and low grape prices.

A typical model is about one FTE per 100 acres of grapes, minus the first 100 acres.  So a typical grower would have 1 FTE on a 200-acre farm or 2 FTE on a 300-acre farm.  All of the labor is not new.  Typically, year round labor does replace many of the functions and services traditionally provided by seasonal and temporary work.  Even so, as a point of reference, every dollar of wage increase is an additional cost of three cents per vine or $20 per acre.

Growing a farm from 100 acres to 200 will require the development of some labor management skills.  Effectively using and managing hired help and delegating tasks will increase the efficiency of hired labor to allow for adequate compensation and the relative growth of farm profitability.

For some perspective on justifying the cost of labor to increase farm size, we only need to look as far as capital and depreciation.  A 100-acre grower would usually see a decline in depreciation from over $300 per acre to $200 per acre by doubling farm size.  Furthermore, the capital invested in the farm, on a per acre basis would also decline.  Capital investment would decline from $7,250 to $6,500.

The decline in depreciation and capital investment are operating on many of assumptions but those assumptions are based on typical farms we observe.  A relatively frugal farm would have relatively lower expenses.  A farmer with newer and more advanced equipment would have higher expenses.  Generally speaking, the relative savings is somewhat uniform.  More specifically, though, we should address the extremes.  A grower likely to over-invest in capital will be much more successful with a larger farm.  A grower that drifts toward being overly frugal will operate with more relative success on a smaller farm.  He will still improve efficiency by growing, but perhaps less so.  As an example, eventually the repair work on the Mecca harvester becomes cost prohibitive and represents a strategic risk for the business and its ability to harvest before processors close.

Despite the example above, generally speaking the grower that tends to be overly frugal on capital expenditures, but not operating costs, will likely be the most successful of all grower types as that grower expands his operation and remains flexible and open to strategic and important capital investments.

The strategic expansion of vineyards will continue to be a long-term trend.  For individual operations, expansions should be timed when cash-flow, resources and labor allows.  Growers with an ability to meet those criteria are the most likely to find expansion sustainable.  Given the current market climate, the ability of growers to take on significant acreage is surprising.  It does bode well for the long-term sustainability of the industry, as it appears most of these investments are likely sustainable.

Despite some recent indications that prices are rising very slightly, those trends are young and processor specific.  When planning out over the next 2 – 5 years, I do think it is fair to plan for relatively flat prices.  I don’t expect dramatic declines in price at this point.  Some upside, at some point, is inevitable.  Trying to determine exactly when that happens is impossible. I might expect higher prices in the next 5 years, but when planning for business operations I would not count on it.

Notes on the 2016 growing season and drought conditions

By: Dr. Michela Centinari

It is August already, which, for many grape growers in Pennsylvania, means veraison and the beginning of fruit ripening. It seems a good time to comment on the seasonal weather and how it can affect the vines. In July, above average temperatures were recorded in Pennsylvania [1], and drought conditions varied from ‘none’ to ‘severe drought’ across the state (Figure 1). The regions most affected by drought are North Central, Northwest, and some areas of Northeast PA [1].

Aug 2016_Michela_Fig 1 Drought Map

Figure 1. Map of drought intensity for Pennsylvania released on August 4, 2016 (http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu).

In Figures 2 and 3 I reported the cumulative growing degree days (GDDs) (April to July) and precipitation (March to July) recorded at the two Penn State research and extension stations located in the South Central (Biglerville, Adams County) and Northwest (North East, Erie County) part of the state (http://newa.cornell.edu/). I also included the 2014 and 2015 data so you can compare the heat accumulation (GDDs), precipitation patterns and amount this year with those of the two previous seasons.

When looking at figures 1, 2, and 3, please keep in mind that local weather conditions vary greatly, shower and thunderstorm activity was hit or miss across the state. It is indeed recommended that growers install a weather station at their site to carefully monitor weather conditions and assist with disease control programs.

Aug 2016_Michela_Fig 2 GGDs 2014 2015 2016

Figure 2. Cumulative growing degree days (GDDs) recorded from April to July 2014, 2015 and 2016 at the two Penn State research and extension stations.

Compared to 2014 and 2015, this growing season started with lower heat accumulation in some areas of Pennsylvania, such as the Northwest (Figure 2A) and South Central (figure 2B) regions.  Higher than average temperatures recorded in July however, pushed GDDs close to or above those of the same period last year. For example, in Erie County, cumulative GDDs were, by the end of July, above those accumulated in 2015 or 2104.  In South Central PA GDDs are reaching the 2015 values and they are above those accumulated in 2014 for the same period (April-July).

The hot temperatures recorded in July can accelerate fruit ripening [2]. For example, in Central Pennsylvania, Noiret (Vitis hybrid), which is not one of our earliest varieties, started to turn color last week (i.e., the first week of August), approximately 10 days earlier than last year.

While drought conditions have not been recorded in the Southeast and most of the Southwest regions, it has been dryer than average in the rest of Pennsylvania. For example, in North East (Erie County, Northwest) cumulative precipitation from March to July (13.6²) was 40% and 36% lower as compared to last year (22.6²) and two years ago (21.12²). In Biglerville (Adams County, South Central) cumulative precipitation from March to July (12.7²) was 33% and 31% lower as compared to last year (19.2²) and two years ago (18.4²).

Figure 3. Cumulative precipitation recorded from MArch to July 2014, 2015 and 2016 at the two the two Penn State research and extension stations.

Figure 3. Cumulative precipitation recorded from MArch to July 2014, 2015 and 2016 at the two the two Penn State research and extension stations.

Drought doesn’t always equal water stress

In- and across-season precipitation patterns in the eastern US are unpredictable.  In our humid climate, precipitation and the soil water reservoir are usually sufficient to meet (or exceed) vine water requirements through ripening. Even if a drought period occurs, its duration and severity are not usually sufficient to warrant concern about moderate or severe vine water stress. Growers do however need to be aware that non-irrigated grapevines in temperate climates can occasionally face water stress during drought periods in the growing season [3; 4].

Hot temperatures, like those recorded in July, increase evapotranspiration and how much water the vine needs. This could facilitate the occurrence of vine water stress in areas that have been experiencing persistent lack of rain. The risk of water stress, indeed, not only depends on the amount of soil water available (supply), but also on how fast this water is used by the vines (demand) [5].

Along with seasonal rainfall and winter soil moisture other factors affecting the amount of water available (water supply) to the vines are:

  • Soil water holding capacity which is determined by the soil textural properties: heavier soils (loam and clays) hold more water than light sands or gravels. For example, a unit volume of sandy-loam soil can hold about 50% as much water as a clay soil [5].
  • Soil depth: deep soil can hold a greater volume of moisture than shallow soil [6] allowing grapevines, in the absence of restrictive layers, to develop a more extensive and deeper root system which can access deep resources of water during drought periods.
  • Grapevine root system size and rooting depth:  In addition to soil characteristics, also the age of the vine will influence root system size and rooting depth. Young vines have restricted root systems and rooting volume for several years, thus they are more sensitive to water stress than mature vines with well-established root systems [5].
  • Presence of competitive plants, as green and actively growing cover crops and weeds in the middle-row and in-row areas.

Water demand is primarily driven by weather conditions (solar radiation, air temperature and humidity). For example, evaporation from an open pan under hot and dry weather (i.e., California) can be around 8-10 inches of water per month, whereas under cool and humid condition, typical of the northeast US can be less than 5 inches [5]. Also the amount of sun-exposed transpiring leaf area and crop load will affect the amount of water used by the vines [5]. For example vines trained to GDC or high-wire cordon tend to have greater sun-exposed leaf area that can capture more sunlight and use more water than those trained to vertical shoot positioning (VSP) [5]. Heavily cropped vine vines also require more water for fruit ripening than vines with a smaller crop [2].

Vine response to water stress varies with the severity of the stress and the timing of the season it develops

Growth processes (i.e., shoot growth, early berry growth) are more sensitive to water deficit than photosynthesis [7]. Therefore, a mild/slight water stress between fruit-set and veraison can favorably diminish vegetative growth and reduce berry growth leading to smaller berries with potentially higher skin to pulp ratio without compromising photosynthesis and carbohydrates/sugars production [7]. Under moderate to severe water stress conditions, however, photosynthetic activity is reduced possibly leading, early in the season, to poor canopy development and function. Later in the season (after veraison) a reduction in photosynthesis can decrease sugar accumulation in the berries with a negative effect on fruit ripening and flavor development. Further, a reduced storage of carbohydrates and other nutrients in perennial organs may occur. Thus, it is crucial to maintain a healthy and functional canopy after veraison to avoid negative effects on fruit or wine quality and cold hardiness. Furthermore, because after veraison, berry growth is quite resistant to water stress, a post-veraison water deficit is not as effective in reducing berry size as a pre-veraison one [5].

Growing up in Italy, I remember the old-world “wine dilution theory” that supported the idea that any irrigation after veraison would lead to an increase in berry size (due to water dilution) and a reduction in wine quality [8]. There was not strong scientific evidence, however, supporting this assumption. It was actually found that water doesn’t move into the berry after veraison due to complete or partial lost in xylem functionality [7] which proved that irrigating the vines after veraison doesn’t actually impact berry size [8]. Thus, nowadays it is recommended to avoid moderate to severe water stress after veraison to ensure vine health and proper ripening and flavor development.

Symptoms of vine water stress:

Since vines change in appearance under water stress conditions it is a good practice to walk through the vineyard and look for sign of water stress, starting with young vines. A comprehensive table that summarized visual symptoms of increasing water stress from mild to severe can be found in the “Wine grape production guide for eastern North America” (page 172)  and also available in the July issue of Viticulture Notes [2] edited by Tony Wolf, professor of viticulture at Virginia Tech University.

Below I summarized some of the visual indicators of vine water status, from ‘well-watered’ to ‘severe drought’ conditions [6]

Well-watered vines (Figure 4):

  • Shoot tips are actively elongating
  • Tendrils are turgid and expand well beyond the shoot tip
  • Leaves orientation: leaf blades are oriented toward the sun
  • Leaf color and temperature: canopy is green and healthy and leaves are cooler than our body temperature
  • Berries are turgid

Aug 2016_Michela_Fig 4 Well Watered Vines

Mild to moderate water-stressed vines:

  • Shoot tips are compressed and they are enclosed when the last formed leaves are pushed toward the growing tip (Figure 5A)
  • Tendrils are drooping or wilted
  • Leaf orientation: leaves are oriented away from the sun
  • Leaf color and temperature: leaves (starting from the basal leaves) are grayish-green to light-green and they are warm to touch at mid-day (> 100°F)
  • If it occurs around bloom/ fruit-set, berry-set may be reduced

Severe water-stressed vines:

  • Shoot growth has stopped and shoot tips are dry or aborted
  • Tendrils dried or abscised
  • Leaf orientation: leaves may roll and dry
  • Leaf color and temperature: leaves (starting from the basal leaves) are yellow with necrotic edges (Figure 5B) and they are very warm (well above 100°F)
  • Cluster rachis tip may dry if stress occurs at bloom, fruit-set may be reduced, berries may become flaccid if water stress occurs post-veraison

Aug 2016_Michela_Fig 5 Water Stressed Vines

Water stress in a young planting must be avoided because it can compromise root system establishment and overall vine growth, delay its capability to carry a crop, and reduce cold hardiness. If you notice signs of water stress in young vines and you don’t have a permanent and functioning irrigation system in place, temporary irrigation systems could be used such as a flex tank and hose. It is a very labor intensive operation but it is crucial to ensure the long-term success of your investment. If you notice any sign of severe water stress on your mature vines and you are not able to irrigate them you may want to consider shoot and crop-thinning (especially in heavily cropped vines) to reduce vine demand for water, as well as avoid growth of weeds which can compete with vines for water supply [9].

Literature cited

  1. United States Drought Monitor: http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu
  2. Wolf TK. Viticulture Notes. Vol 31 No. 5. 23 July 2016. Virginia Tech University Cooperative Extension. Available at: http://www.arec.vaes.vt.edu/alson-h-smith/grapes/viticulture/extension/growers/current_VN_newsletter.pdf.
  3. Hayhoe K, Wake CP, Huntington TG, Luo L, Schwartz MD, Sheffield J, Wood E, Anderson B, Bradbury J, DeGaetano A, Troy TJ and Wolfe D. 2007. Past and future changes in climate and hydrological indicators in the US Northeast. Climate Dynamics 28, 381–407.
  4. Schultz HR and Stoll M. 2010. Some critical issues in environmental physiology of grapevines: future challenges and current limitations. Aust. J. Grape Wine Res. 16, 4–24.
  5. Lakso AN. 2000. Basics of Water Balance in New York Vineyards. 29th NY Wine Industry Workshop, NYS Agric. Exper. Sta., p 94–101.
  6. Wolf TK. 2008. Wine grape production guide for Eastern North America. Natural Resource, Agriculture, and Engineering Service: Ithaca, NY USA.
  7. Keller M. 2010. The Science of Grapevines: Anatomy and Physiology. Publisher: Academic Press.
  8. Hansen M. 2016. Rethinking post-veraison irrigation. Vineyard & Winery Management. July-August, 2016. 60–
  9. Hoheisel G, Moyer M. Grapevine management under drought conditions. Washington State University Extension. EM4831E. Available at : http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/em4831e/em4831e.pdf

Is Spotted Wing Drosophila a Problem in My Wine Grapes?

By: Jody Timer, Penn State Dept. of Entomology, Lake Erie Regional Wine Research and Extension Center

Research has been conducted recently at the Lake Erie Grape Research and Extension Center, to determine the prevalence of spotted wing Drosophila throughout the Lake Erie grape growing region. Spotted wing Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, Matsumura (Diptera: Drosophilae) (SWD) is an invasive vinegar fly of East Asian origin, that was recently introduced into the United States. It was first found in California in 2008 and is now found in all major fruit-growing regions of the country including Pennsylvania. It was first discovered in Pennsylvania’s Lake Erie grape growing region in the late fall of 2011. The potential infestation rate of spotted wing Drosophila differs from other vinegar flies because the female possess a serrated ovipositor that cuts into healthy fruit to lay eggs. Consequently, spotted wing Drosophila (SWD) larvae can be found in fruit that is just ripening: https://youtu.be/dPr61VC2gyo

Aug 2016_Jody_Fig 1 SWD

During egg-laying, it is believed that sour rot and fungal disease can also be introduced, further affecting the fruit quality. SWD are thought to overwinter primarily as adult females, and they prefer moderate, cool wet climates similar to the Lake Erie grape belt. Adults live approximately two to nine weeks. During this time, one adult female can lay 100 to 600 eggs in fruit. During peak temperatures, a female can lay more than 100 eggs a day. Such a high reproduction rate indicates the SWDs’ high potential for fruit infestation and their potential for spreading rapidly through a field or a vineyard. Eggs hatch in two hours to three days with the larvae feeding in the fruit for about 3 to 13 days before pupating into adults. Thus, multiple generations occur per year. Drosophila suzukii is now one of the most serious pests of thin-skinned fruits including blueberry, raspberry, cherry, grape, and strawberry. Because this pest is similar in appearance to common vinegar flies, the greatest problems have occurred when populations went unnoticed and thus remained untreated until they caused considerable damage to crops.  A good YouTube video on how to identify SWD damage is: https://youtu.be/DLNDnMMfWfs

In our research we sent up 25 traps for SWD though out the region.  By harvest SWD were found in all of the traps. They began to attact the grapes at verasion, and by harvest the SWD outnumber the other vinegar flies (fruit flies) in all of the traps. Over the entire season, the percentage of SWD to other vinegar flies caught in our traps over the last three years is approximately 25-30%. We also found numerous SWD in the traps we placed by cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and corn. Females SWD were caught in traps before males and males were caught in the fall after the females. It is believed that the overwintering populations are mostly female.

We then conducted 2 and 4 choice and no-choice test with common wine and juice grape varieties SWD infested all of the grapes we tested. They showed no strong preference for cultivar of grape, color of grape, or brix’s (as long as the variety was past verasion). An interesting side discovery from our research was that SWD does not appear to attack native wild grapes.  Even given no other source (no choice testing) it only laid a few eggs on the wild grapes. SWD do attack injured grapes before non-injured.

These vinegar flies become a greater problem the later the grapes are harvested, due to late season rots, which makes the later ripening wine grapes particularly at risk.  Although this insect is a concern of juice grape growers, it should be of decided concern to wine grape growers. Besides the problem of late season rots this insect can impart, there is the problem of wine taint. The beneficial aspects of fruit fly infestation of grapes are stated in a TreeHugger article. It states that the fruit fly also helps the wine by carrying yeast on its body on imparting this to the grapes. Saying that the new knowledge about the interaction between fruit flies and yeast “helps us understand why yeasts make interesting aromas, and opens up the possibility of using flies to help find new yeasts.” Matthew Goddard, from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, studied the matter. Goddard’s studies found that when fruit flies had a choice of yeasts, they carried the aromatic wine yeast 100 times more – showing that the smell did have an effect. According to LiveScience, they can find wine or fermenting juice from half a mile away. These beneficial effects are decidedly outweighed by the negative effects from fruit fly infestation. The alcohol in the wine softens the fly’s body and it releases a nasty-smelling enzyme into the wine, they can also transmit large Acetobacter populations. Acetobacter can cause of host of other problem with wine making such as acetic acid.  SWD is of special concern because of their ability to lay eggs in otherwise healthy fruit. Often the fruit will not look damaged until the larval populations, which have hatched from the internally laid eggs, grow and feed internally on the grape berry till it eventually collapses. This can happen after seemingly healthy fruit has been harvested and sent to wineries.

Trapping and forecasting can lead to improvements in grower’s capability to optimally time pest management decisions which should reduce both the direct cost of pesticide treatments and the indirect cost to wineries.  Photo from: https://byo.com/hops/item/1265-preventing-three-big-stinks https://www.therealreview.com/2015/02/27/waiter-theres-a-fly-in-my-wine/

Trapping and forecasting can lead to improvements in grower’s capability to optimally time pest management decisions which should reduce both the direct cost of pesticide treatments and the indirect cost to wineries.
Photo from: https://byo.com/hops/item/1265-preventing-three-big-stinks

Wine Tourism and the Mid-Atlantic Wine Consumers’ Interest in Tasting Room Activities

By: Jen Zelinskie and Dr. Kathy Kelley

Though you welcome them when they enter your tasting room and you ask where they are from between pours, do you ever really wonder how important wine tourism is to you and your community?   Based on statistics published within the past few years, wine tourism has grown and is often the “core” vacation activity.  The following table describes just a few statistics about number of wine tourists and the resulting economic impact that the wine, grape, and related industries had on New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania just a few years ago.

Screenshot 2016-07-26 13.04.01With a few magazines devoted specifically to this type of tourism and national and international conferences slated for this fall and next spring, wine tourism is getting the attention it deserves.

Who is a wine tourist?

Just as not all wine consumers are alike and similar in their consumption and purchasing preferences, wine tourists can be segmented based on level of interest in wine and non-wine related activities.  According to Dr. Marlene Pratt, Griffith University in Australia, four types of wine tourist profiles exist:

  • ‘Wine interested’ (55 percent): “likes wines and has attended tastings and wineries before. Enjoys food and exploring the countryside. Generally travels with friends to wine regions. Eager to learn about wine.”
  • ‘Wine curious’ (17 percent): “has a low to moderate interest in wine, is motivated to visit the region by non-wine reasons and wineries are seen as ‘just another attraction.’  Is satisfied with basic knowledge of wine.”
  • ‘Wine lover’ (15 percent of wine tourists): “knows wines and can discuss the finer points of wine with the wine-maker. Food and wine matching is important. Visits the winery for buying, tasting and learning about wine.”
  • ‘Disinterested tourist’ (12 percent) “visits wineries as part of a group, and sees it as an alternative to a bar. Generally just concerned with drinking wine, and has no interest in learning about wine” (http://bit.ly/29zzKbP).

Knowing which type(s) of wine tourists visit your tasting room can better prepare you for meeting, if not exceeding, their expectations.  For example, you could use this information to:

  • create a more advanced tour for the ‘wine lover,’
  • develop a tasting menu and local food pairing for groups for the ‘wine interested,’ or
  • organize a multi- farm, ag. business, etc. tour for groups of ‘wine curious’ visitors.

What might “complete” a wine tourist’s visit to your tasting room?

So, what are the motivations, preferences, and activities wine tourists engage in when planning a “winecation?”

A wine tourism study conducted by researchers at the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC) in Australia focused on lifestyle aspects of food and tourism. They discuss eight key “enhancement factors” for the wine tourism experience:

  • Authenticity – “consumers feeling they have had a special experience that they could not have had elsewhere,”
  • value for money – “feeling the experience was worth the monetary investment… feel they have obtained value for what they spent,”
  • Service interaction – “positive service interactions… enhanced the overall experience,”
  • setting and surroundings – “location of the winery that attracted people, including the outlook and scenery,”
  • product offerings – “food and wine experience was enhanced by type of products served or opportunities to purchase other regional products,”
  • information dissemination – “three major sources of information: print… visitor information centers, and ‘word of mouth’,”
  • personal growth – “all factors allowing the tourist to learn about the region, food and wine as well as interactions with winemaker and staff,” and
  • indulgence and lifestyle – tourist feels they received a “total pleasing experience” (http://bit.ly/29PA6Jb).

Maybe it has been a while since you have really looked at what you offer and could promote to wine tourists that would fit one or more of these “enhancement factors.”  One way to assess your current offerings and your potential is to conduct a SWOT analysis.  Such an exercise identifies the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that impact the business (http://bit.ly/1Lz9Az2).  Two of these (Strengths and Weaknesses) owner/operators have control over, since they are internal to the business, while the other two (Opportunities and Threats) relate to external factors.

An example of a simple SWOT analysis for a winery can be found here:  http://bit.ly/2aiUIv3.  Maybe you also have a Strength such as “prestigious wine school training,” an Opportunity such as really developing a powerful social media presence with social media tools your primary customer uses, and, perhaps, you also have a Weakness and Threats related to competition in the market place.

While many winery tasting rooms offer a “complete tourism experience” that includes restaurants, accommodations, tours, picnic facilities, and recreational facilities (http://bit.ly/29DSZk8) others might not have the available land or zoning for this to be feasible.  Thus, provide a list of suggested local restaurants, hotels/bed and breakfasts, etc. to visitors and cross promote with these businesses on your website and through social media.

What the Mid-Atlantic wine consumer feels is important in the tasting room and in close proximity to the winery.

We, too, at Penn State seek to understand what will “complete” a Mid-Atlantic consumer’s wine tourism experiences. In our November 2015 survey, we asked participants to indicate whether each factor offered at the tasting room was “important” or “not important” when deciding to visit.  Sixty percent of survey participants indicated that light snacks available for purchase was important (figure 1), followed by activities and/or events (46.1 percent), a restaurant (43.9 percent), gift shop (41.8 percent), and lodging (25.4 percent).

Screenshot 2016-07-26 13.05.33Participants were also asked to indicate whether each factor located in close proximity, but not at or on the tasting room property, was “important” or “not important” when deciding to visit. The top six offerings in terms of being “important” are presented in figure 2, below.

Screenshot 2016-07-26 13.06.05

Restaurants was selected by 63.2 percent of participants.  Other responses which at least 40 percent of participants indicated were important included: shopping (47.2 percent), lodging (45.3 percent), cultural and historical experiences (44.5 percent), tour and sightseeing activities (43.9 percent), and other winery tasting rooms (40.6 percent).  Among the factors that approximately a third or less of participants indicated were important, were: entertainment and breweries/distilleries, selected by 37.1 and 36.3 percent of participants, respectively.

Based on our data, “food” is among the most desired addition to the tasting room experience, both on the premises and within close proximity to the tasting room. An article published in the New York Times described the importance of food at a winery and how it enhanced the overall experience. At Wolffer Estate Vineyard (Sagaponack, New York) sales of food (e.g. cheese and charcuterie platters, bottled water) were 35 percent higher in 2011 than the previous year.  According to Suellen Tunney, retail sales manager, “people want the whole experience… they want to take a tour, have a full wine tasting and a cheese plate or several cheese plates” (http://nyti.ms/29I9HQx).

The “specialty foods” trend is one that winery tasting rooms should explore when deciding what foods to offer their customers. According to the Specialty Food Magazine’s “Today’s Specialty Food Consumer 2015” report (http://bit.ly/1jr3h9u), 47 percent of consumers reported purchasing specialty food during a six-month period in 2015. Specialty foods appeal to Millennials (age 21 to 38), Generation X (age 39 to 50), and Baby Boomers (age 51 to 69) alike, and equally to males and females.

Consumers are driven to purchase specialty food and beverages by the desire to try new things and because of the high quality and perceived healthiness of the foods. Offering specialty food options at your winery can satisfy their need for something to eat while enjoying their wine tasting. According to the report, the top five most purchased specialty foods include:

  • Cheese and cheese alternatives (e.g. lactose fee, soy free, or vegan cheese),
  • ice cream and frozen desserts,
  • chocolate,
  • coffee, coffee substitutes, and cocoa,
  • cookies, brownies, cakes, and pies.

You could also make your selection based on the consumer generation you serve or hope to attract.  For example, in addition to the item listed above, pasta, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and salty snacks are some of the foods that appeal to the Millennial generation.  Oils and vinegars; meat, poultry and seafood; and salsas and dips appeal to Generation X and would also be good to offer on the menu and for items they can purchase and take home with them (http://bit.ly/1jr3h9u).

Activities Mid-Atlantic wine tourists desire based on who accompanies them during the tasting room visit.

In our March 2016 survey, we asked participants with whom they visit winery tasting rooms. Out of 1,038 participants, 60.0 percent responded that they visit winery tasting rooms with a romantic partner (for example, a domestic partner, spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend). Fifty-one percent responded they visit winery tasting rooms with groups (three or more people) of family and/or friends.

These participants were then directed to additional questions that asked them to select specific activities that would appeal.  The figures below show the responses that were selected by the most participants when considering a visit with a romantic partner (figure 3) and with a group of family and/or friends (figure 4).

Screenshot 2016-07-26 13.06.31Screenshot 2016-07-26 13.07.22

Based on the data presented in figures 3 and 4, there are many similarities between those visiting a winery tasting room with a romantic partner and those visiting with a group of friends and/or family. Both groups expressed the greatest interest in wine tastings, either shared with a romantic partner (73.5 percent) or with a group of family and/or friends (72.9 percent). In both cases, the couple or group sample all the same wines, which provides them an opportunity to discuss each and agree on ones that they all like. “Ability to purchase appetizers or ‘small plates’ to share” was the second most popular activity for both groups, followed by “sit down table service with meal and wine pairing,” and “entertainment.”  This supports our other research mentioned earlier, in figures 1 and 2, showing that the availability of “food” is important to our survey participants.   Though the positioning within the top six activities of interest did differ between the two groups, 42.9 percent of participants who visited a tasting room with a romantic partner were interested in an “organized tour of winery tasting rooms including transportation (for a fee)” and 46.6 percent of those who visited with a group of family and/or friends were interested in this activity.

What prompts an “unplanned stop” at a winery?

Prior to traveling to tasting rooms, wine tourists often schedule their time and budget for their trips; however, they often participate in unplanned activities due to their convenience and proximity to wineries.   According to Michigan State University researchers, “78 percent of visitors spent at least some time researching their destinations prior to traveling” yet 61 percent also reported that they visited a winery not on their travel itinerary due to its close proximity (http://bit.ly/29nVRSo).

Hence, although the course a wine tourist follows is driven by research and planning, they exhibit a sense of spontaneity.  Based on a 5-point Likert Scale (1 = no impact, 5 = a great deal of impact), the following were the top reasons participants had “unplanned stops” at wineries:

  • “close proximity to another stop” (4.07 mean),
  • road and other signs (3.56 mean), and
  • “passed during travel” (3.47 mean).

The top three information sources used during a wine tourism trip were:

  • brochures/maps (56.4percent),
  • wine trail information (45.5percent), and
  • roadside signage (44.5percent) (http://bit.ly/29zZyTN).

This shows that it is important to reach out to wine tourists prior to and during their wine tourism travels. You can do this by making sure that your winery tasting room is listed in publications, both online and in print, and placed on appropriate websites (e.g. state and regional wine websites, Yelp, Trip Advisor) and in locations which wine tourists would potentially stop while traveling (e.g. local restaurants, hotels, travel centers). Also, make sure that your winery tasting room has adequate roadside signage. Another way to attract the traveling tourists would be to take advantage of participating in wine trails and other tourism guides that promote the wine region where your tasting room is located.

What does it all mean?

When planning a trip, it is understandable that one would be interested in experiencing a destination more fully which may include more than just visiting the wineries, and could also include partaking in local cuisine, shopping, and finding a place to stay. When traveling with a group, it is possible that everyone may not be a “wine interested” tourist, rather the group may consist of every profile of wine tourists.

Accommodating every different type of wine tourist or offering every single different activity that appeals to consumers would be quite difficult.  Rather, take a look at “who” your visitor is, what it is about your tasting room that they value, and realistic opportunities for creating a “complete tourism experience” through a SWOT analysis.  You just may be surprise at all that you offer.

There are many more strategies that a tasting room owner/operator could consider for their business: participating in wine tasting trails, offering a case club, being a vendor at a wine festival, etc.  We will continue providing highlights from our research studies in the new several blogs.


Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP. (2013a). The economic impact of New Jersey wine and vineyards – 2011. Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP Report. Retrieved from: http://newjerseywine.com/sites/default/files/NewJerseyEconomicpercent20Impactpercent20Reportpercent20.pdf

Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP. (2013b). The Economic Impact of Pennsylvania Wine, Wine Grapes and Juice Grapes – 2011. Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP Report. Retrieved from: http://pennsylvaniawine.com/sites/default/files/Pennsylvaniapercent202011percent20EIpercent20Report_FINAL.pdf

Stonebridge Research Group LLC. (2014). The Economic Impact of Grapes, Grape Juice and Wine on the New York Economy, 2012. A Stonebridge Research Report. Retrieved from: http://www.newyorkwines.org/Resources/2756ecc5412c45c48eb4ad54f24a50f2.pdf

Wines Vines Analytics. (2016). Wine Industry Metrics. Wines & Vines. Retrieved from: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=widc&widcDomain=wineries&widcYYYYMM=201601

Wines Vines Analytics. (2015). Wine Industry Metrics. Wines & Vines. Retrieved from: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=widc&widcDomain=wineries&widcYYYYMM=201505

Wines & Vines. (2016). Industry Databases: Winery. Wines & Vines.  Retrieved from: http://www.winesandvines.com/ms/woms.cfm

Other Researchers & Jennifer Zelinskie’s Thesis Advisory Team:

  • Jeffrey Hyde, Professor, Agricultural Economics, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Denise Gardner, Extension Enologist, Department of Food Science, The Pennsylvania State University
  • Brad Rickard, Assistant Professor, Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
  • Ramu Govindasamy, Professor, Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University
  • Karl Storchmann, Clinical Professor, Economics Department, New York University; Managing Editor, Journal of Wine Economics
  • Michela Centinari, Assistant Professor of Viticulture, Departemnt of Plant Science, The Pennsylvania State University

The project “Developing Wine Marketing Strategies for the Mid-Atlantic Region” (GRANT 11091317) is being funded by a USDA Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, whose goal is “to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.”  For more information about the program, visit http://www.ams.usda.gov.





Tasting Chambourcin: Part 2

By: Denise M. Gardner

In last week’s post, I described a series of perceptions and observations associated with Chambourcin as a wine grape variety and as a wine. Many growers and producers have chimed into the discussion, and can be viewed in the “Comments” section to the left of the previous blog post.

This week’s post will feature some production options associated with producing a dry to off-dry, red Chambourcin-based table wine.

Producing Chambourcin Wine

From a production standpoint, Chambourcin has the potential to produce several styles of wine:

  • Low- to medium-bodied dry red wine
  • Semi-sweet to sweet red wine
  • Dry to semi-sweet rosé (although the color can be tricky to control or alter)
  • Sweet blush
  • Sparkling
  • Used as a base for formula wines

For the purpose of this post, let us focus on red wine production of Chambourcin.  There are a few considerations that growers and winemakers can take when improving the quality of their Chambourcin wines.

Reducing the Perception of Acidity

Getting the TA at or slightly under 6 g/L of tartaric acid, may be a goal for this variety to reduce the perception of sourness in the wine.  If the winemaker is opting to make a sweeter red wine with this variety, the higher TA can lead to a sweet-tart sensation on the palate that may be undesirable for some consumers. As a dry wine, a higher TA will make the wine seem more acidic and thin, emphasizing a lighter-bodied wine.  While it is not discussed in the academic literature, the acidic-nature or sourness of a wine is what often turns consumers off from some wines produced in the eastern U.S.

Acidity can be managed in the vineyard through proper canopy management techniques and emphasizing the growth of a balanced vine.  While I am not a viticulturist, many producers that minimize the sour perception end up dropping fruit (crop thinning) during the growing season to obtain optimal maturity and ripeness later in the growing season.  For the most part, Chambourcin tends to be later ripening.  At Penn State, we often bring in our Chambourcin when we bring in the Cabernet Sauvignon or after we bring in the Cabernet Sauvignon, making it one of our latest arrivals to the processing floor.

Additionally, acidity can be manipulated in the cellar.  While the pH should be optimal for color extraction, the TA can also be altered in the juice and wine phase through potassium carbonate or calcium carbonate additions.  De-acidification is tricky; it requires some patience, time, and skill to get used to doing, but it is not an impossibility for many wineries to utilize in the cellar.

Understanding acidity requires a basic understanding of chemistry.  There are many educational options available for wineries to better improve their wine chemistry knowledge:

  • Utilize the Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC) online viticulture and enology classes. HACC offers an Associate’s Degree in Viticulture and Enology, and all of the classes are available online.  Classes were designed and structured for Pennsylvania-based wineries and employees that were looking to change careers into the local wine industry.  The HACC classes offer a good educational opportunity for many currently in, or thinking about getting into the industry.  Students whom have gone through the program have had positive experiences that they have found invaluable in multiple ways.  For more information, please refer to this website: http://www.hacc.edu/ProgramsandCourses/Courses-and-Programs-Details.cfm?prn=1865
  • Participate in Cornell’s EnoCert Program. Cornell Extension now offers a certification program specific in viticulture and enology education.  It is designed to help enhance an individual’s practical knowledge, and there are many types of 1-2 day workshops, covering a range of topics, that contribute to the EnoCert certification.  You can find out more information here: https://grapesandwine.cals.cornell.edu/extension/enocert
  • Consider UC Davis’s Online Winemaking Certification. UC Davis also offers an online certificate option.  Much of the information can be utilized in cellars here in the eastern U.S. and covers a lot of basic winemaking principles.  For more information, please go here: https://extension.ucdavis.edu/areas-study/winemaking/winemaking-certificate-program


Watch YAN during Primary Fermentation

My individual experiences with Chambourcin have included variable yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN) concentrations ranging from 130 – 419 mg N/L in any given harvest year with fruit coming from the same vineyard site.  For many nutrient suppliers, a YAN concentration greater than 250 – 300 mg N/L is considered a “high YAN fermentation.”  Currently, most recommendations consider YAN concentrations of 150 – 250 mg N/L ideal.

High YAN fermentations can cause problems for winemakers, and has previously been discussed in the following documents:

The most common problems associated with a high YAN is the risk of producing hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and/or having a very hot, quick fermentation.  In some situations, a hot, quick fermentation may be desirable.  However, many hot fermentations may lead to a loss of aromatic or flavor components, which would not be desirable when trying to produce a fruit-forward style of red wine.

It is recommended that wineries find a way to measure the YAN concentration every year for every fermentation.  The reason for this is that YAN concentrations are incredibly variable and current research has not been able to correlate vineyard management decisions or parameters with YAN concentrations in the fruit.  A small summary of variable YAN in PA and NY vineyards can be found here: Why Measure YAN? Variation in YAN Data Over a 6-Year Time Frame.

If a winery cannot afford to run YANs in-house, there are several available options:

  • Ship 50-mL juice samples overnight to an ISO-accredited laboratory when grapes are brought into the crush pad. The laboratory will have the juice sample analyzed by the next business day, which gives the winemaker plenty of time to make an appropriate nitrogen addition at 1/3-sugar depletion of primary fermentation.
  • Worried about shipping juice samples to California? Not to worry!  Many states (or neighboring states) offer YAN evaluation as part of their analytical services to a multitude of winery clients.
  • Cornell University has recently suggested that wineries can receive a representative YAN concentration with an adequate berry sample up to 2 weeks before the grape variety is harvested: Page 3, “Results from 2010,” #2. This may save the winery on shipping costs and give the winemaker a YAN value before the grapes reach the crush pad, allowing for full preparation for nitrogen adjustments.

Measuring YAN and treating the must according to its nitrogen requirements not only minimizes the risk of producing off-aromas associated with hydrogen sulfide production, but in keeping the wine cleaner, it can contribute to a better representation of varietal character.  Additionally, it saves labor costs and time associated with treating wines with hydrogen sulfide or a reductive character later on in the winemaking process.

Enhancing Red Fruit Aromas and Flavors

While the mouthfeel of Chambourcin can be easily manipulated, the aromatic intensity and structure can be a bigger challenge.  First and foremost, the grapes must be optimally flavor ripe.  This is one of those varieties that you want to pick after it reaches 21°Brix.  The reason for this is due to the fact that aromas mature after sugar accumulation starts to plateau. B.G. Coombe coined the accumulation of aroma compounds in wine grape berries as the engustment phase of berry ripening (Coombe and McCarthy, 1997; Figure 1).

Figure 1. Chemistry effects of berry ripening. Image is from Jordan Koutroumanidis (Winetitles), and previously featured in "Understanding Grape Berry Development" by James Kennedy, Practical Winery & Vineyard Journal (July/Aug 2002)

Figure 1. Chemistry effects of berry ripening. Image is from Jordan Koutroumanidis (Winetitles), and previously featured in “Understanding Grape Berry Development” by James Kennedy, Practical Winery & Vineyard Journal (July/Aug 2002)

There are ways that growers and winemakers can become better associated with engustment.  The easiest way is to get familiar with berry sensory techniques.  Berry sensory analysis goes beyond watching Brix and pH, and enhances the probability in picking grapes when they are flavor ripe.  If you feel uncomfortable with this practice, luckily, Lallemand is hosting international wine consultant, Dominique Deltei, at the Vineyard at Grandview (Mount Joy, PA) on Thursday, July 29th from 9:00 AM – Noon.  Dominique will discuss how to utilize berry sensory analysis for picking decisions.  This is a FREE workshop for those that attend, but space is limited to 15 industry members.  You must register with Denise (dxg241@psu.edu) in order to reserve a seat at this workshop.

Enhancing fruity flavors is also a component in wine processing.  Many red fermentation gets hot, which can lead to a lot of aromatic blow off during primary fermentation.  Practices like:

  • Using temperature control or temperature controlled tanks to lower the primary fermentation temperature in order to preserve the aromatic nuances,
  • Utilizing 3-4 punch downs or pumpovers per day to maximum extraction and oxygen integration,
  • Using red wine yeasts that better express red fruit flavors, or
  • Practicing delestage (rack and return) techniques that have been shown to help enhance the fruity characters of red wines

can help maintain fruitiness, which gives producers options in terms of what style of red wine they would like to produce.

Improving the Tannin Structure of Red Hybrid Wines

Many winemakers add exogenous tannins to red hybrid wines despite the scientific evidence that shows it may not be useful.  Dr. Sacks’ lab is currently working on ways to improve tannin concentrations in hybrid red wines and has suggested the following technique to commercial wineries at this time:

  1. Crush and destem the fruit.
  2. Separate the juice from the pomace. Retain both components.
  3. Treat the juice with 1.25 g/L of bentonite.   Rack.
  4. Return the juice to the pomace and inoculate for primary fermentation. Make any desired exogenous tannin additions.
  5. Complete primary fermentation and press wine off of the skins. Make any desired exogenous tannin additions from this step forward.

As Dr. Sacks’ has pointed out: if a winemaker would choose to follow these steps, it does not remove all of the proteins available in the juice/pomace.  However, it does remove some of the proteins that could otherwise bind available tannins.  Additionally, making exogenous tannin additions after treating juice with bentonite would likely make the tannin addition more effective.  Nonetheless, it should be noted that this is a rather labor-intensive cellar procedure.  However, it does offer a potential option for those producers looking to increase tannic strength.

As a winemaker, do you have any other recommendations for enhancing Chambourcin wine quality?  If so, please add your recommendations or experiences in the Comments section to the left of this blog post title.  We would love to hear from you!




Coombe, B.G. and M.G. McCarthy. 1997. Identification and naming of the inception of aroma development in ripening grape berries. Aust. J. Grape Wine Res. 3:18-20.

Harbertson, J.F., R.E. Hodgins, L.N. Thurston, L.J. Schaffer, M.S. Reid, J.L. Landon, C.F. Ross, and D.O. Adams. 2008. Variability of tannin concentration in red wines. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 59:210-214.

Mansfield, A.K. January 2015. A few truths about phenolics. Wines & Vines.

Robinson, J., J. Harding, and J. Vouillamoz. 2012. “Chambourcin.” pg. 218-219. Wine Grapes. ISBN: 978-0-06-220636-7

Springer, L.F. and G.L. Sacks. 2014. Protein-precipitable tannin in wines from Vitis vinifera and interspecific hybrid grapes (Vitis ssp.): differences in concentration, extractability, and cell wall binding. J. Agric. Food Chem. 62(30):7515-7523.

Tasting Chambourcin: Part I

By: Denise M. Gardner

Note: Sensory descriptions of wines produced by the grape variety, Chambourcin, are based on individual observations, tastings, and a collection of notes obtained through various Chambourcin tastings including many different individuals.

At the Central Pennsylvania regional winery meeting held at Brookmere Winery, attendees and I had the opportunity to taste through a series of Pennsylvania-grown and produced Chambourcin wines.  This was actually one of the first all-Chambourcin wine flights that I have been able to taste, and I was quite encouraged by what I was tasting in the glass.  Paula Vigna, writer for The Wine Classroom via Penn Live, has since written an article on the tasting titled, “Chambourcin’s ceiling: Maybe higher than originally thought.”

Chambourcin: A Description

Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid wine grape variety that was bred by crossing Seyve-Villard 12-417 (Seibel 6468 x Subéreux) with Chancellor*, commercialized in 1963 (Robinson et al. 2012).  Despite Chambourcin’s vigor and relative tolerance to disease pressure in humid climates, anecdotally the wine does often appear preferred by many Vitis vinifera winemakers.

As a wine, Chambourcin’s strength is its vibrant red color and supple, soft mouthfeel due it is relatively lack of course tannin on the palate.  These features often make it a valuable red wine blending possibility, especially considering the relative consistency of obtaining Chambourcin fruit every vintage.  However, the smoothness of the wine often is a frustration by many eastern winemakers looking for more depth and [tannin-related] mouthfeel in their red wines.  When coupled with Chambourcin’s notorious ability to retain acidity, often above 7 g/L of tartaric acid (depending on where and how it is grown), the lack of perceived tannin can make the wine taste relatively thin and acidic.

The acidity associated with the Chambourcin grape variety often appears retained when grown in cooler climates.  For example, in Pennsylvania, Chambourcin produced in North East, PA (Erie County) often has relatively higher TAs compared to Chambourcin grown in southeastern, PA (e.g., Berks County).  From a grape growing perspective, all winemakers should expect this phenomenon.  However, Chambourcin can retain a higher acidity even when grown in the warmer southern parts of Pennsylvania.  Based on observation, the variety seems to maintain its acidity when it is not thoroughly crop thinned.  As Chambourcin is an incredibly vigorous variety, and as you will see from the tasting, producers hoping to drop the acidity often crop thin grape clusters while on the vine.

When looking at the tannic composition of Chambourcin, it is likely that much of the tannin content associated with Chambourcin is lost during primary fermentation.  Dr. Gavin Sacks at Cornell University is studying this situation associated with many hybrid wine fermentations.  As Dr. Sacks discussed at the 2016 Pennsylvania Wine Marketing & Research Board (PA WMRB) Symposium in March, tannins come from 3 different components of the grape: the stems, the skin, and the grape seeds. During the fermentation process, anthocyanins (red pigments) and skin tannin is extracted quickly, usually before the product starts to ferment.  Seed tannin is extracted more slowly, typically throughout primary fermentation and extended maceration processes.  Dr. Sacks’ lab (Springer and Sacks, 2014) and previous research (Harbertson et al. 2008) have shown, grapes produced outside of the western U.S. generally have lower concentrations of tannin available in the grape.  While available tannin in the grapes does not necessarily correlate with tannin concentrations in the finished wine, many eastern U.S. winemakers will add exogenous tannin pre-fermentation, during fermentation, and/or post-fermentation to help improve mouthfeel and potentially increase substrate availability for color stability reactions.  However, even with exogenous tannin additions, Dr. Sacks has found that many of the tannins associated with hybrid fermentations end up lost during the fermentation process due to protein-tannin binding complexes that pull tannins out of the wine.  The higher protein concentration associated with the hybrid grapes has been linked to disease resistance mechanisms that the varieties were originally bred for, and is more thoroughly explained in Dr. Anna Katharine Mansfield’s recent Wines & Vines article, “A Few Truths About Phenolics.”

Additionally, Chambourcin has been noted to have a relatively neutral red wine flavor, lacking a concentrated pop of fruit and using non-descript aromatic or flavor descriptors like: red cherries, red fruit, red berries, stemmy, herbal, or even millipedes. And yes, I have heard one or two consumers actually reference a millipede aroma when tasting Chambourcin.

Tasting Chambourcin Produced in PA

Flight of Chambourcin Wines tasted at the June 2016 Central PA Regional Wine Meeting, hosted by Brookmere Winery. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 1: Flight of Chambourcin Wines tasted at the June 2016 Central PA Regional Wine Meeting, hosted by Brookmere Winery. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

The official flight (Figure 1) of Chambourcin wines that I had put together included:

  • Galen Glen Winery 2014 Stone Cellar Chambourcin
  • Penns Woods Winery 2014 Chambourcin Reserve
  • Vynecrest Winery 2014 Chambourcin
  • Pinnacle Ridge Winery 2013 Chambourcin Researve
  • Allegro Winery 2012 Chambourcin

Additionally, Brookmere Winery, Armstrong Valley Winery, and Caret Cellars (Virginia) added Chambourcin wines to taste.  The formal wine tasting turned out to be quite a unique experience.

I saw a few over-arching sensory themes within these wines:

  • Reduced acidity: While I did not personally measure the pH and TA for these wines, the perception of acidity was not as obvious, overly perceptible, or offensive.
  • Soft, supple mouthfeel: Even with a couple of the wines that were perceived as “more tannic,” these wines were soft and easy-drinking.
  • Use of oak barrels: Many of the producers were opting for some production in actual oak barrels as opposed to using oak alternatives. Type of oak ranged from French, American, and Hungarian.
  • Higher alcohols: Alcohol concentrations for these wines ranged from 13-14%, likely due to extended hang time in the vineyard, allowing for an increase in sugar accumulation.
  • Two emerging aromatic profiles: A couple of the wines were very fruit-forward and fruitier than what is normally expected from Chambourcin. The other wines were less fruit-forward, however, they did retain a fair amount of red fruit aromatics in addition to the complex aroma nuances: earthiness, tobacco, toasted oak, vanilla, and tobacco.  Many tasters commented on the general concentration of aromatic nuance associated with many of the wines we tasted.

In general, the relative depth, cleanness, and fruit expression of these wines was impressive.  Perhaps this tasting clearly indicated that although many winemakers struggle with finding the “right fit” or style for their Chambourcin, the level of quality associated with the wine has definitely improved within the last 5 years.  At the very least, the level of quality associated with this flight of wines was encouraging for hybrid red wine producers.

Additionally, Brookmere Winery provided a real treat from their cellar library: a 1998 Chambourcin produced by Brookmere Winery (Figure 2) when Don Chapman owned the winery.  If you appreciate older wines, then this Chambourcin would truly impress you.  Not only did it express the “old wine” honey-floral character loved by many wine enthusiasts, but the red fruit aromas and flavors were still boldly expressed in the wine.  The color was intense and dynamically red, and there was a fine perception of firm tannins on the palate.  Overall, the tasting of this wine gave me the perception that not only did this wine still have plenty of room to continue aging in the cellar, but that Chambourcin, as a wine varietal, had positive potential for aging for more than 10 years.

Figure 2: 1998 Chambourcin Produced by Brookmere Winery. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Figure 2: 1998 Chambourcin Produced by Brookmere Winery. Photo by: Denise M. Gardner

Given that most of this post is based on my own experiences, perceptions, and information gathered from growers and producers pertaining to Chambourcin, I would welcome any additional experiences with the variety (as a grape or as a wine) in the comments section.

While this post has documented Chambourcin as a grape variety and a small snap shot of sensory perceptions from a handful of producers in Pennsylvania, next week’s post will focus on production techniques to improve the quality Chambourcin red wines.


For more information on upcoming regional meetings and the types of tastings to be held at those FREE events, please visit: http://extension.psu.edu/food/enology/events



Harbertson, J.F., R.E. Hodgins, L.N. Thurston, L.J. Schaffer, M.S. Reid, J.L. Landon, C.F. Ross, and D.O. Adams. 2008. Variability of tannin concentration in red wines. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 59:210-214.

Mansfield, A.K. January 2015. A few truths about phenolics. Wines & Vines.

Robinson, J., J. Harding, and J. Vouillamoz. 2012. “Chambourcin.” pg. 218-219. Wine Grapes. ISBN: 978-0-06-220636-7

Springer, L.F. and G.L. Sacks. 2014. Protein-precipitable tannin in wines from Vitis vinifera and interspecific hybrid grapes (Vitis ssp.): differences in concentration, extractability, and cell wall binding. J. Agric. Food Chem. 62(30):7515-7523.


*Authors Note: Since the publication of this article, a few growers and grape breeders have alluded to the improperly reported parentage of Chambourcin. While it is generally reported and cited as such, it is understood among some wine grape experts that Chancellor is not likely a parent to Chambourcin. For more information on determining parentage of given grape cultivars, please refer to: http://www.vivc.de and search the cultivar name of interest. 



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 714 other followers