To quote the Bard, ”Now is the summer of our discontent, made inglorious by this summer sun of climate change.”
In the history of record-keeping, 2023 has already earned the dubious distinction of being the hottest year ever recorded. From Death Valley in California to Xinjiang in China, and across Europe, temperature records are being shattered. And when it comes to wine there is no agricultural product more sensitive to sun and summer heat than the grape vine. Global warming is affecting wine-grape growing the world over.
Even Bordeaux, the bastion of French wine superlatives, has approved the planting of vines that are more heat-tolerant. This comes after hundreds of years during which the five Bordeaux grape varieties—Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec—reigned supreme.
In April 2021, Bordeaux approved the planting of six grape varieties, four red and two white, which include Touriga Nacional, a Portuguese variety—a momentous event in the history of French winemaking. More ominous is the recent news that because of a poor harvest this year, Bordeaux is dumping an estimated $216 million of wine in an attempt to maintain prices.
For me summer is an enigma, you either love it or hate it. For some summer epitomizes the days of soda, pretzels and beer, and for others it is a period of interminable, hot and static boredom. For one, I am still stuck on those pop old golden oldies from the late 50’s to the early 60’s:
“Summertime and the livin is easy”-Porgy & Bess vs.
“There ain’t no cure for the summertime blues“-Eddie Cochran.
The good old days when as a kid you long for the summer holidays and before you know it they are over. Forgive me for my nostalgia, but as you all know, nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.
If all the world is blistering either from the summer heat or wildfires, we have been spared those tribulations, apart from the blanketing of smoke from Canada in June. As usual I apologize for fixating on the weather, but “weather” has taken on a new significance locally, nationally, and internationally.
From The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time. So is the weather today the result of climate change in the past.
I recently asked our trusty Vineyard Manager Bill Tonkins, how the weather has been trending in our area. Ex-President of the Virginia Vineyards Association(VVA) and member of the Virginia Tech (VT) advisory panel, Bill is largely responsible for the fact that through his continued connection with VT, Veritas is one of the sentinel vineyards in a statewide program to help predict vineyard disease pressure. Thanks to Bill for keeping Veritas a standout Virginia vineyard!
Now if you are into academic viticulture you will know about the Winkler Index. (Well 99 percent of the readers of this newsletter are not, so I will explain.) Dr. Winkler was a research viticulturist at the University of California, Davis, the epicenter of grape cultivation and winemaking in the United States. In 1944, he and Dr. Maynard Amerine first described—what is now known worldwide—as the Winkler Index based on growing conditions in California.
The index is a technique for classifying the climate of wine growing regions based on heat summation or growing degree days. In the system geographical areas are divided into five regions based on the temperature converted to growing degree days (GDD’s) commonly known as Regions I-V. Where we are located at the very top of Nelson County, with the western extreme of vineyards being in Albemarle, we are solidly in Region V with 2222-2700 GDD’s and that streak of orange (Region V) extends pretty much up the entire length of the Blue Ridge.
You can see that this year we are a little less than 2022, that almost reached 3000 that is on the edge of being too hot. Remember if you draw a line from Virginia across to Europe we cut through Lisbon and northern Sicily. Bottom line on climate change affecting our weather—it’s hot already and it is going to get hotter and inevitably wetter.
Emily is continuing to work hard on new and upcoming research initiatives for the Virginia wine industry. She has been a fundamental part of an innovative collaboration between the Virginia wine industry and the US Department of Agriculture, aimed at breeding disease resistant varieties that are more suitable for the challenges of our region. She is also part of the executive committee at the National Grape Research Alliance and is now serving as their Secretary.
Just like her uncle and our vineyard manager, Bill Tonkins, Emily is working at the forefront of research not only at a state-level but also at the national-level.
From left to right: Elliot, Evan, Jolie, Chris, Emily, Mac and Covey.
I have to say it, we have one heck of a cellar crew and what is most remarkable is that they are the longest standing, most productive and cohesive team we have ever had. Covey has been with us for two years; Mac is our harvest intern; Jolie of course is our veteran lab director who with unfailing consistency provides Emily and Elliott with the chemical analyses that ensure the fruit is ripe; and Chris and Evan are the backbone of the team led by Emily and Elliott.
It is time we gave due credit to our Terrace team: Jemel, Brett, Samira, and Jesse. Together they have formed an effective team providing everything the varied and delicious terrace menu put together by our Executive Chef, Andy Shipman. From summer salads to turkey wraps, it is the Terrace that keeps our customers happy with delicious food that matches the delicious wines. Thanks Guys!
The last of our Supper Series for this year was a real hit! Not only the most authentic Louisiana food I have ever eaten, cooked by one of the most authentic Louisiana chefs I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, but also the music and wine together made the evening probably one of if not the best of our Supper Series events ever. I have to say it, George, the inveterate CEO of Veritas for over a decade now, deserves five stars for this event: 1.) for conceptualizing the supper series, 2.) for lining up Paul Bourgeois, 3.) for inviting Moore and Giles, 4.) for organizing the band, and finally 5.) for bringing it all together! High five George!
To kick off our events calendar for the Fall, we are hosting for the first time the 2nd Annual Mad Jazz Festival on September 23rd. It’s going to be a big deal with a range of jazz styles and players including the acclaimed saxophonist Tim Warfield. Don’t miss it!
This year, 2023 is actually a time of momentous change for the family. Yes folks, Lydia (pictured left), Emily’s eldest is leaving the family fold to go to college at Boston University, majoring in business studies. Charlotte (pictured right), Lydia’s sister will be one of the saddest to see her go.
George and Tralyn’s two girls will be spending Hailey’s last year together at Western Albemarle High School.
Elsie, Chloe and Elliott’s youngest daughter is having trouble deciding on a career course.
Isla has always been an over-achiever!
‘Tis the end of summer and the beginning of fall, a time when everyone is working full tilt at the winery. Harvest is in full swing, the fruit comes crashing in from the vineyard, the press is working overtime and everyone is feeling a great sense of purpose and you know what? Everyone has a smile on their face. Harvest always precedes the busiest time of the year for visitors and wine sales that peaks in the middle of October until “all is safely gathered in. And then it’s Holiday Season!
Thank you for reading all the news from the Veritas family.
Have a Happy Labor Day,
Truffiere, Dilettante, and Raconteur.