Thursday, March 28, 2013

Finding wines that you will probably like: a step in the right direction

A company has created software which aggregates your and other wine tasters' scores on a wine, and uses the data to predict whether you will like certain other wines.

That is a step in the right direction, but a better predictive product would merely use our personal preferences for the following spectrums:

Fruit Ripeness: from banana/green/peppery through red fruits, through purple fruits, through black fruits, to raisins and tar.

Body: from thin to rich/fat

Residual Sugar: from bone dry to super-sweet

Acid (quantity of acid): from flabby to sharp

pH (strength of acid): from weak to strong

Complexity: from simple to layered

Aromatics: from none to faint to lush olfaction

Finish: from none to long

Tannins: from young and sharp to aged and subtle

These would be adjusted differenly for white and red wines, of course. And some of those spectra are matters of personal preference, whereas others are more clearly "good" or "not as good," but you usually can't find a long finish in a super-cheap wine. At any rate, once we knew our own preferences on those spectrums, then if each wine label were labeled to show those spectrums with that wine's marker in each category, we would have a good chance of knowing if we would like that wine. We will always know the price, of course, so we can compare price to the various qualitative data points, and voila! we are out of the wine woods and we are an educated wine consumer (as to that wine).

Compare this pipe dream to today's wine label, which often tells us almost nothing about the above criteria. The winemaker knows all that info; why not share it with us?

You can read the article here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

2012 Bordeaux Right Bank (St. Emilion): Mixed Bag

In the Portland, Oregon area, where 2012 went down as a very good vintage, and the Pinot Noirs are expected to be full of fruit and rich, due to great summer and harvest weather (though with some drought stress/raisining, in some vineyards). However, in France it was quite different:

The weather there was "appalling" at the beginning of summer, with hailstorms in April, rain for most of June, and a heatwave in week 3 of August, during which temps in Bordeaux reached 42C (116F) which caused the vines to shut down and the fruit to burn. Then it rained on the harvest.

Yet many of the better chateaus will make wine that is very drinkable. But it is not a year for Bordeaux futures.

The occurrence of a year like 2012 in France (or 2011 in Oregon) makes the great years (2008 and 2012 here, and 2009 and 2010 in France) all the more special. There is a reassuring harmony to the ebb and flow of good and poor grape years, which serves to remind us of what is good in life, what is special, and what is worth holding onto.

The entire article can be found here.

The photo is of St. Emilion, the queen village of the Right Bank. So lovely to visit (we have, and fell in love with the old buildings, the hilliness, and the people), and the Merlot-dominated wines can be exquisite there. (Photo credit:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Smoke from 2012 wildfires in Washington state a factor for wine quality?

This is interesting: Wildfires in eastern Washington last summer (2012) put a smoke haze over parts of the state for days. Smoke particles can come to rest on grape skins, and thus end up in the finished wine (I suppose the smoke could be rinsed off, but that is not practicable in the case of many tons of grapes and it could dilute the wine flavors, and if the smoke somehow binds to the grape then you have an unremovable flaw.

However, the Walla Walla wineries don't think they were impacted by this; I'm not sure where the smoke clouds were located.

Apparently the effects of smoke on wine will increase with the wine's age, so any damage won't be known right away. The damage would be worse with red grapes, where the smoke flavor could obscure the fruit flavors. However, since some white winegrapes are aged in burnt barrels (that's behind the name "Fume Blanc," for example), smokiness in a white wine can be a plus. And in a small amount it's just another beneficial flavor in a red wine.

We should know, over the next few years, whether and to what extent any WA wineries were impacted. Meanwhile, funding for remote firefighting is dropping, and the number of fires is increasing . . .

Read the article here.

[photo credit: Al Feldstein. Amazing artworks of his can be seen here.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Pesticides in Wines; this is another reason why we should move to hybrids!

(Source: The first part of this post is lifted verbatim from portlandfoodanddrink, which can and should be found here)

We’re all gonna die! Nine out of ten French wines contain pesticidesAccording to a study in the wine trade journal Decanter, pesticide residues were found in the vast majority of 300 French Wines. 90 percent of samples contained traces of at least one of the chemicals.
Some wines contained up to nine separate molecules, with ‘anti-rot’ fungicides the most commonly found. These are often applied late in the growing season.
…Since 2008, France’s Ecophyto national plan (involving the study of the ways in which organisms are adapted to their environment) has sought to cut pesticide use by 50% by 2018.
Encouragingly, all of the individual pesticide residues appeared at levels below limits set by the French environmental agency. But some samples turned up with as many as nine separate pesticides. And as I’ve written before, groups of pesticides may have so-called “cocktail” or “synergistic” effects—that is, a pesticide mix may be more toxic than the sum of its parts. As Pascal Chatonnet, head of the research firm that conducted the test of French wines, told Decanter, “There is a worrying lack of research into the accumulation effect, and how the [pesticide] molecules interact with each other.”
Plus, as Chatonnet pointed out to Decanter, “we should not forget that it is not the consumers who are most impacted by this, it is the vineyard workers who are applying the treatments.”
The class of pesticides that showed up most often were fungicides. According to Decanter, vineyards occupy just 3 percent of French farmland, but account for 20 percent of the nation’s overall pesticide use and 80 percent of its fungicide use.
A 2008 study found similar amounts in wines from Australia, South Africa and Chile. Interestingly, the author didn’t find any studies of the pesticide levels in American wines.
[Kenton writing:] The hybrid grapes (or "modern varieties") I'm working with don't need antifungal sprays in the PacNW. Thus, there is no chance of fungicide residue in the wines from such grapes. Yet another reason to switch from vinifera to hybrid winegrapes!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Botanical wine corks?

Nomacorc is developing a cork made from sugar and corn. No, really. At first it will be blended with their current oil-based plastic synthetic cork material, but the hope is that eventually the entire cork can be made from plant (vegetative) products. The material will be made in a variety of porosities, enabling different rates of oxygen intrusion, at the preference of the winemaker.


Read the article here.

How Climate Change's Extreme Weather Events Affect Grapes and Wine:

  We (Epona) joined the Porto Protocol a year or two ago; it's a collaboration of grapegrowers and winemakers, worldwide, who are focusi...