Chianti Hornets

3 08 2012

In the north of Italy lies the Chianti region that is known for producing fine red wines that are appreciated world-wide. The Chianti region covers a vast area of Tuscany and includes within its boundaries several overlapping Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) regions. The area is noted for the cool climate of its elevated vineyards located up to 3000 feet. The vineyard soils of the region are predominately marl and chalk. The hills approaching the Alps shed the water to eliminate undue moisture. The blue clear skies and vineyards are a feast  for the eyes and microcosm on the complexity of our planet.

Recently scientists have found there is a hornet that lives among the grapes that provides and integral step in producing Chianti wines. Chianti Classico wines tend to be medium-bodied with firm tannin and medium-high to high acidity. Floral, cherry and light nutty notes are characteristic  aroma with these wines and much of this is generated by the yeast that is used to ferment the fruit. Prior to crushing, hornets who frequent the vineyards, travel among the plants to feed upon the fruit. Within their stomach is a brewers yeast, a culture unique and exclusive to the Tuscany region. As the hornet pass from plant to plant, the grapes start early fermentation that world appreciates in fine dry red wines. This was only recently understood by researchers from the University of Florence.

So it begs the thought experiment:   If the growers were to decide that these hornets were a pest, and took steps of eradication,  the complex aromas and flavor of the Chianti would tragically denigrate. Ignorance of the interconnections of our ecology has and can caused great misery and loss. The simple 3rd grade  lessons regarding the “eco-system” of  rain makes , makes evaporation, makes clouds, make rain, , makes evaporation, etc… is forgotten time and time again.

There is an ongoing and  heated debate on the validity of global warning.  The notion of green house gas creating a  bubble that is raising earth’s temperatures was considered fact 25 years ago.  But recently,  a number of naysayers have questioned  the science and it does appear that some pronouncements have been inflated.  And with those discrepancies, it seems these naysayers would prefer to discredit the entire premise and use it to justify the status quo when burning fossil fuels.  Is this wise?

In 1885 there was a great outbreak of cholera in  Chicago due waste flowing into the drinking water of Lake Michigan. Despite efforts to draw water miles and miles off shore,  the water was still polluted.  The notion of reversing the Chicago River was deemed by the captains of industry as too costly and would  irrevocably hurt Chicago business and competitive edge.  The cry to halt raising taxes was upheld  that is until that summer when all exchanges were closed for 20 days. It wasn’t until 12% of the population died that the project was funded, forever solving the problem of having clean drinking water in Chicago.  The Chicago River now flows south into the Illinois River.

As the hornets of Tuscany teach us, our world is interconnected in ways far beyond our knowledge.  We best be careful how we change our environment and not risk the opportunity to sip a dry red Chianti with a glass of pure Lake Michigan.

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