Archive for November, 2009

Giving away the store

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009


Trade secrets. From:

Trade secrets.

Recently, I had a conversation with Bruce Bryant, Ph.D. (Senior Research Associate at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, PA) as part of my research for a series called “What wine pairs with red herring” (published on During that conversation, Dr Bryant reaffirmed a fundamental idea I have repeated (but which has been rejected by internet wine “gurus”): tasting ability is a function of language. Naming something makes it stick out in your memory, makes you able to identify it repeatedly and consistently. This is not at all unlike learning music theory (very few musicians have perfect pitch while most have learned relative pitch and yet there are many excellent musicians in the world). (more…)

Today on

Thursday, November 19th, 2009


I am proud to announce that the first of my (hopefully) three-part series on the science underlying food and wine pairings is now available to read on

The series is called: “What wine pairs with red herring” and aims to understand the foundations of food and wine pairings through picking apart the chemistry and sensation neurophysiology aspects at play.

I know when people hear (or read) “chemistry and sensation neurophysiology”, they might get a bit intimidated. Don’t worry. I make it quite easy.

This first article focuses on tannic wines. With the help of a sensation researcher, I look at the chemical interactions between wine and food and how that is perceived by our sensory hardware.

Have a read.

Is wine advertising limiting American wine culture?

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009


Pretty esoteric stuff.

Pretty esoteric stuff.

The other night, I saw a Samuel Adams Beer commercial in which the brewery’s founder, Jim Koch, talks about the color of the glass used for his beer bottles. If that is not esoteric enough, he then goes on to say clear bottles can allow light to spoil beer and make it “skunky”. Wine buffs know he’s talking about the beer being “lightstruck”, but how many mainstream wine ads get down to this kind of nitty-gritty?

Why is it that Samuel Adams can take this kind of message to prime time audiences and a wine commercial will not dare delve into this kind of stuff? (more…)

A nickel’s worth of truth

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009


Res ipsa loquitur

Res ipsa loquitur reports today that a class action filed in San Francisco last month claims BevMo raises the prices of the wines in their 5-cent sale so that in some cases, customers are paying more for the two bottles than they would at regular price.

From a business standpoint, this is a great way to make money. After all, value is perceived, right? All you need to seal the deal is an 88-point or higher rating from the wine critic hired to be as your in-house cellar master. (more…)

Little ditty, ’bout moldy corks

Monday, November 9th, 2009


Moldy cork.

Moldy cork.

The recent silence on this blog has been due to something of a perfect storm of difficulties – both in the family and with pulling together material fundamental to several posts I’d been developing. All storms clear with time, however, and I am starting to settle back into my groove.

Recently, I broached the subject of improving cork processing and production to reduce the incidence of T.C.A.-tainted wines. It is cork taint that hindered me from completing a piece on a rather rare variety. Two separate samples of the same wine provided by the same (very reputable) importer were corked. Bummer. (more…)