Sept. 10 - Wine growers in the south of France are using satellite technology to observe their vines as they ripen, leading to targeted harvesting and a higher quality product. Tara Cleary reports.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL The annual grape harvest has begun in France's celebrated Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine region. Oenologists like Didier Robert have high hopes for this year's vintages. SOUNDBITE: DIDIER ROBERT, OENOLOGIST, SAYING: "This is a really pretty white wine from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Very fruity and with good freshness. This is the style we are looking for." ... and they're looking for it from above. A number of French vintners are now using satellite imaging to ensure optimum quality of the wines they produce. The service, called Oenoview, scans the terrain and provides computer-generated images, which indicate variations in the vines and soil type. This helps wine growers gauge ripeness in different areas of the vineyard so that harvesting happens at the most favorable time. Cedric Hallereau, manager at the Cooperative Wine Institute, says it's not just harvesting that benefits, but also pruning and fertilizing. SOUNDBITE: CEDRIC HALLEREAU, VINEYARD MANAGER AND WINE-GROWING CONSULTANT AT THE CO-OPERATIVE WINE INSTITUTE, SAYING: "We can see color differences which allow us to target our actions in the vineyard, to see what these different zones have to do with the quality of the grape, to be able to separate them during the harvest and then also to be able to use this map for fertilizing, pruning and removing buds and so on." The Fortia Chateau vineyard in Chateauneuf-du-Pape uses the technology on its entire 31 hectare estate at a cost of 5,000 euros a year. Manager Pierre Pastre says it's money well spent. SOUNDBITE: PIERRE PASTRE, MANAGER OF THE FORTIA CHATEAU IN CHATEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE, SAYING: "Thanks to the mapping of this plot, we have been able to prune quite severely in February/March this year, and just adjusting the numbers of bunches in June/July by so-called 'green picking'. So now we can take the benefit to have a very nice bunch of grapes." About 30 wine-growers use Oenoview in France, and the concept is being exported to Canada, Morocco, Greece and Japan. And soon, sipping a glass of fine wine may produce a much more predictable finish. SOUNDBITE: DIDIER ROBERT, OENOLOGIST, SAYING: "The map will help us to obtain this result every year because we can choose the right vineyard to elaborate the right style of wine." ... which for both growers and consumers adds up to the perfect combination.