Saturday, February 26, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again

The grapes are starting to ripen and we are preparing for harvest.
Tests have shown that the Semillon is at 10.2 degrees Baume', Pinot Noir at 10.0 and Tempranillo at 9.8. It's too early to test the late ripening Cabernet Sauvignon.
If we get a few weeks of dry weather and sunshine then two more degrees Baume' for the white and three for the reds would be perfect.
But we have had the wettest summer on record with weeks and weeks of rain and cloudy days.

This has slowed up the ripening process mainly by the vines absorbing water and diluting the grape juice.
Also unfortunately the weather has completely disrupted our spraying program and for the first time ever we have a concerning amount of fungus in the vineyard.
One, although recently it has been classified as an algae, is downy mildew, Plasmopara viticola.
This shows up as a white deposit on the underside of leaves.
It attacks the leaves and eventually kills them and they drop. Without leaves the grapes will not ripen.

Another problem fungus is Botrytis or grey rot or bunch rot.
Botrytis cinerea results in a disintegration of grape berry structure and creates the ideal conditions for the infection of the fruit with yeasts and bacteria which increase volatile acidity
and laccase activity. The musts obtained from infected grapes are strongly compromised both microbiologically and chemically. This shows up as laccase enzymes, a high concentration of apiculated yeasts, acetic bacteria, lactic bacteria and high concentrations of gluconic and acetic acid.
The most important wine making problems are caused by the presence of laccase, an enzyme that oxidises wine polyphenols.
As an indirect consequence it causes the production of acetaldehyde, the reduction of the free sulphur dioxide, an increase in "faded" aromatics, the loss of primary aromas, the darkening of white wines, and an increase of orange notes in red wines.

So we have a bit of a battle on our hands this vintage to produce reasonable wine.
And why is downy mildew now an algae and not a fungus?
Because it needs water to sporolate and spread and it can produce its own food through photosynthesis.
Fungi feed on other organisms.
OK, enough microbiology, back to getting tanks, the destemmer/crusher, buckets and press cleaned up and ready.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Parli Italiano?

I certainly don't, but would like to.
The co driver is enthusiastic too especially since we intend to return to Italy for a long term stay in the near future. Our first trip to Umbria back in 2005 where we stayed in and visited out of the way places convinced us that more than a basic tourist knowledge of the language would be of great benefit.
My only other language is German (and sometimes American, when the need arises). Foreign languages don't come easy to me and it was quite a struggle to become proficient in the one. I can see a number of my readers from Germany nodding knowingly here (At least I tried, Dieter!).
During the same 2005 trip when in Germany, I was amazed how much I remembered and how easy the language came back. Being able to 'convince' a couple of locals to move from our pre booked train seats between Frankfurt and Mainz was a good testament to the training of the Inlingua Sprachschule in Koeln (Cologne), not to mention the patience of my work colleagues. I would also throw in a little teutonic assertiveness learnt in the corporate environment a few kilometers to the north of that city.
Universities of the Third Age, or U3As as they are more often called are voluntary, non-profit organisations which aim to offer older people low-cost educational opportunities which operate in a pleasant, supportive social setting.

There are no formal entry requirements, no examinations and no "awards". U3As are basically self-help groups built on the premise that collectively older people have the skills and knowledge to provide learning opportunities for themselves. In fact the word "university" in the title is used in its earliest sense ie. a community of scholars who get together to help each other in a learning/social experience.
U3A is a world wide organisation with groups in many countries. There are more than 3000 groups spread over all continents. The U3A movement in Australia per head of population, has the greatest number of groups in the world and continues to expand.
Most of the groups in Australia are community based and we have one in our town and they are running a beginners Italian language course.
We have enrolled and had our first lesson. Our teacher, Sam, is of Italian heritage (like so many residents in this once thriving fishing port) and the class has ten enthusiastic students.
We are trying to learning the alphabet, numbers up to 100 and days of the week and months as homework. The Internet is proving a wonderful tool in this endeavour. Lots of video/audio lessons can be easily accessed, especially on YouTube.
By the way, did you know the Italian alphabet has only 21 letters, not 26?
So we are ahead already!

Monday, February 07, 2011

South Coast Wine Show 2011

The 2011 show has been run, the presentation dinner held and medals awarded.
This year the judging and the public tasting took place at a new venue, the Mollymook Golf Club function center, and everyone agreed it was a much more comfortable place for both activities.
Certainly the view over Mollymook beach could be considered a bit distracting.
There were 143 entries from 24 vineyards and wineries, 10 in the Southern Highlands Wine Region, 7 in the Shoalhaven Coast Wine Region, 5 in the Nepean Hawkesbury Area and 2 from the remainder of the South Coast Wine Zone.
87 medals were awarded; 7 Gold 19 Silver 61 Bronze
Again, white wines were dominant.
More details can be found on this link.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Yasi's Aftermath

Yasi has now weakened to a tropical low causing flash flooding, hailstorms and 90km/h winds in an arc from Queensland's north-west, through Alice Springs and as far south as Melbourne.
Huge amounts of warm, moisture-laden air brought across the continent by one of the largest cyclones in memory have been dragged south, colliding over Victoria with a large cold front heading north.
That front ''ingested'' the moisture, causing huge cloudbursts that dumped rainfall of up to 200mm in just two hours over Melbourne and regional Victoria. Thunderstorms were also recorded in NSW's south-west and hailstones ''as big as golf balls'' fell in Mildura.
While Victoria coped with flash flooding in suburban Melbourne early yesterday, forcing the rescue of 84 people from homes and cars, 4000 calls to the State Emergency Services and the closure of train lines, major roads and freeways, Sydney was in the seventh day of a heatwave.
But the Bureau of Meteorology said Yasi was not affecting Sydney's weather. The heat was due to a hot northerly airstream, caused by a slow-moving high-pressure system in the Tasman Sea, bringing hot air from the centre of the continent, coupled with high humidity, cloudy nights and high ocean temperatures.

Yesterday Yasi was hovering over the Northern Territory about 430km south-west of Mount Isa, causing heavy rain in far west Queensland.
For us sweltering on the south coast, south of Sydney, the news of snowstorms in the USA looked particularly appealing.
We have just sweated through our hottest night on record. The overnight low of 27.6 degrees was one degree higher than the previous record of 26.6, which occurred in February 1973. It was still 33.2 degrees at midnight, seven degrees above the average daytime maximum temperature.
The sweltering night followed a record-breaking seven days of temperatures over 30 degrees, a feat never before seen in 150 years of weather records.
But according to the Bureau the heatwave will finally, and quickly, come to an end today, Sunday, after a hot start to the day.
And as I type, the cooling southerly is starting to blow.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Yes, We Have No Bananas

Queenslanders returned to their homes today to begin counting the cost of Cyclone Yasi after it smashed through the state's northeast coast, flattening crops in Australia's main banana and sugar cane growing region.

Banana crops in the region may be only 15% of their normal level, which is expected to see national banana prices quickly skyrocket toward $15 per kilo, in a similar pattern to Cyclone Larry, another category five cyclone, that hit the region five years ago.
A huge area of the sugar cane crop was also completely flattened by the cyclone. It is estimated more than $A500 million of cane could be lost.
Australia is the world's third-largest sugar exporter, after Brazil and Thailand.

The storm had forced tens of thousands of residents to seek safety away from its path, with the Queensland police confirming only one death so far . Others remain missing although Queensland Emergency Services Minister said the damage doesn't appear to be "as bad as had been feared."
The fallout will continue however. Rains from Yasi are due to hit the southern states over the weekend. Australia, particularly in the east, continues to struggle with a La Nina weather event responsible for Yasi and recent flooding in an area roughly the size of Germany and France in a devastating seasonal pattern that could persist for a few more months and possibly most of 2011.
More pictures of the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi are available on the link below:

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Cyclone Yasi Update

Cyclone Yasi crossed the north Queensland coast at Mission Beach, south of Cairns about midnight last night as a category five. Mission Beach, Tully, Tully Heads, and Cardwell appear to have borne the monster cyclone’s full force. It was early this morning downgraded to a category three and is still considered dangerous. The cyclone has left the major city of Cairns relatively unscathed and the city will be open for business "very soon", the city’s mayor says.

The premier of Queensland said it was too early to have even basic assessments of the damage in some of the hardest hit communities such as Cardwell, to the south of Mission Beach as police have not been able to get into town as yet. She said about 175,000 people in the area were without power, after the cyclone hit major transmission lines and restoring supply would be a major priority.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cyclone Yasi

A category 5 tropical cyclone (hurricane) has been developing in the Coral Sea off northern Queensland for some time now.
It is now heading for the coast and is expected to cross it between Cairns and Ingham sometime tonight.
Winds are expected to be around 300km/hr (190mph) accompanied by a tidal surge of some 8-12m.
This is potentially the most damaging storm in living memory dwarfing Cyclone Tracy which completely destroyed Darwin in 1974.

Coastal areas have been evacuated and those who were unable to travel south have been located to cyclone shelters in major centers.
The Australian Airforce evacuated the patients from two major hospitals in the area south to Brisbane.
All the tourist islands on the Great Barrier Reef have also been cleared of people and all airports in the region closed.

The size of this storm is difficult to comprehend.
The above picture of its scale will probably help those not familiar with the Australian continent.
This, on top of the floods some weeks ago in Queensland, is making this 'wet season' one of the most disastrous on record.
Yasi could take at least 24 hours to weaken after it makes landfall probably going to go 500km inland before it's no longer of a cyclone intensity. Extensive outback flooding is expected.
I shall keep you updated.