I’m not musing about wine’s impact on our bodies; rather, I am thinking more about what happens to all the stuff that’s left over after the wine making is finished.
Wine is made, of course, by pressing grapes and fermenting the juice. When the fermentation is complete, the wine may be aged, and then is bottled, sold and enjoyed.
But along the way, there’s the residue: after all, it is just the juice that is made into wine. The left-overs, made up of stems, seeds, pulp and skins, is known as Pomace.
In winemaking, about 80% of the grape is transformed into wine. 20 percent, therefore, ends up as solid waste. In 2015, California crushed over a million tons of grapes, just in Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon alone, which could result in over 200,000 tons of Pomace.
One use for the pomace is found in the production of some kind of spirit. The French might make a brandy from the third or fourth pressing of the grapes, called Marc. The Italian equivalent is Grappa. Some of these are truly firewater, but some can be quite attractive. In northern Italy, the Nebbiolo grape is particularly suited for this distillation. Marketed in designer bottles, it can command a pretty penny.
Still in wine-making, skins from dried grapes used in making Amarone have been re-used to pump up the regular Valpolicella wines in a process of re-fermentation called “ripasso”. In recent years, the practice of drying grapes prior to winemaking has been spreading, and it is used very effectively by at least two Ontario wineries, Burning Kiln and Foreign Affair.
At the University of Adelaide, scientists are looking to develop sustainable technology and processes to enable the industry to improve yield and quality of spirits and at the same time reduce waste.
Much of the pomace ends up as fertilizer back in the vineyard, and much is sold for about $10 a ton to be turned into cattle feed, albeit by itself it has poor nutrient value and digestibility. Some ends up in land-fills. Wineries, scientists, and entrepreneurs are continually looking for value-adding ways to re-purpose this material.
While we have a long way to go before the by-products can be used widely on a commercial scale, there are many optimistic options being developed. These include bio-fuels, skin-care products, nutritional supplements, foods and food preservatives, and even a living rechargeable battery.
In Australia, at least a couple of Universities are doing research into converting pomace into biofuel. At Swinburne University of Technology, a graduate student has found a way to convert the biomass into alcohol, acids and sugars that have industrial and medicinal potential. Just a half hour is required for a heated fungi “cocktail” to break down the pomace, a process that would take about three weeks in a bioreactor.
At Turkey’s Erciyes University, a researcher is isolating anti-microbial and anti-bacterial agents which could be natural alternatives to artificial preservatives. Other studies involving grape seed extracts show potential in these areas, too.
Elsewhere, scientists are finding ways to use the sugar left in white grape pomace (which has a much higher concentration than that found with red grapes) in the production of low-cal sweeteners.
Grape seeds are 10-20% oil, and in the winemaking process, the pips remain generally intact and can be processed to produce grapeseed oil. If cold-pressed as opposed to being extracted with chemicals, grape-seed oil could be beneficial; for one, it is now being used in some skin-care products.
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported last July that Jackson Family Wines with extensive holdings in Sonoma has established SonomaCeuticals which aims to use 25% of the solid waste to create flours and oils, marketed under the Whole Vines Products brand and which will fit in squarely with the gluten free market.
Pomace flour, apparently, can be bitter in large quantities, but can replace up to 20% of regular flour without altering taste or texture.
One of the most promising endevours is happening at the University of Bologna, where Lorenzo Bertin and his colleagues have developed a multi-purpose bio-refinery which, in a single integrated process transforms the waste into a series of usable by-products, from polyphenols and sugars, to fatty acids, and finally methane. Even liquid waste is treated to produce environmentally friendly polymeric materials.
Finally, there is winery waste water. It is usually laden with sugar, which, when discharged results in algae blooms that are detrimental to water eco-systems. There are now a number of research projects under way in wine country which use microbial electrolysis to purify the water, including one aimed at creating a microbial fuel cell.
The catch with all these initiatives boils down to finding ways that are cost-efficient and usable on the large scale. If there’s a will, though, there’s a way – and wouldn’t it be great?
Open Smooth Red and Open Smooth White
Both the Wine Rack stores and the LCBO are offering Open Smooth Red and Smooth White this month for $1 off, at $11.95. In both cases, the wines have been crafted for those who prefer wines with some sweetness to them, a category of wine that has been growing steadily in the last few years.
With the Wine Rack wines, described as ‘Product of Canada’, Open Smooth Red has an impact of sweet cherry fruit balanced by a tannic burr towards the end providing essential balance. There is a sweet note on the aftertaste, but it isn’t cloying.
The Open Smooth White has an attractive nose reminding me of a juicy Bosc pear. When you sip, there is a moderate sense of density with just enough acidity to cut the sweetness admirably and to invite you to take another sip. That pear fruit impression comes back on the after taste.
You might want to compare these Wine Rack wines with those at the LCBO as they may not be the same thing at all. The LCBO wines carry the VQA designation which assures that the fruit is entirely from Ontario vineyards. These wines have between 25 and 28 grams of sugar for the red, and 20 and 23 for the white.
Limited Time Offers until April 24
These wines stand out in terms of quality and price.
Southbrook Farm Connect White, $14.95 offers true organic purity. An blend of Vidal, Chardonnay Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, it will be a most enjoyable drink, the flavours coming on quietly, but then blossoming with a clean impression of lovely fruit.
Cono Sur Organic Chardonnay, $11.05 is a $3 saving. Some say light and fresh, others full-bodied and weighty, many remark on the stone fruit -peach, pear- and others pickup on pineapple, and the consensus is crisp on the finish. All really, really like it!
Casillero Del Diablo Devil’s Collection Red, $11.90, is also $3 off, but this is for a wine that generally sells for $17 on average. From the esteemed Concha y Toro house in Chile, this blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère has a lively nose, oodles of ripe dark fruit, and notes of chocolate. It has some dry tannins as well.
Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2013, $17.95, a $2 savings. While the grapes are classically Bordeaux, the style is all Veneto, employing the ripasso method. There is great extraction of dark cherry and red berry fruit on the palate, with some acceptable tannic bite in the middle, all culminating in a welcome, flavour-filled conclusion.
April 16 Vintages Release
Loosen Bros. Dr. L. Riesling 2014, $13.95 is a re-release, first hitting the shelves last November. Well, Welcome Back! This inexpensive Mosel gem consistently pleases with lush peach-like sweetness balanced by the raciness associated with the slate soils on the steep Mosel vineyards. With only 8.5% alcohol, it exemplifies moderation all by itself.
Château Sainte-Marie Vielles Vignes Entre-Deux Mers 2014, $14.95, is an attractive Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle sporting consistent positive reviews. The aromatics suggest flowers and herbs, while crisp acidity from the Sauvignon Blanc plays against some creamy notes and peach flavours thanks to the Semillon. In all, there is good complexity and length, and very good value.
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Fumé Blanc 2014, $22.95, is the latest edition of a style of wine that Robert Mondavi himself pioneered back around 1969, a Sauvignon Blanc with some toasted barrel age, when he wanted to move away from a sweeter style to one more akin to the French Pouilly Fumé. The 2014 has only now been released, having enjoyed a year of bottle age. That characteristic of “new-mown hay” is evident on the nose, but the sometimes “over-exuberance” of flavour that we can find with Sauvignon Blanc has been dialled back, tempered by barrel fermentation, including a small percentage of new French oak. A small amount of Semillon (6%) brings some silk to the palate. In all, this wine comes across as a grown-up sibling to a good example from New Zealand.
Claro Magnolio Reserve Malbec 2014, $13.95 stands out because it is from Chile, not Argentina, and carries a Wine Enthusiast “Best Buy” designation for “creamy notes of oak and vanilla” a “muscular palate” and “dark flavors of blackberry and chocolate”.
Rede Reserva 2010, $14.95, is yet another example of the inexpensive but terrific wines that have been heading our way for some time now from Portugal and Spain. The Wine Enthusiast indicates it is ready to drink but will still improve, with “juicy plum flavors” playing against “dense tannins”. Britain’s Jancis Robinson group remarked on its “attractive drinkability without any unnecessary…sweetness and [with] the distinctive dry Douro texture”. A great wine for the table.
Gotin Del Risc Mencia 2010, $15.95, is a Spanish red from Bierza which underscores the point above. erobertparker.com gave it a 91, and all reviews suggest there is judicious use of wood, but ample fruit to carry it, along with the right amount of acidity to keep it fresh.
Michael David Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $26.95 is another wine from the maker of ‘Petit Petite’ which has developed a real following. This baby is a base drum-booming red with heady fruit aromas (the Wine Enthusiast says molasses!) saturated flavours of currants, berries and plums, and then a waft of Mediterranean herbs to add to the effect – all in a “dense, full-bodied, supple and silky style” according to the Parker people. Shazam!
“From The Sublime To The Ridiculous II”
On Saturday, April 16, an evening of great music and great fun will be held at the Baldwin Theatre located in The Tech (formerly St. Mary’s College on Wellington). Doors open at 7:00 –with a cash bar – and the performance starts at 7:30. Tickets are $4O and are available at the Station Mall Box Office, 705-945-7299, www.kctc.ca.
World-renowned Duo Turgeon will perform on the piano, and the Comedics, a zany group of local doctors and friends will supply much of the fun. In addition Wendell Ferguson and Katherine Wheatley will be performing, along with vocalist, Gabrielle Turgeon.
Given the nature of the naughty doctors, the performance may not be appropriate for children, but all is forgiven as the proceeds will benefit the Algoma University Music Program and the Algoma Conservatory of Music.