Making wine Part 1–Land

Many steps and decisions went into making the wine you will enjoy tonight. This week and the following eight weeks, we visit the magical journey from soil and sunshine to the sublime liquid you enjoy.

Our story begins with the land. Wine grapes grow in a relatively narrow belt between the 30th and 50th degrees latitudes in both hemispheres. That grape sweet strip occurs over much more land in the northern hemisphere. Those latitudes in the southern hemisphere primarily traverses oceans. But no matter if you are California, France, Spain, Italy or Argentina, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the challenges and the processes essentially are the same.

Grapes can grow almost anywhere. Good wine cannot be made almost anywhere. Paradoxically, the more difficult the soil, often the better the grape. The sides of mountains or hills, where growing grain and vegetable crops would be difficult or impossible, are ideal for wine grapes. Rocky, stoney soil with almost no nutrients, where many food crops could not be grown, are places where some of the finest wine grapes in the world grow.

Rich, well-watered valley floors are where the majority of our fruits and vegetables grow. The same land can produce wine grapes in abundance, but often of low quality. Bountiful rain can be a truck farmer’s friend. Such conditions can cause problems for grape farmers. The Cafayate Valley in Chili, the driest place on Earth, supports a quality wine industry. The fecund Central Valley of California mainly produces low-end wines. We will dig into why that is later in this series.

Once you secure your plot of land, preparation for planting begins. Ideally, vines are planted on a south or southeast-facing slope in rows running east-west so the vines receive optimum sun exposure. That, of course, cannot always happen. Skill goes into making the most out of terrain God and your property deed gives you.

There is more prep to come. Roads. Water sources if there will be irrigation. Trellis designs if the vines are to be trained. The winery needs to be determined—on site or will grapes be trucked to an existing site or crush facility elsewhere?

Only after that preparation will vine planting come into play. That is next week’s topic.

Last round: I bought a sail online for my boat. Then I realized I ordered the wrong size and called to cancel. Too late they said. That sail has shipped. I drowned my anguish with a nice bottle of wine.