One of the weaknesses of the growing degree day concept, and similar climatic indices

I remember back in my old job, when we had a scientific conference on the nature of intelligence. It’s a topic you approach with caution. Nature versus nurture? Genetics versus environment? Which wins?

One of the concepts that got me was that we assume that two kids living side by side would be exposed to a [...]

José Vouillamoz on grape varieties, at MUST 2017

It was great to hear José Vouillamoz present at MUST. He’s a plant scientist with a special interest in grape varieties, and this was the subject of his talk. He began with the news that soon there will be a new edition of Wine Grapes, the reference book he authored together with Julia Harding and [...]

Are we potentially much better at smelling than we realise? The curious case of androstenone

Androstenone is a smelly steroidal compound produced by pigs that is described as sweaty, urinous, and musky by those who can smell it. Depending on the version of the OR7D4 gene that you will have, you’ll experience androsterone as unpleasant, or sweet, or you might not smell it at all.

Kara Hoover and colleagues have looked [...]

Time to leave the biodynamic calendar behind? Wine tastes the same on fruit and root days

There’s been a lot of talk about the biodynamic calendar in the wine trade. At wine tastings, it’s not unusual for tasters to start muttering that the wines aren’t showing very well. Then someone whips out their smartphone. ‘I thought so!’ they proclaim. ‘It’s a root day.’

For those unfamiliar with the concept, I’m referring to [...]

Pedogenic lime in arid vineyard soils - how does it affect the flavour of wine?

When it comes to vineyard soils, limestone is all the rage. But there’s one source of limestone in vineyard soils that isn’t much talked about. It’s the slow formation of limestone in arid vineyard soils, known as pedogenic lime (and alternatively caliche and calcrete). I first encountered it in Central Otago, and then bumped into [...]

Terroir: the rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated

There’s a very interesting article on Jancis Robinson.com today, in which she reports on a recent Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) seminar on mineralogy. It deals with some very interesting issues. In her piece, she reports on Maltman’s talk, but I think she jumps to too-hasty a conclusion about its implications.

As geologist Alex Maltman [...]

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 [...]

In Adelaide: discussing wine science with a taxi driver

So, I rolled into Adelaide airport at 8 pm on Sunday night, after a long flight from London via Dubai. On the plane I alternated between sleeping, working, and listening: of late, I have taken to listening to music on flights. Usually, new planes with decent in flight entertainment have a good selection, and if [...]

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 [...]