Rioja's Visiting Professors: How the French put one of Spain's Iconic Wine Regions on the map

Before the advent of the printing press, the transport of people, and therefore, ideas, was difficult.  Only exceptional motivators like war, pestilence, and religion were sufficient to cause groups of people to migrate.  When new concepts moved into new regions this slowly, they came up against strong existing cultures.  As a result, only the best ideas were incorporated into local tradition.

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The Birth of Super Tuscans: A Victory of Wine over Regulation

In 1935, France became the first country in the world to legally regulate where and how wine could be produced within its borders.  These regulations -- the AOC system -- restored consumer trust that had been frayed by several years of wine fraud.  Almost overnight, longstanding regional traditions became enforceable strictures.  And the cost to running against the grain was high.

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Useful Wines: How to Order Wine that you Actually Want

When picking a wine, there is an enormity of options.  It can be frustrating to feel like you are taking repeated, blind stabs at what you hope will be an enjoyable bottle.  To make matters worse, the descriptions on labels or menus -- often written by wine marketers -- are jam-packed with jargon.  Words such as “seductive,” “perfumed,” or “sophisticated” are relatively meaningless when trying to find a similar wine.  One of the reasons I became interested in wine was to be able to identify wines that I enjoyed so that I could have them, and others like them, on a more consistent basis.  So, of all of the wine-related vocabulary, what words are actually useful in finding wines that agree with your palate?

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Why So Serious?: Using Wine Speak to Unite

Learning about wine has a lot in common with learning a new  language.  For instance, to say that a wine is “oxidative” condenses into one word a specific concept that requires  a few sentences to explain.  This is the crux of language.  And to those starting to learn, the experience is largely the same, like when you told the sommelier that you liked how the wine was so sweet and fruity, to which he smiled and reported that the wine was bone dry.  And the reaction tends to be similar: laugh it off, cringe a little, and try not to talk about wine until you know what you are doing.  But with wine, this seems unnecessary.  Sure, you may not understand the concept of “bone dry,” but there must be a better way to discuss it that doesn’t leave you feeling dismissed…right?

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Matters of Trust: The Origin of France's AOC System

Wine, as a product, has long engendered trust issues on the part of its devotees.  In addition to being relatively expensive, it can be difficult to distinguish between different types of wine.  Most problematically, there is little recourse for the consumers who realize they have been cheated.  Thus, since its discovery, there has been real tension between producers who establish their reputation by making the best possible wines and those who seek to gain an unearned windfall off of other’s reputations.

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