Text Size:-+
12.30.2006

Does That Bunch of Grapes Look Anxious?

If you're a devotee of small producers or high-end wines of any kind, most likely you've heard the phrases "reduced yields," "dry farming," "nutrient-poor soils," "high vine density," and more. These practices are regularly employed by many of the world's best winemakers, and they all have a single goal in common: to stress the vine.

It is now common knowledge (and common practice) that vines pushed to the edge of their tolerance for many environmental factors generally tend to make better wine -- more concentrated, more complex, more tasty.

This is not just supposition, there's actually some science behind it, and I was reminded of this recently by an interesting post on Harold McGee's blog, News for Curious Cooks. Scientists have actually measured higher levels of various flavor and color compounds in grapes from "stressed" vines. Many of the vine stress techniques (not to be confused with "stress positions" used by the US Military during interrogations) described above are associated with sustainable, or organic viticulture.

Harold's post is most interesting, however, because he mentions a recent study in which Syrah vines which received pesticide treatment actually produced even MORE of some desired compounds. The running hypothesis?: pesticides are stressors on the vine too in certain situations.

Read Harold's full post.

Comments (2)

Jerry D. Murray wrote:
12.31.06 at 12:31 AM

I think 'balanced' is a more appropriate term ( and idea ) than 'stressed'. As vineyard managers we try to get the vine to focus its energy on fruiting not growing more wood or leaves. We use techniques to, when needed, absorb some of the vines excess energy. Stressed implies the vine is unhealthy and this is not the goal of our management techniques. We are attempting to balance the vines 'fruiting' and 'vegatative' urges.
If we expand our view of flavor development to be based on 'balance' and not 'stress' we can view the findings much more rationally. In McGees report he does mention the vines had already shown the signs of water stress, ie the vine may be in a stressed or weakened state. The addition of the pesticide may have increased the phenols not because it was in itself a stressor but because it relieved some stress ( the whole idea behind using them ) on the vine and brought the vine back into 'balance'.
Sorry, 'stressed vine theory' is a pet peave of mine.

web page wrote:
07.21.14 at 12:46 PM

First of all I would like to say excellent blog! I had a quick question which I'd like to ask if you
do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts before writing.
I've had a tough time clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out.
I do enjoy writing however it just seems like the first
10 to 15 minutes are lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any ideas or hints?

Thank you!

Comment on this entry

(will not be published)
(optional -- Google will not follow)
Yes
 

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

Pre-Order My Book!

small_final_covershot_dropshadow.jpg A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.

Follow Me On:

Twitter Facebook Pinterest Instagram Delectable Flipboard

Most Recent Entries

Vinography Unboxed: Week of July 14, 2014 Vinography Images: Solar Powered Dot Wine and the Fear of Change Annual Napa Wine Library Tasting: August 10, Napa Vinography Unboxed: Week of July 7, 2014 Vinography Images: The Berry 2014 West Sonoma Coast Wine Festival: August 2-3, Sebastopol, CA Drew Wines, Mendocino, CA: Recent Releases Vinography Images: Pocket of Sun Vinography Unboxed: Week of June 29, 2014

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

Archives by Month

 

Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.