Dry Farming Vines

What is Dry Farming and Why Should I Care?

By Wine No Comments

You may have heard the term “dry farming” being thrown around in certain wine regions, but do you know what that actually means?

Dry farming is an agricultural technique that was developed in order to grow crops without using an irrigation system. This technique has been used in the Mediterranean for crops such as grapes and olives for thousands of years. And nowadays, it specifically refers to crop production during a dry season, utilizing the residual moisture in the soil from the rainy season or melted snow from winter.

Outside of the Mediterranean, there are vineyards in dryer parts of the U.S. that have opted to utilize the dry farming technique for two reasons: grape quality and water conservation. According to the California Ag Water Stewardship Initiative, dry farming is not a strategy for maximum yield, but rather it allows nature to dictate the true sustainability of agricultural production in a region. It allows the vines to establish a natural balance of root mass, leaves, and fruit. It also helps limit excessive sugars and extracted flavors, enabling the grapes to achieve full ripeness on their own.

Dry Farmed ZinfandelSince California’s water is being very closely managed, dry farming offers an economic and eco-friendly alternative to the typical irrigation techniques. According to Wine Spectator, dry farming can save as much as 16,000 gallons of water per acre per year which is not only saving the farmers money but helps with California’s drought situation.

But dry farming is not a technique that will be successful in every wine region.  The right rootstock that can grow deep into the soil needs to be paired with the right mix of soil that can retain water well. The vines also need to spaced far enough away from each other so that they aren’t competing for the same water, cutting down on the number of vines that can fit within a plot of land.

But why should you care if a wine has been produced from dry farming or not? It is believed that dry farming yields better tasting, more nutritious products (grapes), therefore, lending itself to produce better quality and better-tasting wines, without alterations. The difference between irrigated and dry-farmed wines can be likened to eating a hot-house hydroponically grown tomato versus one that was grown our in a field – there is a considerable difference in taste!

Jenny and Kris - Spain Food & Wine Tour Taste Vacation

Tasty Bites Chat: Spain Food & Wine Tour

By Food, Taste Vacations, Wine No Comments

We created Taste Vacations to celebrate the food, wine, and beer in premier vacation destinations around the globe. The unique food and drink experiences we instill into each tour ensures your vacation is interesting, educational, inspiring, and fun.  To help provide some more details about our upcoming Spain Food & Wine Tour, recently hosted a 30-minute Q&A session with Jenny Siddall, our local Rioja guide, and Kris Keys, our tour operations manager who organized the tour.

In case you missed it, we’ve provided the recording below.  If you have any questions about our Spain Food & Wine Tour, please feel free to leave them in the comments below or reach out via our Contact Us form.

Be In The Know: Spain Food & Wine Tour Q&A

By Taste Vacations, Wine No Comments

Interested in our Basque Country & Rioja Spain Food & Wine Tour, but have questions?

Join us for a Q & A Session with Jenny Siddall, our local Rioja guide, and tour organizer, Kris Keys. They will be providing an overview of the tour and discussing Spanish food, wine, culture, and anything else you’re interesting in hearing more about.

Spain Food & Wine Tour Q&A Session

Upon registering, we will send you the dial-in information to use on August 3rd.  Hope you can join us!

How to do a blind wine tasting

How to Do a Proper Blind Wine Tasting

By Wine No Comments

Blind wine tastings can be a fun way to test and hone your ability to determine the varietal, region, vintage and producer by using only your senses. Our expert wine guide, Jenny Siddall, has been studying for her WSET Level 4 diploma and has conducted many a blind wine tasting to help her prepare for her exams. We asked Jenny to share her thought on how to set up a proper blind wine tasting.

“In wine tasting, practice is key and it is possible to improve your tasting technique the more you taste.”

To set up a proper blind tasting for 6 wines, you´ll need to either number your wine glasses from 1 to 6 or alternatively make yourself a numbered place mat using a piece of white paper, draw 6 circles and number them 1 to 6 and place the glasses over the circles. Cover all 6 bottles with a paper bag or aluminium foil to disguise them and number them 1 to 6. Pour a small tasting sample into each glass, pouring the wine number 1 into glass 1 and so on.

It´s fun to pick wines that have some common theme, whether it be grape variety (choose Sauvignon Blancs from different countries), Sparkling wines from different countries (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, New World Sparkling), or wines with different levels of ageing in oak barrels. Rioja is a perfect candidate for trying this one out! If you’re having a wine tasting party, you can easily ask each of your guests to bring a bottle that follows your selected theme.

There are a few key things to focus on to give you clues about the identity of the wine. Firstly, what color is the wine? And the how intense is that color? Secondly, what type of aromas does it have? There are three types of aromas – primary aromas (from the grape), secondary aromas (from the winemaking), and tertiary aromas (the time the wine spent in a barrel or bottle ageing). The primary aromas are the ones that can help you guess the grape variety. Other clues that can be helpful are to decide if the wine is dry, off-dry, medium dry, medium sweet or sweet. Does it have high / low acidity or high / low alcohol?

It´s a bit like playing detective and piecing the jigsaw pieces together to make up the bigger picture. Many grape varieties have a distinctive hallmark but don´t be disheartened if you don´t guess the correct wine. It really is very difficult. The fun is comparing how wines differ and more importantly finding out which ones you like. The most expensive and oldest wine is not necessarily the best!

How Merlot Saved Carmenere From Extinction By Mistake

How Merlot Saved Carmenere From Extinction … By Mistake

By Wine No Comments

Carmenere, one of Chile’s most popular wine varietals, was once very close to extinction.  Originally, Carmenere was grown in Bordeaux, France and used in some of the great Bordeaux red blends.  In the late 1800’s, phylloxera, a microscopic aphid, destroyed a majority of the wine grapes in France. This period was known as the Great French Wine Blight, though it eventually made it’s way across Europe and even Australia and New Zealand. It was thought that all Carmenere vines had completely died during this time.

Before the phylloxera destruction, the Chilean wine industry began to take off.  Back then, if you were starting a vineyard, the natural source for vines was France.  Chilean wineries began planting a mix of Bordeaux vines, including Merlot and Carmenere.  Merlot and Carmenere look very similar so over the centuries the identity of the Carmenere vines was lost and forgotten and lumped in with the Merlot. Even though every other major wine region at the time was affected by phylloxera in some way, Chile remained the only major wine producing country that completely evaded the bug, most likely due to it being surrounded by the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

It wasn’t until the early 1990’s that someone noticed that the “Chilean Merlot” had a stronger and spicier taste than other Merlots that were grown in other regions. Using DNA mapping, a professor at University of Montpellier’s School of Oenology (a world-renown wine school) identified it as the long-lost Carmenere.

After the discovery, Chileans embraced their “new found” varietal so much that it is now considered the national grape.