This system is being built from the ground up to provide the online community with a comprehensive, searchable, flexible database of wine tasting notes, and will also serve as a local portal for wine enthusiasts. We want to embrace and work with all the other popular wine sites online and serve as a "central database" of tasting notes. Also be sure to visit our new Messageboards.
While this is a local wine portal, we happily encourage users from all around the world to register for free and add your Tasting Notes to the database!
Be sure to sign up and get on the weekly mailing list to be notified of news, wine tastings and other special events going on.
Be sure to sign up and feel free to contribute articles for the site - or better yet, help me test the system as it is built.
When it comes to wine, for some, the price tells them that a wine is good. But after crunching the numbers and analyizing trends, is this really the case? An investigative journalist looks into the weird world of wine..
William Koch — yes, one of those Kochs — is giving a tour of his wine cellar when he asks the obvious question: “Did you see the wine bathroom?” he asked. “Wanna see it?”
It’s an opulent cellar, replete with Roman mosaics, a Guastavino-style ceiling and a Dionysian bust. The bathroom is, one can’t help but assume, where Koch and his guests unzip the flies of tailored Brioni suit pants and catch final glimpses of $1,000 bottles of Burgundy and Bordeaux, since metabolized and micturated.
But some of Koch’s bottles will now meet different ends. Koch gave a tour of the wine bathroom for a promotional video ahead of the sale of more than 20,000 bottles from his cellar, at Sotheby’s, in New York. The sale, which took place over three days last month, fetched $21.9 million, going down as one of the richest wine auctions in history.
I watched the sale’s final day unfold, fascinated — and a little dismayed — by the wines fetching these handsome sums, where they came from, and where they were going. Questions like that are sparks a FiveThirtyEight writer is obligated to kindle.
Off I went in search of data, and I found it in the form of a juicy, dense spreadsheet containing 140,000 wines from 10,000 producers in 33 countries, and their prices. The data was sent to me by Peter Krimmel, the CTO of Vinfolio, a fine wine retailer. It’s wide-ranging, assembled by the company using auction results from 12 major houses, including Sotheby’s, representing “the vast majority of the fine wine auction market.” For the 140,000 wines covered, it has data on the producer, year (the wine’s vintage), bottle size, region, subregion, American Viticultural Area (where applicable), color (red, white or rosé) and price.
After quaffing the data, what I found was a high-end wine market, and a blockbuster auction, with notes of geography, chemistry, economics, culture and thousands of years of history — with a detectable aroma of bullshit. Let’s have a taste.
“Starting in Bordeaux, with the Latour,” auctioneer Jamie Ritchie said, as he opened the Koch sale’s third and final day. Bids flew in via the telephone, the Sotheby’s website, and the floor of the auction room on New York’s Upper East Side. It was a good place to start the day — no place gives a better introduction to the history, and economics, of wine than France.
Château Latour, in Pauillac in southwestern France, traces its history back to 1331. It was a favorite of Thomas Jefferson’s. Koch had set out to collect a thorough “vertical” of the wine — owning at least one bottle of Latour from each of the past 100 years. Today, Latour sits at or near the apex of the some 7,000 producers in France’s Bordeaux wine region. It’s a storied region; the Romans were the first to cultivate vineyards there. Millennia later, it’s a useful place to show what almost any wine drinker knows: The older stuff is the pricey stuff.1
In Bordeaux, as almost anywhere else in the world of fine wine, wines get more expensive as they get older, and that effect accelerates the older the wine becomes.2 There’s a lot going on here — aging and its complex chemistry, market scarcity (people do sometimes drink the wine, after all), vintages perceived as particularly desirable or undesirable as a result of the weather, the scope of the data set.
The increasing value of older wines is an essentially universal phenomenon in the high-end auction market. But for the rich oenophile, old wines may not be such a bad deal. “Although old wines are expensive, I think they’re actually priced more reasonably than new wines,” Robin Goldstein, editor of “The Wine Trials,” told me in an email. “Old wines’ value is driven by their age-worthiness and verifiable storage history, which really does impact their taste, whereas new wines’ value is driven by critics’ rating scores and hyper-inflation in the high end of the market, neither of which correlates with taste.”
Leah Hammer, Vinfolio’s director of cellar acquisitions, echoed this idea. She told me that one reason older wine is expensive is because it was too good to drink right away. So, say 1960 was a bad year for Bordeaux wine because of weather. The bottles from that year would tend to get drunk right away, as the Bordeaux faithful consumed the swill they didn’t think was worth keeping. The best stuff — from 1961, say — was saved for later. Two effects — the aging of the wine and the selection of the good vintages — drive the price increase in the chart above.
The most expensive Bordeaux wine, on average, and one of the most expensive wines in the world, comes from a tiny little place called Château Le Pin. (Two double magnums of 1995 Le Pin were sold for a total of $30,000 at the Koch sale.) It sits on less than seven acres (less than four soccer fields) on Bordeaux’s Right Bank and produces just 5,000 to 6,000 bottles a year. A single bottle averages over $2,000. One other Right Bank producer, Petrus, a 12-minute drive from Le Pin, also cracks the four-figure average. (For those of us who can’t afford a bottle and would like to taste vicariously: Robert Parker, the influential wine critic, found flavors of lead pencil, roasted nuts, smoke, spice, fruitcake, black cherries, white chocolate, cola, kirsch and black raspberry in the 1995 Le Pin.)
A study released today revealed that after testing, ten major California wines contained the chemical Glyphosate, the "active" ingredient in the popular weed killer "Roundup" by Monsanto as well as other herbicides. This does not bode well as some of the wines were actually labeled "organic."
In a study released today, the group Moms Across America claimed that 10 major California wines contained the chemical glyphosate, the declared "active" ingredient in the Monsanto company's Roundup weedkiller as well as 700 other herbicides.
The 10 wines were tested by a laboratory in St. Louis, Mo., and all of them tested positive for glyphosate. The highest level of glyphosate detected -- up to 28.4 times higher than that found in the other nine wines -- was in a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from a conventional, chemically farmed vineyard, the group announced.
The lowest level was found in a 2013 Syrah from a biodynamic and organic vineyard that has never been sprayed, according to the owner. "Because Roundup/glyphosate is not permitted on organic or biodynamic vineyards, the results are unexpected and can only be explained by the drift of chemical sprays from neighboring vineyards," the group speculated.
"There should be zero glyphosate and related chemicals in our wine, food or personal products, said Zen Honeycutt, director of Moms Across America.
The chemicals are "endocrine hormone disruptors, which can lead to breast cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and many other health issues," she claimed.
NAPA, SONOMA AND MENDOCINO
All the wines tested were from the Napa Valley, Sonoma and Mendocino County areas of California.
"According to the California Department of Health, breast cancer rates in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties is 10 to 20 percent higher than the national average," Moms Across America said today, adding that "700 lawsuits are currently pending against Monsanto for the connection between non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Roundup."
"By raising awareness about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and chemical farming, we improve the health of our community, increase the prosperity of our country and support future generations," says the group, a division of the California State Grange Foundation.
Moms Across America lists these four calls to action on its website:
* We want GMOs labeled now.
* We want glyphosate/Roundup banned now.
* We want GMO-free and organic food.
* We want toxic pesticide/herbicide-free neighborhoods.
GMOs PROHIBITED IN ORGANIC PRODUCTS
"The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products," the U.S. Department of Agriculture states on its website.
"This means an organic farmer can't plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can't eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can't use any GMO ingredients," the agency explains.
"To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren't using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table."
During his appearance on Thursdays "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Fred Armisen chatted with Colbert about assorted topics, including a hilarious segment where they sampled the wines produced by Foghats drummer...
A glass of red wine every night may help people with type 2 diabetes manage their cholesterol and cardiac health, according to new findings from a two-year randomized controlled trial (RCT) led by researchers at BGU. Additionally, both red and white wine can improve sugar control, depending on alcohol metabolismgenetic profiling. In this first long-term alcohol study "Effects of Initiating Moderate Alcohol Intake on Cardiometabolic Risk in Adults With Type 2 Diabetes", just published in the prestigious Annals of Internal Medicine, the researchers aimed to assess the effects and safety of initiating moderate alcohol consumption in diabetics, and sought to determine whether the type of wine matters. People with diabetes are more susceptible to developing cardiovascular diseases than the general population and have lower levels of “good” cholesterol. Despite the enormous contribution of observational studies, clinical recommendations for moderate alcohol consumption remain controversial, particularly for people with diabetes, due to lack of long-term, randomized controlled trials, which are the "holy grail" of evidence-based medicine.
“Red wine was found to be superior in improving overall metabolic profiles, mainly by modestly improving the lipid profile, by increasing good (HDL) cholesterol and apolipoprotein A1 (one of the major constituents of HDL cholesterol), while decreasing the ratio between total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol,” the researchers explain.
The researchers concluded that "initiating moderate wine intake, especially red wine, among well-controlled diabetics, as part of a healthy diet, is apparently safe, and modestly decreases cardio-metabolic risk. The differential genetic effects that were found may assist in identifying diabetic patients in whom moderate wine consumption may induce greater clinical benefit."
The researchers also found that only the slow alcohol-metabolizers who drank wine achieved an improvement in blood sugar control, while fast alcohol-metabolizers (with much faster blood alcohol clearance) did not benefit from the ethanols glucose control effect. Approximately one in five participants was found to be a fast alcohol-metabolizer, identified through ADH enzyme genetic variants tests.
Wine of either type (red or white) did not effect change in blood pressure, liver function tests, adiposity, or adverse events/symptoms. However, sleep quality was significantly improved in both wine groups, compared with the water control group. All comparisons were adjusted for changes in clinical, medical and drug therapy parameters occurring among patients during the years of the study.
The two-year CArdiovaSCulAr Diabetes and Ethanol (CASCADE) randomized controlled intervention trial was performed on 224 controlled diabetes patients (aged 45 to 75), who generally abstained from alcohol. They gradually initiated moderate wine consumption, as part of a healthy diet platform, and not before driving. The trial completed with an unprecedented adherence rate of 87 percent after 2 years.
According to BGU’s Prof. Iris Shai, principal investigator of the CASCADE trial, and a member of the Department of Public Health in the Faculty of Health Sciences, “The differences found between red and white wine were opposed to our original hypothesis that the beneficial effects of wine are mediated predominantly by the alcohol. Approximately 150ml of the dry red or white tested wines contained ~17g ethanol and ~120kCal, but the red wine had sevenfold higher levels of total phenols and 4 to 13-fold higher levels of the specific resveratrol group compounds than the white wine. The genetic interactions suggest that ethanol plays an important role in glucose metabolism, while red wines effects additionally involve non-alcoholic constituents. Yet, any clinical implication of the CASCADE findings should betaken with caution with careful medical follow-up.”
The study was performed in collaboration with Prof. Meir Stampfer from Harvard University, USA, and with colleagues from University of Leipzig, Germany and Karolinska Institute, Sweden.
In the new study that followed the research group’s three-month alcohol pilot RCT findings, the patients were randomized into three equal groups according to whether they consumed a five-ounce serving (150ml) of mineral water, white wine or red wine with dinner every night for two years. Wine and mineral water were provided free of charge for the purposes of the study. Compliance with alcohol intake was tightly monitored, with patients returning their empty wine bottles and receiving their new supplies. All groups followed a non-calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet (following the group’s previous two-year dietary RCT findings). Adherence was monitored using several validated assessment tools.
During the study, subjects underwent an array of comprehensive medical tests, including continuous monitoring of changes in blood pressure, heart rate and blood glucose levels, and follow-up for the dynamic of atherosclerosis and fat by ultrasound and MRI tests.
The study was funded by a grant from the European Foundation for the Study of Diabetes (EFSD) of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).
Global warming has its markers, such as melting ice caps and rising sea levels. Its impact on the worlds vineyards is another, lesser known issue. And so its fitting that the COP21 conference on climate change is currently being held in Paris, and that Tuesday’s topic of discussion was agriculture.
"The vine is indeed a perennial plant that allows scientists to make comparisons from one year to another," says Herve Quenol, a researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research and a scientist with the International Organization of Vine and Wine. "Also, this plant has well-defined stages of growth that are directly related to temperature, whether its budding, flowering, the formation of clusters or, of course, the harvest. The consequences on these stages have been widely visible for several years."
Quenol is one of two scientists that HuffPost France spoke to in an attempt to disentangle fact from fiction regarding the effects of climate change on the vine. The other was Jean-Marc Touzard, research director at INRA, Europes top agricultural research institute, and co-founder of the Laccave project, a long-term research project looking at how vineyards can adapt to global warming. The Laccave project’s findings will be presented in the spring of 2016. In the meantime, here are some answers.
The 196 participants at the COP21 summit are trying to agree on provisions to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100. Such a limit would be ideal for winemakers. "With such a contained increase, northern vineyards will get the best quality production, even if those further south will encounter some difficulties," Quenol says.
"Our studies show that below this threshold, we have solutions that already exist in most French vineyards, and the consequences can be mitigated," Touzard confirms. He says that in some soils, internal variability in exposure to the sun or microclimates can create temperature differences of between 1 to 2 degrees. "As long as the temperature variability caused by climate change is not greater than this internal variability, vineyards will be able to adapt," he concludes.
The concerns over vineyards arose in 2013 when an American climatologist published a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science journal, predicting the death of the French vineyard. Bordeaux wines could disappear under the effect of rising temperatures, he wrote.
But the study was "hasty," Quenol says. "According to this model, there should be no pinot noir in Burgundy by now. But were still bottling very good ones," the specialist says with a smile.
He conceded that in the future, the world map of wine will look different than it does today. "For example, were already planting in new areas of northern Europe," Quenol says.
Scientists can easily measure increases in wine alcohol content over the past several decades. "Weve seen a much more rapid acceleration over the past 50 years than in the previous 30,” Quenol says. The increase is particularly noticeable in the Mediterranean, where it is not uncommon to see wine with close to 15 percent alcohol.
"Since the early 1980s, the Languedoc wine has gained almost one percentage point every decade. It has gone from an average of 11 to over 13," Hernan Ojeda, director of an experimental INRA unit said in 2012.
Will there be a wine that approaches 14 to 15 percent? "In some areas, it seems inevitable, although winemaking techniques exist to mitigate these effects," Quenol says, noting that wines with similar levels of alcohol content are already produced in Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
Its impossible to pinpoint a date, but the trend has been scientifically proven. Annual harvesting has gotten earlier and earlier. Since the 60s, it has moved up by an average of three weeks, according to data collected by INRA.
And to ensure that the grapes dont oxidize, more and more vintners are harvesting at night. "In reality, the entire production chain has been affected. The growth stages are earlier. This is true for budding and flowering, but also for the harvest," Quenol says.
The northern and southern vineyards of France have not been affected in the same way by global warming. Depending on their color, certain wines have not been affected at all. "The whites need cooler conditions, especially to develop their flavors," Quenol says, implying that white wine growers may face more difficulties.
Touzard points out that in Alsace, more farmers than in previous years have had to resort to technical acidification to add freshness to their nectar. "For red wine, this can shift the balance, but to a lesser extent," he adds.
Of course, everything will depend on the severity of the temperature increase. But if we keep temperatures in the goal range set by the protagonists of the COP21, the volume of wine production in France shouldn’t decrease.
"Our projections predict higher volumes of Burgundy and Champagne for a while longer," Touzard explains. "Carbon dioxide boosts photosynthesis, which should cause yields to continue as is or even increase."
To cope with the predicted higher temperatures, growers and scientists have already started work on adapting their vineyards. They could do so by changing their cultivated varieties, depending on their heat adaptability. "In Bordeaux, weve started to see difficulties in growing merlot that do not yet exist for cabernet," Touzard notes. And even within each variety, there are some plants that are more resistant than others. "In Alsace, there’s a focus on the riesling that produces more acidity," he says.
Part of the adaption might also mean importing grape varieties that are currently grown in warmer countries. "In Bordeaux, some tests have been done with Portuguese grape varieties, while in the Languedoc, weve started to test Italian varietals," Quenol says.
Finally, we can expect to see original creations. "At INRA, were working on crossing wild grapes with existing varieties to create disease-resistant plants, ones with less sugar, or ones that grow more slowly," Touzard says.
What we know for sure is that the wine well drink in 2050 wont be the same as what we drink today. "But the wine of today does not resemble that of 1950, and in 50 years, a Bordeaux wont taste like a Burgundy," Quenol notes. Even from one year to the next, certain vintages taste different.
An experiment was conducted in the Bordeaux region with wines that are believed to be the product of climate change -- they were grown on drier plots or harvested later than usual. They have flavors of cooked fruit rather than fresh fruit, and are richer in alcohol. "On the first tasting, testers were seduced by the most explosive aspect of these wines," Touzard says. "But after a few days, they returned to traditional wines that were lighter, with less alcohol." From which the researcher concludes: "Producers must do their utmost to maintain current varieties or to ensure that the effects of climate change are mitigated."
83 bottles of wine cited in a lawsuit this week as having dangerously high levels of arsenic came from 28 California wineries and were bottled under 31 different brand labels. Some of the labels included several different types of wine, such as merlot, chardonnay, burgundy, rose, etc.
Whoever said no news is good news was wrong. Turns out drinking red wine is better for you than going to the gym! How?s that for good news? Jason Dyck and other science researchers in the University of Alberta in Canada found that red wine, nuts and grapes have a complex called resveratrol which improves heart, muscle and bone functions; the same way they?re improved when one goes to the gym. Resveratrol proved to be an effective antioxidant when tested on rodents which is why scientists are planning on testing it with diabetics. If results are positive for the benefits of the complex, patient?s heart health could be improved just as much as it does when they work out vigorously.
While scientists and wine lovers are rejoicing over this news, doctors are still unlikely to recommend their patients to start drinking any type of alcohol as it can have harmful effects on your body. People should keep in mind that these benefits can be enjoyed only when having one glass of wine with your evening meal, at the most. Resveratrol is specifically found in red wine as are some of the beneficial antioxidants referred to when talking about heart health. Red wine is also known to reduce ?bad cholesterol? and prevent blood clots.
Other benefits red wine is known for (when consumed in moderation, constantly) are: promoting longevity, cutting risk of cataracts and colon cancer, reducing risk of Type 2 Diabetes and slowing down brain decline (which beer is known for, too.) We think these are good excuses to kick back and relax with a glass of vino every single night. Bottoms up!