Loudoun, Fauquier Articles in the Daily Paper Aug. 5 to 11

The Hotter the Sun, The Sweeter the Grape

* To dramatize farmers' plight, Virginia's agriculture commissioner toured farms in a half-dozen drought-stricken counties, including Loudoun. But while most growers watched their crops shrivel under the searing sun, winemakers were offering a toast to the weather. The high temperatures and lack of rain resemble a typical growing season in California's Napa and Sonoma valleys, renowned for their wines. Winemakers from Virginia to New York are giddily looking forward to the impending harvest and anticipating award-winning results. Grapes thrive in this weather because their flavor is not diluted with excess water. The less liquid they hold, the higher concentration of sugar and other natural flavors they have, the lower their acidity levels are and the better the wine tastes, said Angel Nordone, executive director of the American Wine Society. For many of the same reasons, peaches and apples also will taste sweeter this year, said Elaine Lidholm, of the Virginia Department of Agriculture. Although sweetness is up, however, profits will be down, because the hot, dry weather has reduced the size of the fruit and the yield of the trees, agriculture analysts said.


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