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Towards More Sustainable Viticulture

August 13, 2015 Leave a comment

grapesToday I’m offering to your attention a guest post which is a bit unusual for this blog – it is a lot more technical then we usually get here, on the pages of Talk-a-Vino. This blog post is written by Urška Krajnc (email: urska@eviti.co), Business developer of eVineyard, a vineyard management solution (and an App), helping viticulturists to grow better grapes. Hope you will find it interesting. Your comments and questions are definitely encouraged. Enjoy!

Agricultural production is one of the most important economic activities on Earth. The majority of human food originates from land, which must perform over time in a consistent manner and produce huge quantities of output. To meet the demands of the world’s growing population, farmers have to increase crop production and availability of food. This is nowadays achieved through the standardization of crops, genetic changes of plants, growth hormones and excessive use of pesticides. Many argue that changes in agricultural production are not going into the right direction. Therefore initiatives for more economical, environmentally and socially sustainable agriculture have emerged.

An important problem of the agriculture production are pesticides, which have negative impact on human health and environmental pollution. While inappropriate use of pesticides is literally directly threatening human lives in certain (usually less developed) areas of the world, it also counts for many indirect harmful effects on human health, ecosystem changes, etc. Pesticide spraying, for example, has a huge impact on the bee population in the country-side, while bees are the main pollinators of certain species of plants. In certain areas, the bee population has reduced by as impressive amounts as 30%. All this is leading to large environmental imbalances – as the pollination reduces, the flora will not flourish as it should anymore, and soon fauna will follow. And we’re a very part of that, even though we may not see it.

Similar story exists with water organisms, which are being killed by the over-usage of pesticides, drifted from the spray targets to the water flows. Pesticides affect human health also through the  residues left in food, that can be toxic to humans. Grapes are believed to be among fruits with the highest level of pesticide residues. Not only in table grapes, but also in wine, several pesticides can be found, especially when the conventional production methods of wine are followed. Therefore in certain regions of the world, more sustainable and environmentally friendly agricultural production methods have developed to a larger extent. Alternative methods for large-scale growing are becoming feasible through the latest technology. The fact is that the food production needs optimization, and research has shown that an optimization can be only achieved if the resources that farmers use, are applied in a knowledgeable way.

Some of the countries are already taking steps towards the reduction of pesticides usage. France, for example, decided to reduce the amount of pesticide spraying by 50% in the time between 2008 and 2018. But even though there are national directives, and common sense leading more and more people to move away from pesticides, there are still situations where spraying is seen as necessary – and maybe in some cases it actually is, in order to avoid larger pollution later on, and to sustain the production that feeds our world today. However, a French winegrower from Burgundy probably wouldn’t agree, and would rather go to jail for a few weeks than to spray his grapevines with a pesticide that would consequently poison his soil for the generations to come. Even more, the first real cases against the corporations providing pesticides, are starting, as some people die of cancer which was clearly the consequence of long-term pesticide usage.

endless_vineyards_1The fact is that some of the pesticides are originating from military chemicals and the vast majority of them includes synthetically originated chemical compounds, developed to kill certain pests. Even here, the things are changing through the development of the natural fungicides, which don’t harm non-target pests, but work on fungus. Big steps were done also by science in predicting the disease outbreaks according to the environmental conditions, and using those predictions to spray selectively in order to prevent the diseases at the optimal time, instead of routine spraying. This scientific research is nowadays manifesting in practice through cost-effective solutions, based on sensors and data about the weather, and is targeted at the crops which are classically produced with large amounts of pesticides, like grapes.

Several wine producing countries – France, Spain and Italy under the EU agricultural policy, as well as Australia and United States of America, are systematically reducing the use of pesticides on grapevines for the last 15 years. The practical measures are taken to reduce pesticide residues and environmental pollution via usage restrictions of several dangerous pesticides and introduction of Integrated Pest Management approach. This approach has proven to reduce pesticides residues not only in wine, but also in the other agricultural products. Australian winegrowers have reduced the usage of pesticides through the use of technological solutions for strategic spray timing and through the use of more naturally produced pesticides. In the United States of America, the reduction of pollution is achieved through banning of several harmful pesticides and through the introduction of sustainable wine-growing practices, supported with the sensors and information technology, used to optimize other processes, such as irrigation. Similar practices are used throughout the Europe, which has seen a big increase in pesticide use in post World War II time, which is now decreasing.

Mountain vineyards view (Ridge)

In many European countries, the “Denomination of Origin” policies don’t allow irrigation and some other kinds of terroir manipulation in order to get the “DO” sign. But systems for smarter plant protection are always welcome and are already in place in most of the countries by big growers, with the adoption of technology now being done by smaller growers as well. Some winegrowers around the world went even a step further and applied organic wine production principals, due to the changes in market demands, led by the conscious consumers. In EU, 6.6% of the grape-growing area is treated as organic, from which one third of organic grape-growing area is in Spain. Unfortunately, on the other side of the world, in China, with rapidly growing grape production, a production and usage of pesticides is increasing.

A lot of solutions exist – we can spray very selectively by using sensors and computers that take into account the existent knowledge. We can completely avoid spraying in some cases, and in the other cases, we may use the natural fungicides that don’t harm the organisms, which were not targeted as harmful, like bees. It will take some time for all those solutions to become mainstream, but some parts of the world are already moving in that direction. It’s our, humanity’s, turn, to make healthy and sustainable future a reality. We’re not left with many other options anyway.

Introducing Wine Apps: Cork Sharing

May 28, 2015 5 comments

This post is a part of the Wine Apps series, introducing different wine apps available on the market. In this series, I offer all the interested Wine App makers an opportunity to present their applications to the readers of this blog in a short and concise way. Today I would like to introduce to you the wine app called CorkSharing. This blog post is written by Bryan Petro, CEO & Founder of CorkSharing. Please note that this post is provided as is, strictly as a service to my readers and it doesn’t constitute my endorsement of the app.

mapViewCorkSharing is one of the world’s first marketplaces for wine enthusiasts to schedule and book wine tastings, winery tours, and wine events from wineries around the world. In addition to its online platform, CorkSharing now has a mobile application available for Android and iOS users, making it easy for wine lovers to book on the go.

The CorkSharing app was designed with ease-of-use in mind. Built-in geolocation functionality makes finding nearby wineries and wine tasting events a breeze. With wine tourism on the rise, this feature is particularly useful for wine tourists that are exploring new wine regions. Additionally, the search capabilities allow users to search for events based on a number of criteria (city, date, price, varietals). Currently, 450 wineries in 32 US states and 19 countries are registered with CorkSharing, making CorkSharing’s app the best friend of any wine tourist. Once the right experience is found, the user can reserve and pay for a tasting using CorkSharing’s secure mobile payment platform, and manage their bookings through the CorkSharing itinerary tool. Users even receive an electronic ticket which can be used for admittance to the event.

Wine tourists aren’t the only ones benefiting from CorkSharing’s innovative new app. Wineries and hosts are also embracing the technology as a means to generate additional revenue. The app allows wineries and hosts the ability to manage reservations directly from the mobile interface. Wineries can receive reservation requests and approve guests from anywhere they have coverage. Additionally, CorkSharing empowers wineries by providing them with more on-the-go control over reservations. While other reservation platforms make it so that once a user books a session, the winery or host has no choice but to accept the booking, CorkSharing’s two-step validation process gives wineries the power to approve or decline a reservation should scheduling conflicts, private events, insufficient staffing, or other issues arise. To help wineries manage their incoming CorkSharing reservations, a ticketing tool has been built into the app. Guests can simply show the host their printed or electronic ticket and the host can use the app to scan the ticket and confirm validity.

With its mobile app, CorkSharing is making the wine industry more accessible, particularly to members of the younger demographic who are increasingly reliant on mobile reservation platforms. By bringing together wine lovers and wineries through mobile technologies, all parties benefit and the wine industry is made a little more innovative every day.

CorkSharing mobile app can be downloaded today at CorkSharing.com/Mobile.

 

Introducing Wine Apps: Winery Passport

May 21, 2015 Leave a comment

This post is a part of the Wine Apps series, introducing different wine apps available on the market. In this series, I offer all the interested Wine App makers an opportunity to present their applications to the readers of this blog in a short and concise way. Today I would like to introduce to you the wine app called Winery Passport. This blog post is written by Scott Stanchak, Creator of the Winery Passport application (you can follow Scott on twitter @ScottStanchak). Please note that this post is provided as is, strictly as a service to my readers and it doesn’t constitute my endorsement of the app.

Winery Passport LogoWinery Passport has been helping users discover tasting rooms at the wineries for almost two years. The mobile app, available for iOS and Android, came about when creator Scott Stanchak was at a wine tasting, but had forgotten his paper passport book. Instead of asking for a second one, he knew the passport should live on his most personal device.

Winery Passport assists users in finding wineries (more than 5,000 of them) from across the United States and Canada. Users can view details about each winery and stamp their passport once they complete a visit, or add it to their wish list. Once a stamp is made, users can share the trip on Facebook and Twitter, to brag a little bit, of course.

WineryPassportGUI SampleUsers can store details about each tasting, including a winery rating, photo and favorite wines, in their winery journal. Then, if they connect with friends and family, they can share those journal details, or see the details from the others. This social component helps in the winery visit decision-making process – since there are so many to choose from.

A user’s app experience doesn’t end once they’ve left the tasting room. Wineries they’ve stamped at, or have on their wish list, can send messages that land in the user’s inbox. These messages contain wine and tasting offers. A push notification lets users know when new messages are received.

Winery Passport is currently available for free to download on iTunes and Google Play.

Here are some useful links:

Winery Passport website – http://www.winerypassportapp.com
iOS Download – http://www.winerypassportapp.com/download
Android Download – http://www.winerypassportapp.com/android

 

Introducing Wine Apps: Winescapes

May 14, 2015 1 comment

This post is a part of the Wine Apps series, introducing different wine apps available on the market. In this series, I offer all the interested Wine App makers to present their applications to the readers of this blog in a short and concise way. Today I would like to introduce to you the wine app called Winescapes. This blog post is written by M Rajagopal (Raj or Rex to friends; @rexraj on twitter), a Co-Founder & Director with Buzzle Networks, a developer of the Winescapes application. Please note that this post is provided as is, strictly as a service to my readers and it doesn’t constitute my endorsement of the app.

#WineChatGUIWinescapes is a social wine app with commerce features meant for casual wine drinkers everywhere.

Winescapes helps users to find most popular wines meeting their preferences and budget in a store or online, using the unique text chat search feature or the GUI version of this. The chat and GUI search are designed to help users search for the wines the way they think, i.e. “USA, California, Chardonnay, Fruity, 20” (20 here is the price limit in the local currency, so it would be $20 for US). As the result of the search, users will get a set of most popular matching wines rather than only one wine to choose from. This is unlike other search options which show only one wine at a time using name or a label. Matching wines are sorted in descending order of peer votes across the system. Nearby merchant stores with their offers are automatically shown during wine results, if required permissions are set by the user.

User’s wine actions are: Vote Up or Down, Add to Wish list, Cellar and Shopping List, Recommend to followers, Share with social network. Using camera action, user can share a wine label image including the vote and review with his/her Winescapes and social networks on FB, Twitter etc. The cumulative number of Votes and other counts help users make purchase decisions. The user can see less or more details on a wine from Wine Summary and Detail respectively. He/She can also see offers/deals from registered merchants and to find suitable merchants, both offline and online, and see their wine catalogs.

Winescapes’ social features include people search, follow, invite to WS. Wine results can be seen across Winescapes or only within My Network. Notifications show My Network’s wine and other actions since last login. User Profile shows all “my past wine” and people actions. Permissions can be set at a granular level for each activity as Share or Private for Votes, Wishlist etc. The IdeaXchange Q&A forum in the latest release allows users send wine queries to the Winescapes network.

Currently the database has top selling wines in California, New York, Florida, New Jersey, with more wines being added daily.

Winescapes App is available on Google Play / Apple iStore at http://is.gd/a7w9GRand web browser (html5) at www.winescapes.net

 

 

 

Do You Have Wine With Your Apps?

May 5, 2015 24 comments

Wine AppsAnd the subject of today’s post is … Apps. No, I’m not referring to the appetizers here – lets talk about the wine phone apps.

Smartphones became extremely popular and widespread nowadays, same as wine (hmmm, is there a connection here?). Smartphones deliver incredible convenience and power of information, available at any instance, day or night, as soon as as one desires to obtain that information. For the most of the time, the information is obtained with the help of so called “Apps”, which is a short for Applications, known in the old days simply as “Programs” or “Software”. But let me not get away here on a tangent, as the plan is to talk about wine. The Wine Apps, to be more precise.

Wine lovers generally want to have some ways to keep track of what they drink, what they like, what the others think of that wine, which wineries they can visit when they travel, what is in their cellars or where to find that particular wine they just had yesterday. And as you would expect, there are apps for all of these tasks.

Quick disclaimer: I’m an iPhone user, so everything I will say here will be pertinent first of all to the iPhone apps – however, I expect that most of the same apps should be available on Android phones. And another quick disclaimer – all the numbers and all the apps I mention here are current as of the date of this post (take a look on the top of the page for that).

Wine is popular today, and it shows in the number of apps available in the App Store. Over the few days as I started working on this post, the number of available apps was steadily increasing, adding new hits daily. The number of apps found searching for the keyword “wine” went from 2,993 two days ago to the 2,998. Of course this is a far cry from 38,877 results in the “travel” category, but still a lot more than many others, for instance, “gardening” at 542.

These wine apps can be split into many different categories. From my experience, trying to categorize objects is usually hard and ungrateful – many apps have a variety of features which make them suitable for the different categories. Nevertheless, let me try to suggest a few different buckets for the wine apps:

  1. “Wine journal” type – these apps let you keep the records of what you drink, what you liked and so on. These apps might also help you look for the wines you liked. Examples would include Delectable, Drync, Vivino and others.
  2. Cellar/collection management apps – CellarTracker would be definitely the top example.
  3. Wine information and researchWine-Searcher and Wine Spectator WineRatings+ would be the top two dedicated examples, but many apps would allow you to research the wines.
  4. Wine buying apps – WTSO is a primary example, of course there are more.
  5. Wine travel and events planning apps – Wine Events, Winery Passport and Cork Sharing would be some I’m aware of – I’m sure there are plenty more, including some from the individual wineries.
  6. “Just for fun” apps – wine quizzes, puzzles and more – Wine Trivia Quiz would be one of the examples, there should be more.

Note that I’m not trying to differentiate here between free, semi-free (in-app purchases) and paid-for applications. With some apps costing only $0.99, I don’t think it makes a huge difference. In any case, practically all of the most popular apps are free.

Okay, so where am I going with all this? Let me gladly explain. Reason #1 for this post is simply a curiosity. I use very little of the wine apps – Wine-Searcher is very handy, and WTSO is useful. I played some wine quizzes – but was not enchanted with the content (no comparison with Bejeweled Blitz if you want to know my vice). So while I’m not actively using the wine apps, I’m sure that many of you are – and this is what I would like to find out. Leave a comment about your favorite wine apps (if you care, add a few words as to why you like it) – or take an easier route and check your favorite apps in the poll below. You will be able to select up to 5 favorites, or write-in.

Reason #2 – with such a variety of the wine apps in existence, I would like to offer a “platform” for the any wine app maker to explain their application better. If you have or working on the wine app, and would like to present it to the readers of this blog, please send me (contact info in the About section) a short write up  – 2-3 paragraphs, about 350 words, 1 – 2 pictures. Your writing can’t be an advertizement, advertorial or a press release – it should be a genuine explanation of what your app is for and what are your differentiators. If your post will fit the criteria outlined here, I will be glad to publish it as a separate post.

So, what do you think of the wine apps? What are you using, or planning to use? Chime in, don’t be shy! Cheers!