A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Copyright 2013; Race Point Publishers, NY. 224 pages. Forward by Mario Batali.

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How do Lakes, Rivers, and Oceans Play a Role in Winemaking?

Lake Effect provides the vital elements for vineyard growth by Seneca Lake

Most of the world’s premier winemaking zones are located in close proximity to bodies of water.  This is due in part to two reasons of equal importance.

First, water helps moderate the temperatures in nearby areas, a phenomena called, Lake Effect.  A large body of water can affect the temperatures of a vineyard as far as 25 miles away.  As air travels over large bodies of water, it cools or warms to according to the temperature of the water.  If it is the dead of summer and the water temperature is less than the air temperature, the air that blows over the water is cooled, which then permeates through the vineyards and helps mitigate the intense heat.  Likewise, if it’s cooler in spring or late autumn, as air travels over warmer bodies of water, the air in the vineyard receive some warmth, which helps keep the grapes from freezing.  Vines that grow on the banks of lakes and rivers also benefit from the sunlight that reflects off the water, helping to induce photosynthesis.  In the cooler winemaking zones throughout the world, vineyards proximity to water is crucial to vine survival.  In New York’s Finger Lakes region for example, the majority of the vineyards are located on or near the banks of the major lakes, Seneca and Cayuga (see photo), and the concept of lake effect makes vine growing possible.

Second, waterways were once a major part of the wine trade.  Before the advent of rail, truck, and air transportation, waterways were the only way to get premium goods such as herbs, spices, silks, and wine from their origin to a marketplace.  Hundreds of years ago, wine barrels were commonplace in the hulls of many mercantile ships sailing the seas and river systems of Europe and Asia.

As you can see, from science to commerce, water is vital to the winemaking industry.

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