With the Placerville Downtown Association’s 14th annual Art and Wine Festival coming up on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 15, it is again time to take a look at something pertaining to wine.
Here are some interesting and odd facts about wine, wine grapes and more to mull over while sipping some fruit of the vine while strolling Main Street in Placerville.
Production and consumption
Of the roughly 18 million acres of grapes planted in the world (the world’s largest single crop by acreage), the United States has around 950 thousand acres (5.3 percent) planted in grapes, ranking sixth behind Spain, France, Italy, China and Turkey. Of that acreage, 71 percent is in wine grapes.
All those grapes produce 27 million liters of wine world-wide each year. The United States produces about 2.8 million liters (10.4 percent), ranking fourth, behind France, Italy and Spain. Without the rest of the country, California itself would be still be fourth.
According to 2009 figures, with its total consumption of wine at 2.75 million liters per year, the United States ranks second world-wide, only slightly behind France at 2,91 million liters.
The United States consumption rate is increasing slowly while France’s is dropping significantly each year.
In annual per capita consumption of wine, the United States ranks 56th, at nearly nine liters per person, an amount that increases about one percent per year.
What country is first?
Vatican City State at 70 liters per person per year is in the No. 1 spot, followed in decreasing order by Luxembourg, Norfolk Island, France, Portugal, Italy, Andorra, Switzerland, Slovenia and the rest of the world.
Grapes are the highest value fruit crop in the United States and the sixth largest crop overall.
The federal government does not subsidize grape growing.
Wine grapes are grown and wineries produce wine is all 50 states, but California, with around 500 thousand acres of wine grapes, produces almost 90 percent of the nation’s wine and 95 percent of the wine that is exported.
The European Union is the recipient of the most exported American wine, followed by Canada, Japan, Mexico and Switzerland.
In decreasing order, other states with significant amounts of wine grape acreage are Washington (58 thousand acres), New York (37 thousand), Oregon (14.5 thousand), Michigan (14,2 thousand), Pennsylvania (13.6 thousand), Texas (2,500), Virginia (2,500), Ohio (1,900) and North Carolina (1,700).
It takes about three years for a grape vine to produce useful grapes with the vine reaching full production in about five years.
The productive lifetime of a vine is 30 to 35 years. Although the quality can remain good or get even better, the yield begins to decrease after that.
There are four to five grape clusters, or around 500 to 600 individual berries, in a 750 ml bottle of wine.
The average vineyard produces four tons per acre, although that amount can vary greatly depending upon varietal, location and method of farming. A ton of grapes produces around 120 gallons of wine.
The first commercial winery in the United States, established in 1823, was located in Missouri.
Grapes were first planted in California at Mission San Diego in 1769. The variety was called “mission” and cuttings from these vines were established as the network of missions grew. This variety still exists in many regions of California.
A numbers game
The number of wineries in California hit a post-Prohibition low of 240 in 1970. By 2010 that number had increased to 3,364.
In 1870 the United States unknowingly exported Phylloxera (a louse that attacks roots of grape vines) to Europe which virtually destroyed all of Europe’s vineyards.
As a consequence, all European vineyards had to be grafted to native American rootstock, which is Phylloxera resistant, and then replanted.
Odd and unusual
There is a 1,600 year old bottle of wine that was found in a Roman grave on display in the Speyer Museum in Germany.
Plato argued that the minimum drinking age should be 18, and then wine in moderation may be tasted until 31. When a man reaches 40, he may drink as much as he wants to cure the “crabbedness of old age.”
The English word “wine” may be rooted in the Semitic yayin (lamentation and wailing).
In Arabic, the word is wain, in Greek it is oinos, and in the Romance languages it is vin, vino, vina, vinho.
All wines taste like fruit. Only rarely does a wine taste like grapes. Muscat and concord are two wines that do taste like grapes most of the time.
Red Burgundy is made from the pinot noir grape and is so difficult to make that winemakers all over the world see it as some kind of Holy Grail.
A feminine wine is a wine that is more delicate than most. A masculine wine refers to a “big” or “full” wine.
The smell of young wine is called an “aroma” while a more mature wine offers a more subtle “bouquet.”
The worst place to store wine is in the kitchen because it is typically too warm to store wine safely, especially in the built-in wine racks found near the ceiling in some homes.
Refrigerators are not satisfactory for storing wine either. Even at their warmest setting, they’re too cold. However, an opened and resealed bottle of wine will keep longer in a refrigerator.
It is claimed that 30 million gallons of wine were lost in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
There are more than 10 thousand varieties of wine grapes found in the world, and probably 10 times that many names for them.
Grenache, one of the most planted varietals in the world, is known by 59 different names.
There are more acres of chardonnay grapes planted in California than any other varietal (95,300 acres). Second is cabernet sauvignon (77,600 acres). Those two varietals are followed by zinfandel (49,100 acres), merlot (46,800 acres) and pinot noir (37,300 acres).
The No. 2 white grape is French colombard (24,800 acres). It was once a favorite but now most of it is blended or made into “jug” wines.
The grape showing the largest percentage in increased planting over the past decade is pinot grigio or pinot gris.
During prohibition, an interesting product called the “grape brick” was sold to thousands of wine-parched households across America. Attached to the “brick” of dried and pressed winegrape concentrate was a packet of yeast, and the stern warning, “Do not add yeast and water or fermentation will result and that would be illegal.”
San Bernabe, in Monterey county, is the world’s largest vineyard. There are 9,400 acres in vines out of a total of 13,248 acres on the estate. The vineyard covers about 20 square miles.
The soil of the famed Clos de Vougeot (A vineyard in the Burgundy district of France) is considered so precious that vineyard workers are required to scrape it from their shoes before they leave for home each night.
Through DNA testing wine experts are fairly sure the zinfandel grape originated in Croatia. However, nobody knows for sure where the name zinfandel originated.
These are some fun and informative thoughts to share as the Placerville Downtown Association presents the Art and Wine Festival on Saturday, Oct. 15, from 6 to 9 p.m. along Main Street.
More than 30 foothill wineries will offer tastings of their wines inside merchant locations on Main Street.
The “Banners on Parade” community art project will be displayed and the banners will be auctioned off that evening.
The works of local artists will be on display and there will be music and hors d’oeuvres.
Music at the Belltower will feature Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers.
Tickets to taste the wines are limited and are available for $30 at The Wine Smith, Tony Matthews and River City Bank in Placerville or by visiting placerville-downtown.org for credit card orders. Tasters will get a souvenir wine glass.
The event is sponsored by the Placerville Downtown Association. For information call (530) 672-3436.