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Winegrape Cultivar Mix in Galicia’s Five Denominaciónes de Origen

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Galicia-D.OGalicia has five Denominaciónes de Origen (D.O.) for wine, of which Rias Baixas has the largest vineyard area, produces the most grapes and has the most wineries.  Rias Baixas’ success has been based on producing fruity, refreshing, dry white wines from the Albariño grape cultivar. Also increasingly featuring on the international radar are red and white wines from Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras and Monterrei.  Part of their attraction is their use of indigenous grape cultivars, which give many of the wines an attractive and welcome flavour profile change from that of the more commonly encountered international winegrapes.

The most important indigenous cultivars are Albariño, Godello and Treixadura (whites) and Mencia (black).  Many other cultivars may be permitted according to D.O. regulations, but are usually encountered in only small amounts.  The following pie charts show the compositional makeup of each of Gallicia’s D.O.s based on 2013 harvest information.  For Ribeiro, limited information only allows a split between black and white cultivars to be made.  Also included for comparative purposes is the 2013 harvest composition for the Bierzo wine region which, although located in Castilla y Leon, is contiguous with Valdeorras.

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Ribeiro-Grape-Composition-2Ribeira-Sacra-Cultivars-201Monterrei-Grape-Comp-2013aValdeorras-Grape-ProductionBierzo-Harvest-Comp-2013a

The Washington State Wine Grape Crush

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As well as growing grapes for juice and jelly, Washington is the second largest wine grape producing state of the U.S.  It produces wine at a variety of price points, but a number of producers aspire for it to be recognised as a premium wine region.  This is an area which is experiencing growth and where growers are adapting to find the most suitable (and profitable) mix of grape varietals.

Washington-wine-grape-crushIn 1993, wine grapes in Washington occupied a total of 4,496 ha, of which 36% were black and 64% white. By 2011 the total vineyard area was 17,745 ha of which black varietals now represented 57% of the total wine grape area.  These changes to the vineyard have had a marked effect on the harvest and crush.

Most obviously, the size of the crush has increased.  In 2000 the Washington crush totalled 81,600 metric tonnes (t), it reached a record breaking 170,500 t in 2012 and is expected to be larger still in 2013.  Another significant change has been in the ratio of black to white grapes, with 2012 being the first year that black grapes crushed exceeded that of whites.

Washington-white-grape-pricOf Washington’s white grapes, Chardonnay has historically commanded a significant price premium, but since 2002 its price has converged with the other major white grape cultivars.   These have all stabilised at an average price of US$600-800 per metric tonne (t), representing an average decline in real terms over the past ten years.  An emphasis on grape (and wine) quality and increased marketing efforts will probably be required if future price increases of white grapes in real terms are to be achieved.  Washington Reislings may be very well respected by critics, but this is a varietal that still struggles to obtain widespread consumer acceptance.

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The average price of black grapes over the last ten years has risen steadily and in 2012 was in the range of US$1,000-1,300 per metric tonne for the major cultivars.  Lower yields are typically obtained for black compared to white grapes.  In Washington’s 2011 crush, the black grape yield was 6.9 t/ha compared to 10.9 t/ha for white grapes.  When yields are taken into account, the price differential between black and white grapes seems somewhat less dramatic.

If 2013 does indeed prove to be a bumper crop for Washington State, perhaps wine lovers outside the US will soon have more of a chance to drink some of the increasingly sophisticated wines being produced in this underrated wine region.  The 2012 entry of E&J Gallo into the Washington wine scene (via their purchase of Columbia Winery) might just hasten Washington’s bid to receive a deserved wider audience.