Does organic wine taste better? A study whose findings have been widely misinterpreted

Are organic wines better than conventional ones? An interesting study from researchers at the University of California Los Angeles suggests that they might well be. However, the difference in point scores between eco-certified wines and conventional wines is actually much smaller than press reports on this study have stated, because they haven’t read the paper [...]

Stability of olfactory ability over time

This is a question that I think is really interesting, and it would be quite easy to answer. How stable is our olfactory ability over time?

We each differ in the set of olfactory receptors that we express in our nasal cavity. These receptors detect smell molecules. But there are far more smell molecules that we [...]

Riesling Rendezvous: why analytical data don't tell us much about the taste of Riesling

I’m at the Riesling Rendezvous conference in Seattle, Washington State. Held every three years, it’s an in-depth dive into this most distinctive of white wine grapes. It began on Sunday evening with a grand tasting outdoors at Chateau Ste Michelle in Woodinville, and yesterday and today we’re in Seattle for tastings and seminars.

One topic that [...]

ICCWS: Gary Pickering on managing green flavours in wine

Gary Pickering, of Brock University presented a talk at the ICCWS (International Cool Climate Wine Symposium) on managing green flavours in wine. These are largely (but not exclusively) caused by methoxypyrazines. The two main ones in wine are isopropyl methoxypyrazine (IPMP) and isobutyl methoxypyrazine (IBMP).

There’s a level at which these green flavours can be typical [...]

ICCWS 2016: Alistair Nesbitt's model for identifying suitable vineyard sites in the UK

Alistair Nesbitt, from the University of East Anglia, has created a model that maps spatial climate variability in the UK, showing the suitability of various areas for viticulture in England and Wales. Over the period 1954-2015 there has been a non-linear warming trend for the growing season, and the amount of variability from season to [...]

Framing and wine tasting: how words can get in the way of experience

Framing is a social science term which refers to a set of concepts and perspectives that then form the background that influences how we think on certain issues. In this sense, framing is part of the narrative structure with which we see the world. American academic and author George Lakoff has popularized the term in [...]

Spoiling pleasure: why we should be angry about the UK Chief Medical Officers Alcohol Guidelines Review

Today, the UK government has controversially published revised guidelines on safe drinking levels which see the recommended limits for men fall to 14 units a week, down from 21. The recommendations for women stay at 14. [You can access the report here.]

As wine lovers, we should be angry about this. Not because it’s telling us [...]

The Barry Smith interview: what is the nature of wine perception, and is wine flavour objective?

Professor Barry Smith (above) is an academic philosopher with a particular interest in flavour. A keen wine geek, he organized the first symposium on wine and philosophy back in 2004, and then published the first book on the topic in 2007 (Questions of Taste). More recently, he was founder and is co-director of CenSes – [...]

Researching my new book

At the moment, I’m spending a good portion of my waking moments in research activity. It’s a lovely aspect of what I do: dealing with new ideas. There’s something thrilling about discovering fresh things, and grappling with areas of academic endeavour where you have to face unfamiliar concepts and see through the jargon.

The thing that really [...]

On Champagne bubbles

I was reminded last night about how bubbles aren’t really a property of a Champagne (or sparkling wine). I poured the same Champagne into two different glasses. In one, the bubbles were fine – a steady stream. In the other, they were big and clumsy looking. The same wine.

It’s common to hear wine professionals comment [...]