Ambergris, a remarkable natural smell ingredient from whales

I’m obsessed by smells. It’s a good job because a large part of my job involves smelling things. Most commonly, fermented grape juice.

But for a long time I’ve been really interested in ambergris, ever since I heard about it as an exotic component of many perfumes. I’d read that this was an excretion from whale […]

Could we smell better? Much better?

Do we have only very limited access to the sensory information that we are receiving all the time? As a wine taster, I’m particularly intrigued that my senses are capable of detecting a lot more in wine than my conscious perceptions are alerting me to. Here’s a case study that does seem to suggest this.

In […]

We like the smell of geosmin in the air, but not in our wine

There’s a really interesting article on the BBC News site discussing why rain smells so good.

The smell of rain hitting the ground releases a smell that has been dubbed ‘petrichor’. It was named by Australian researchers in the 1960s, and the smell is produced by bacteria in the earth.

But here’s the twist that will interest […]

Terroir: when soils trump climate

I’ve been embroiled in endless discussions about terroir in the past. And I mean endless. They quickly become unfocused, ideological and circular, with people talking at cross purposes. But it’s still such an interesting concept. And an important one: it lies at the heart of fine wine.

Here I just want to make one point. When […]

Are anti-cork sentiments softening in New Zealand and Australia?

One thing I’m noticing in Australia and New Zealand of late: the growing number of producers using cork for high-end bottlings.

This would have been unthinkable five years ago, such was the strength of the reaction against cork, with its problems of variability and taint. Since 2000 in Australia and 2001 in New Zealand, there has […]

Discovering new old varieties in southwest France with Plaimont

If a highly paid marketing consultant had come to Plaimont a decade ago, they might have given the following advice: give up on these difficult-to-pronounce, unusual grape varieties with their distinctive local flavours. Instead, plant the grape varieties that people know and love – Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Make fruity, approachable wines. […]

Tasting Climate Change, in Montréal: the impact of warming on wine

Yesterday was the Tasting Climate Change conference https://www.tastingclimatechange.com/en/   , organized by Michelle Bouffard and held in Montréal, Canada. It was a half-day event looking at the impact of climate change on wine.

Stephen Guilbeaut

Stephen Guilbeaut, CEO of Équiterre, began by presenting an overview of the situation globally. CO2 concentrations are currently highest than they’ve been […]

What determines your taste? Why I disagree with Tim Hanni

Tim Hanni MW has become well known in the wine trade for his work on separating people into different groups according to their taste preferences. He has some interesting things to say. For example, there’s this recent interview published in Meininger’s. This isn’t the first time that consumer segmentation has been applied to wine, but […]

Is elevated atmospheric CO2 to blame for rising alcohol levels in wine?

Lisa Perrotti-Brown of the Wine Advocate recently published an article that caused quite a stir on the Internets. Lisa begins by saying that that the rise in alcohol levels in many wines is inexplicable. It has left her scratching her head. She’s puzzled, as are many of the winemakers that she’s been speaking with. Baffled, […]

Wine tasters are made, not born

There’s an excellent interview with Barry Smith on ABC (Australia) radio on the philosophy of wine. For a professor of philosophy, Barry is remarkably accessible and good at explaining what could otherwise be quite complex topics. One of the themes in this interview is the difference between experts and social drinkers. Are wine experts ‘born’, […]