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Winebits 536: Cheap wine crisis, royal wedding wine, irrigation robots

cheap wine crisisThis week’s wine news: Cheap wine crisis continues with Acrobat sale, plus what will they drink at the royal wedding and robots may irrigate vineyards

Acrobat sold to high-end producer: Acrobat, the Oregon label owned by King Estates that specialized in wine costing less than $15, has been sold to California’s high-end Foley Family Wines. Why is this bad news for cheap wine drinkers? Because Foley, which describes itself as “a major producer, marketer and distributor of highly-acclaimed, handmade wines from some of the world’s greatest vineyards” did not buy Acrobat to continue selling quality Oregon pinot gris for $10 or $12. Expect to see price increases as Foley premiumizes the Acrobat wines, setting a niche for them between $18 and $22. The other sad part about this? I asked the King people a couple of years ago about the future of Acrobat, which was started to sell lower-priced wine, and they assured me Acrobat had a future with the company.

Bring on the British bubbly: The smart money is on Chapel Down, a British sparkling wine producer, as the wine for the upcoming Royal Wedding. Food Network reports that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry will serve their guests bubbly from Chapel Down, the same English producer that provided the wine for Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. Prices are about what yoiu’d expect to pay for French Champagne – $50 a bottle for the ordinary stuff.

Irrigation robots: California grape growers, worried about drought and a labor shortage, may be able to use an irrigation system that needs minimal human input. Robot-Assisted Precision Irrigation Delivery, or RAPID, uses a machine to monitor and adjust water emitters attached to irrigation lines. The RAPID robot will have GPS, so it can map its route around vineyards, and will rely on drone and satellite imagery to monitor the weather. It will also have a “grasping hand” so it can control the water emitters, increasing or decreasing the flow of water. The most efficient drip systems, which can be turned on and off remotely, always delivers the same amount of water.

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