A chance to explore a few of the many
contentious topics in the world of wine. I don't claim to have settled
any of these issues, but I hope these articles will at least add
something constructive to the debate.
Minerality, a tasting term that didn't exist 30 years ago, is
now popular. But it has been criticized as being meaningless. Jamie
Goode tries to rescue this concept, with recourse to science.
They're really expensive, they get astronomic critic scores, and
they're hard to get. But are Cult Californian wines any good, asks
How natural winegrowers in the new world can run into
difficulties exporting their wines
screwcaps in favour of cork
Klein Constantia winemaker Adam Mason explains his surprising
switch in closure choice for his top wine
tasting: subjective or objective?
Jamie Goode tackles a thorny question. Most experts, when
pressed, say that wine tasting is all subjective, but they behave as
if they don't really believe this.
Monty Waldin: tough questions about biodynamics
Biodynamic viticulture is increasingly popular, but with its
reliance on bizarre preparations and adherence to the celestial
calendar it courts controversy. Jamie Goode interviews one of the
leading experts on the subject, and asks the tricky questions.
alcohol levels in wine
Alcohol levels have been gradually
creeping up in most wine regions over recent years. Is it a problem?
And, if so, what can be done about it? Jamie Goode reports.
residues in wine
A recent report shows seemingly alarming
levels of pesticides in wines made from conventionally farmed
grapes. Does this mean we should all switch to drinking organic
do you want from a wine critic?
A look at the desirable (and not-so-desirable) traits in wine
Smith interview: the surprising juxtaposition of technology and
He's the man behind reverse osmosis, a technique used to reduce
alcohol, and an advocate of microoxygenation and other technological
manipulations. Yet he's also making 'natural' wine. I meet Clark
It sounds a bit nerdy, but the subject of
Brettanomyces, a yeast that some people think adds complexity to red
wines, while others think is always bad, is one of the most
controversial and important topics in winemaking. Jamie Goode
attends a masterclass with winemaker Matt Thomson to find out more.
in PET bottles: will plastic ever replace glass?
Sustainability is all the rage in the wine
trade at the moment, and one of the proposed ways of lowering wine's
carbon footprint is to move from glass to plastic bottles. What are
the issues involved here?
A recent series of newspaper articles in the UK have picked up
on the idea that screwcaps may not be flawless in their performance.
Jamie Goode argues that while there's a grain of truth behind these
stories, they represent the science very badly and could mislead
and other sulfur compounds in wine
Don't let the title put you off: this article is a readable,
accessible introduction to some important flavour compounds in wine,
which in the wrong place at the wrong concentrations can also be
An edited transcript of the 2006 Closures
debate at the London Wine Trade Fair, bringing together experts to
discuss the latest developments in wine bottle closures
Is it important that wine is true to type?
Should Chablis taste like Chablis? And how much can wine be
manipulated before it loses its authenticity?
danger of fake wine
So branded, industrialized, manufactured
wines are grabbing an increasing slice of the market: should those
of us with an interest in fine wine be worried? Yes, argues Jamie
Goode: fake wines threaten the whole industry.
Smith, Cheapskate and WineSmith: technology in winemaking
How much manipulation is appropriate
during the winemaking process? Isn't wine supposed to be a natural
product? Jamie Goode tastes some wines made by wine tech guru Clark
New Zealand Screwcap Initiative
In New Zealand, the shift to screwcaps has
taken place with startling speed: from a standing start in 2000, now
70% of this country's wines are sealed this way. Jamie Goode
investigates the official initiative designed to help producers make
this transition successfully, and to provide information on this
type of closure.
All the time, journalists are writing
things that they don't really mean. They are giving their readers
what they think their readers want. It's the same with a lot of wine
writing. Jamie Goode tells us why he thinks readers deserve better
how useful is this for understanding wine?
The driving philosophy behind many
scientific advances has been reductionism - the idea that a system
is best understood by taking it apart and studying the components.
But is this approach limited for helping us understand wine?
A silent catastrophe is taking place on
the supermarket shelves: all wines are beginning to taste the same.
Jamie Goode investigates the rise and rise of boring wine, and
suggests some antidotes to vinous tedium.
It's possible to make a wine without
adding anything, but virtually no one makes wine this way, for good
reasons. Jamie Goode asks, how much manipulation is acceptable? Is
it possible or sensible to draw a line, or should anything be
writers: lying to your readers
This is a story that weaves together two
themes: the changing UK marketplace and the way that mainstream
critics push commercial wines at the expense of more individual,
interesting offerings that are harder to find.
wines: why AOCEs aren't the answer for French wine
There's a crisis affecting large segments
of the French wine industry. Jamie Good argues that making more
rules isn't the right way to tackle it.
flavour: a new South African wine scandal?
There have been reports that some South African producers have
been adding flavour chemicals to their Sauvignon Blanc. But in the
absence of names and hard evidence, should this story have ever
it gets you drunk
We talk about the
varieties of flavour that wine can possess. We talk of grape
varieties, yields and oak usage. We talk about terroir, how wine can
convey a sense of place. But we fail, by and large, to discuss why
most people drink wine in the first place. It’s alcoholic and it
gets you drunk.
price of wine: is it getting too expensive?
As wine gets steadily more expensive,
Jamie Goode asks 'Why?'
is a common defect in wine, but controversy surrounds the subject.
Jamie Goode sifts the available data and canvasses the views of
world-famous winemakers to determine how widespread the problem is,
and whether brett can ever be a good thing.
tasting tests: compulsory for wine writers?
By and large, wine
writers are a self-selected group. Their ability to taste is never
verified independently. You can have vast wine tasting experience,
but this doesn’t necessarily mean you are equipped to benefit from
it; thus even the most venerable, experienced tasters might not be
making sensible assessments about the wines they are drinking. That’s
why I think it would be a good idea to blind taste test wine
- The two
cultures: how the rise of the brands is changing the face of wine
The world of wine as we know it has changed radically over the last
couple of decades, and while many of the changes have been for the
better, some are giving cause for concern. Jamie Goode introduces a
new multipart series tracing the rise of the wine brands, and asks
whether this could spell the beginning of the end for interesting,
A major multipart series focusing on this
supercharged form of organic viticulture that is increasingly
popular with many of the world's leading producers, but which has
caused a good deal of controversy among proponents of scientifically
- Back to
square one: the WSA musty taint survey
a fierce debate ranging in the wine trade over the validity of the
Wine and Spirit Association’s research into cork taint, Jamie
Goode raises doubts over the methodology employed and asks is it
time to rip up the report and start again?
as brands: does it work?
French producers need to
regain market share lost to the new world brands, and in theory it
looks like a generic marketing attempt based around appellations is
a possible solution. How does it work in practice, though?
of Truth: Sabaté's Altec trial—assessing the performance of a
controversial closure and shedding new light on the human perception
By the end of the 1990s, Sabaté’s Altec closure was widely
criticised for unacceptable levels of taint. After modifications,
the French manufacturer invited experts from the trade and press to
test the performance of its old and new closures. Jamie Goode
analyses the research model’s openness, methodology and its
diversity is under threat
What's the problem? Well, wine production is increasingly being
driven by the needs of the supermarket and high street wine buyers,
who claim that their requirements are driven by what people will
buy. There is therefore a huge commercial pressure towards bland,
‘commercial’, branded wines produced in large volumes to hit the
right price points. The diversity – and the link to geography –
that makes wine so interesting are under real threat.
more on corks: towards a balanced perspective
While everyone is probably
fed up with the subject of cork taint by now, it's the issue that
won't go away. This article is an attempt to forge a balanced
position on the basis of good data—and not just anecdotal
accounts, strongly held beliefs and murky conflicting interests.
closures for fine wines
Should synthetic corks or
screwtops be used to seal wines intended for long-term ageing? Not
yet, argues Jamie Goode. We need to wait for the data.
advocate, not wine trade PR
Exactly what are wine
writers supposed to be doing? And whose side are they on? Sometimes
it's hard to tell...
cork taint: are screwcaps and plastic corks the answer?
Jamie Goode analyses the results from an significant independent
study on the effectiveness of wine bottle closures. This scientific
paper, published in July 2001, has thrown up some surprising
results, and the ongoing trial it describes promises to answer the
key question of whether alternatives to cork are suitable for
long-term ageing of wine.
finds himself in a bit of dilemma about Robert Parker's ratings, and
has a close encounter with insidious influence of the point-chasing
wine: interview with James Millton
Biodynamics is a controversial agricultural system that's becoming
increasingly accepted in the wine world. Jamie Goode poses some
thorny questions to one of the most well known new world proponent
of these techniques.
revisited: towards a working definition
It's hard work discussing a concept that means different things to
different people, so I thought it might be worth trying to nail down
some sort of working definition for 'terroir'. Here's my attempt!
and health: can drinking wine really be good for you?
The wine anorak teams up with Dr Chris Kissack to present a series
of articles investigating the potential health benefits of wine.
- Where the
new world got it wrong: the quality triangle of grapes, soil and
The typical new world approach to wine has one major flaw, argues
Jamie Goode: you can't forget about the soil if you want to make
truly great wines
- Why old
world wine is better than new
Nick Alabaster and Jamie Goode discuss the relative
merits of old and new world wines in this fascinating debate.
wines: does it measure up?
The anorak turns the
spotlight on the controversial practice of assessing wines by means
of a numerical rating. More gripping than a Parker 97-pointer! (See
also: regular columnist Nick
Alabaster's article on 'Rating wines'.)
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