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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about...winemaking.


CURWOOD: 200 years ago this week, the nation's first successful commercial vineyard was established near Lexington, Kentucky. The 630-acre plot was owned by Jacques Dufour, a Swiss man who had been General LaFayette's personal winemaker. Wine has been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. Vitis vinifera (VEE-tus vihn-IHF-uruh) -- the grape plant -- probably originated from the region that is now Iraq and Iran. It was developed by ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Roman armies carried large supplies of wine to disinfect their water supplies, dress their battle wounds, and, of course, to drink. Giving advice on growing wine grapes, Virgil wrote: "Vines love an open hill." They're not so picky about the soil, though. Grape vines can grow in poor soils, since they can send their roots far below the surface to tap nutrients. But soil type does effect the taste -- as can weather conditions, topography, harvesting dates, as well as fermentation and aging methods. All of these determine which compounds the wine will produce. Some lend a black pepper aroma to California zinfandels. Others give sauvignons their hint of bell pepper flavor.



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