VDEWS 2018’s Report

By Marie von Ahm

Time part 1 : The past

Speaker: David Lordkipanidze  

We began the time episode on day one addressing the ”past” though a seminar by David Lordkipanidze.

Georgia has a more than 8000 years of history with wine and the domestication of the vine plant. The country has a unique and diverse nature and has historically served as the gate to Europe because of its geographical position.

The first humans to have left Africa was until recently perceived to have left the African continent about 1 mil years ago. However, recent findings in Georgia dating back some 1,8 mil years shows some first traces and signs of humans.

Around 6000 years BC we see the first signs of humans settling down and becoming farmers rather than hunter-gatherers, and also the first signs of domestication of the vine plant and early winemaking.
Wine is to be regarded an essential and natural part of human evolution, history and civilization. Wine was not only a beverage. We find evidence of trading and collecting wine 4-5000 years ago. Wine was connecting people across countries and cultures. Georgia even started exporting wine around 2500 years ago.

The 2nd phase or wave in wine’s role and importance in human civilization, society and culture came with religion. We see wine symbolism long before Christianity. The vine as a symbol of re-birth, carrying fruit year after year. Drinking wine bringing us mentally closer to heaven.

Wine has been an integrated and natural part of human evolution for 8000 years. How do we continue using wine to stimulate human evolution and development also in the future?
“We were drinking, we are drinking, we will be drinking!”

 Time part 2 : The present

Speaker: Jean-Robert Pitte

The second seminar addressed the “present” and was presented by Jean Robert Pitte.

The present situation of wine is changing. The social act of drinking wine together and sharing what we have deep in our soul is disappearing. The prohibition ideology is coming back in the western world.

Today we produce greater wine than ever, and it continuously gets better. Countries and regions that never before produced wines are making great wines today. E.g. China, Japan and India.

How did the wines of the past taste? Wine in the past served the purpose of opening our hearts and minds. We did not (mainly) drink wine for the taste. Wines were conserved with resin, spices and saltwater rendering them probably undrinkable for a modern palate.
Only in the 17th century wine started being widely transported. Before that we did not know how to preserve drinkability and taste. Only then the British started adding alcohol to make it possible for wine to travel. This was the birth of fortified wines like port and madeira.

The wine trade from the 17th and 18th century also manifested what today is known as the “great” wine regions of Europe. Mainly due to trade relations. Back at this time high alcohol levels were prized as they kept the wine longer. Therefore blending in stronger wines from warmer countries and regions was widely done.

Until the 1960’s we still usually added sugar (chaptalized) most wines to increase alcohol. Climate change altered this need for chaptilization.
The reason for the rise in heavily extracted “Parker style” wines 20-30 years ago, was an increasing interest and consumption of wines in the US. Their palate is generally used to sweeter and richer tastes, coca-cola, tex-mex food, etc...
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So what is really a “great wine” today?

This can be defined in 2 ways, with 2 different ways of marketing.

Either by the brand of the wine itself or by the fame of the region the wine come from. Expensive = great, Reputation of region or brand = great.
Neither price nor reputation necessarily defines if the wine is actually is great, speaking purely about its organoleptic qualities.

Today people more and more judge by taste and not label and fame. Plus, the price less and less determinate quality and reputation. The industry is changing...

Do God-sent terrroirs exist? Not really, mainly a case of marketing, communication and reputation. “A great wine today is complex, refined and harmonious”. That has got to be the definition.
Great wine however is difficult to understand fully. Like music and art it touches your emotions and this is impossible to quantify.

Great wine is unique and individual. It’s difficult to copy or replicate; hence the role of the terroir and it’s “fingerprint” on the wine.

Terroir gives diversity! And diversity is:
- The reason we go traveling
- A fundamental reality of humankind
- Makes life beautiful and more exciting
- The taste of life
- The uncontrollable diversity of Nature

Future worries: cloning makes it possible to copy and will wipe out this diversity, rendering everything boring. Imagine all Cabernet Sauvignon wines tasting the same?
We need to preserve the diversity of wine and humankind!
Great wine is human and Nature’s diversity melted together. A winemaker shares himself by sharing his wine. It’s something that goes way beyond the liquid in the glass. When you make wine you touch Nature and create something unique. It’s like giving birth or composing a symphony.

Science’s role in winemaking : Science is necessary, but is neither God nor Nature.
Is organic and biodynamic viticulture better? Do we need to prove it scientifically to use it and believe in it? It’s the freedom of the winemaker that is paramount to quality and diversity! Creativity comes rather from an intimate relationship between a person and a place than from research.

We need to give utmost importance and focus to:
- Maintaining the diversity
- Teach young generations to understand and continue the right way to enjoy and drink wine
- Tell and preserve the culture and history of wine and give it an as important role and place in the future

Time part 3: The future

Round table with specialists of varial topics: Nursery, Cork, Science, Sommellerie and Consumption.

Speakers: Pierre-Marie Guillaume from Guillaume Nurseries Antonio Amorim from Corticeira Amorim Antoine Petit CEO of the CNRS (French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation)

Speaker: Pierre-Marie Guillaume

Long term goal: reaching top-quality grapes without need for spraying at all. (10 years to go to reach maturity)

All grape varieties have genetically mutated over the centuries adapting to climate and place. By monitoring the best adapted + best quality = good results.

Process of selecting single stocks (vines) : Sanitary tests >> Prepare small number of vines (20-30 stocks) >> Test in vineyards (up to 30-60 lines of different stocks at one time) >> Produce wine from the selected stocks >> Select the best >> Multiply

Long and time-consuming process but needed to ensure wine quality and plant quality at the same time. Focused work to develop varieties that are resistant to mildew and powdery mildew.

PAST: uncontrolled improvement (non-scientific), simply by resistance and quality “survival of the fittest”.
19th century (after phylloxera) = controlled improvements, with the invention of grafting. BUT: also “import” of downy and powdery mildew from the US.

“ECOPHYTO” research program to develop high quality varieties with resistance to decrease the need for spraying.

Climate change will have serious consequences. We are already seeing the first effects.

Answer to challenges: use current varietal diversity to create new diverse varieties.
American and Asian born species of “vitis” have both biotic and abiotic resistances.
Use both red, white and grey varities.
Selection of specific genom – revolutionary work
Cost is vastly reduced for this work + technology is improved
Crossing – natural hybridation
Observation if wanted genom characteristics have propagated to offspring (not all genom transfers to offspring)

Today it’s also possible to “insert” wanted genom into existing varieties (inserting pollen into flowers) + new technique of stacking resistant genes instead of using only one at the time = “pathogenic construction”

However; fungus can overcome resistance over very short periods of time (10 years).
Nature bypasses the resistant genoms easily. The longevity of resistance can only be evaluated by studying over time.

By-parental breeding: 15-16 years to develop and obtain results with 2-3 new varieties.
Necessity to keep emblematic varieties: today in France 99% original and only 1% resistant.


CONCLUSION:

- Important demand Fantastic tools
- Need for experimentation in various places
- Arriving varieties allow to drastically reduce the need for spraying (down to 2-3 times yearly) but still no 0-need reached yet.
- Modifying the smell emission of vines – making them less attractive to insects.
- “Silencing” the gene that develops flavescence dorée

Speaker: Antonio Amorim

Extreme focus and investment in research in all aspects.
Today 25 years age of cork tree before first harvest and a life-spam of 200 years.

Research to lower to 10 years.

Generate high rates of biodiversity
Retention and absorption of CO2
Prevent soil degradation and desertification

AMORIM : largest producer of cork globally

Tendency today: Market share of natural cork stoppers increases, Plastic stoppers loose market share, Screwcap; stagnating but maintaining share

Enormous investment in R&D in natural cork >> Strategy to eradicate TCA from natural cork.
3 staged process:
- Prevention : Raw material – traceability – storage – removal of potentially infected planks
- Quality control : Using gas chromatology (1500 samples daily) – analysing to absolute minimum levels at all stages of production
- Cure : Steaming – eliminating almost 100%

TCA TCA has been reduced vastly since start of R&D investment in 2005, but still not down to 0% NDTech : 8 years in the making / GUARANTEED TCA free / Corks individually screened for TCA by gas chromatology (15 sec / cork) / In 2018 115 mil NDTech corks supplied.

Speaker: Antoine Petit

Marketing of wine is changing; you cannot lie any longer! Even pricing today is transparent.

“The informed consumer”

Old brands are forced to adapt.

Even just a few years ago the power of journalists was very different and much stronger than today.

Today everyone has an opinion and means of sharing it with the world. This creates new opportunities for smaller producers without the means and power to do marketing.
Today everyone has a “free” voice on Social Media.
“The liberalization of the wine industry”

The trade and distribution is also rapidly changing: today 1/3 of all wine is sold online and rapidly increasing.

CONSUMER – PRODUCER : focus on direct sales = better profit pooling + direct communication + creating real brand loyalty. 
This report is written by Marie Von Ahm.
“Unfortunately I did not participate in any of the workshops this year as I had very important matters to discuss with some friends (YES! You Kelly…It’s all your fault! he he ) over some nice bottles of Selosse Initiale ;-)” Marie Von Ahm
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