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Global warming is a serious issue, made all the more tragic when we learn that rising temperatures may lead to a shortage of wine.
Drought across Europe has kept grape yields down, with the overall harvest in France off 19 percent vs. 2011. Italy’s harvest also dropped for the second year in a row. In Spain, for the third. Even South America hasn’t been spared: Argentina’s wine production plummeted 24 percent.
In Champagne, things are currently at rock bottom, though there are no drought issues here. Instead, hail and fungus, driven by excessive rain, nearly cut the 2012 crop in half. The total tonnage of Champagne grapes harvested is the lowest in 40 years, according to the French Ministry of Agriculture.
In the end, when all the grapes are juiced, it’s estimated that worldwide wine production for the year will be at its lowest level since 1975.
Introducing the newest trend on the vine, toast of food and wine critics everywhere — orange wine, made through one of the most ancient wine-making processes in the world.
“They’re white wines, made like red wines,” said Christopher Tracy, winemaker and co-owner of Channing Daughters Winery in New York. While modern whites and rosés involve extracting and separating the juice from the grapes’ skin, orange wines, like reds, are stomped by foot and remain in their skins for much of the process. The skins hold the — yes! — tannins, which lend the bitter astringency you know and love in reds.
A white wine that’s bitter and astringent doesn’t sound particularly luscious, but Doug Crowell, the owner of Buttermilk Channel restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y., said he has dedicated a section of his drink menu to orange wines after their glowing reception from diners. And oranges have been the toast of food and wine critics recently.
“They tend to be delicious,” Crowell enthused. “They’re also very versatile and pair well with food.”
Making ice wine is a tricky and expensive process — the yield is only 5 to 10 percent of what you’d get in the fall — but the sweet, bold reward is totally worth it. Joe Ray takes us inside Canada’s frigid wineries.
The whole ice wine operation is fraught with extra costs, risks and difficulties. When the fields are empty of people, a swarm of starlings swoops in to feast on the frozen grapes; even with nets protecting the grapes, it’s estimated that 10 percent of the production goes down the gullets of local birds.
While most Ontario ice wine grapes tends to be picked by machines, its production conditions are extreme. By law, it must be made below minus 8 degrees Celsius (17.6 Fahrenheit), which means much of the picking and crushing must be done at night; entire crews can be called in for a few hours whenever there’s a cold snap.
“The total production of ice wine here comes up to what just one Italian vineyard produces,” said Marco Piccoli, winemaker at the nearby Jackson-Triggs winery, getting comically worked up about ice wine’s relatively higher prices. “We get up at 3 a.m. and pick at 10 below. In the dark! I’m going to charge you an extra 10 dollars a bottle on principle!”