He can weed, he can hoe, he can mow, he can trim grapevine leaves, but can he learn to love? Meet Ted, the cutting-edge vineyard robot who joined the team at Bordeaux fifth-growth Château Clerc Milon late last month, the latest troop in the growing worldwide army of wine robots.
"It's very exciting," Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy, director of Clerc Milon, told Unfiltered when Ted arrived in Pauillac. The robot, developed in partnership between château owner Baron Philippe de Rothschild S.A. and the French ag-tech company Naïo Technologies, is designed to manage the particular difficulties of Clerc Milon's terrain: The 99-acre vineyard is densely planted, and some of its 247 parcels contain very old rows of vines that are unevenly spaced. Ted tackles the terroir with a GPS-guided system that has a pre-programmed map. Clerc Milon also practices a bevy of green viticulture techniques, employing no weedkillers. Weeds can quickly overrun a vineyard in certain weather, resulting in long, arduous hours of weeding, a repetitive task that's best left to the likes of Ted.
There's a bit of tinkering under the hood to be done before Ted becomes fully self-
aware -automated, but Danjoy anticipates the little guy will be ready to go come spring. "We may add other functionalities like a radar to be more precise," said Danjoy. Ted is currently equipped with knives and weeders, releases zero emissions, and frees up vineyard workers for value-added manual tasks like pruning, where their expertise is most needed. "Our main concerns are human and environmental," said Danjoy, presumably with Ted out of earshot.
On Wednesday, Finland celebrated its 100th anniversary of independence from Russia, which means at least two things: The country is eligible to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and New Jersey–based cheese company Finlandia created a new form of cheese art to mark the occasion. To toast Findependence Day, the brand launched a limited-edition pair of wine and beer "glasses" made of (what else?) cheese.
Finlandia commissioned professional food sculptors Jim Victor and Marie Pelton to create the "cheeseware," which includes a 16-ounce beer "glass" made from Finlandia Imported Gruyere and an 8-ounce stemless wine "glass" sculpted from Finlandia Imported Gouda. The cost for the edible set was $5,000.
It seems like a lot of cheddar to spend on a couple of usefully-shaped hunks of cheese, but considering each made-to-order drinking vessel took hours to hand-carve, fanciful-cheese connoisseurs might find it a … grate … deal.
When it rains fake wine, it pours. Unfiltered reported that police in Shanghai busted a ring of Penfolds counterfeiters selling 14,000 fraudulent bottles; we've since learned one of the men had already sold 1.2 million yuan ($181,000) worth of juice through Alibaba's online marketplace.
Up in Beijing, police raided a retailer accused of selling fake Côtes du Rhône for prices ranging from 300 yuan ($45) to an eyebrow-arch-inducing 99,999 yuan ($15,000). The back labels, written in Mandarin, stated the wine was produced by Moët Hennessy, and cops found 500 counterfeit bottles. The $15,000 prize was an imperial of "Moët Hennessy Côtes du Rhône Sablet 2007." One clue that may have helped investigators crack the case: Moët Hennessy doesn't make Côtes du Rhône.
It's easy to get queasy out at the prospect of your food and wine being irrigated by recycled wastewater, but at least equally troubling is the anthropomorphic degradation of our planet owed to unsustainable practices! Enter winemaker Camillo Magoni of Baja California’s Casa Magoni winery who, looking for ideas to help alleviate water shortages in Mexico, has been testing the application of reclaimed wastewater to irrigate grapevines.
“This is a win-win situation,” Magoni told Unfiltered via email. “Water that is being wasted to the ocean can be reclaimed, and this water can be the remedy to solve our water crisis.”
The winery-treatment plant partnership began in 2011 when Magoni approached the La Morita treatment plant in Tijuana with a proposal: Plant a half-acre of Cabernet Sauvignon nearby and try irrigating with reclaimed water. Magoni told Unfiltered he soon hopes to expand to work with other water-treatment plants. If his efforts succeed, Magoni's project could be a blueprint for bigger water-starved vineyards in the Valle de Guadalupe.
Up in non-Baja California, wastewater irrigation is catching on as well. The Napa Sanitation District has partnered with the Los Carneros Water District to connect pipes with plots.
David Graves, cofounder of Saintsbury winery in Carneros, is one of the initiative’s most ardent supporters. He explained the importance to Unfiltered via email: “In a world faced with a changing climate, winemakers and grapegrowers need to be careful stewards of water resources more than ever. Recycled water can be a very useful resource for vineyards—and many other uses as well. ‘Use it once and throw it away’ won’t work anymore.”
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