Monday, May 5, 2008

A Unique Way to Deal with Climate Change

One effect of elevated temperatures in vineyards is that it leads to grapes with added sugar, which generally leads to higher alcohol wines. High alcohol wines are not popular in many circles, especially in Europe. Though even in europe, alcohol contents have slowly risen over the years. But one Spanish winery in the Jumilla region is taking significant steps to combat high alcohol, to deal with climate change.

USA Today recently published an article, "Spanish vineyard cuts alcohol content for survival," discussing this vineyard. The Casa de la Ermita winery has devised a way to significantly reduce the amount of alcohol in their wines, down to 6.5%. That is a lower amount than almost every other wine available on the market.

The winery uses techniques both in the vineyard and the winery to reduce alcohol. First, they use "carefully controlled irrigation to trick vines into making grapes with less sugar." Second, they put their wine "through rotating cones to separate out alcohol molecules." That second action led the European Union to create a new category of wine, "wine with reduced alcohol content." This may be the first winery to take these actions, though other wineries may eventually follow.

I am curious how these wines would taste, whether the low alcohol content affects the taste at all. They certainly should feel like lighter wines as alcohol can often add body to a wine. I have to wonder though why they chose to reduce the alcohol content as far as they did. Why 6.5%? Why not just 11% or 12%? If they only relied on the irrigation to reduce sugar, and did not use the rotating cones, what would have been the alcohol content of those wines?

And if climate change does raise the temperatures in other vineyards across the world, will other wineries start to emulate these reduced alcohol practices? Is there a market for such low alcohol wines?

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