All About That Case: Watching Wine Evolve on a Budget

Wine is an outlier in the modern age of standardized products.  On any given trip through a grocery aisle, you encounter dozens, if not hundreds, of items.  While it may be difficult to describe in words, you likely know exactly what that Lays potato chip is going to taste like and even feel like when you bite into it.  But walking through a wine store is a whole different experience filled with guesswork.  

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The Search: Boutique Wine and Big Data

Wine producers are not immune to the allure of data.  And it goes beyond assessing the contents of a wine bottle. DNA analysis of both vines and yeast, soil assays, drone monitoring and water usage analysis are being employed in vineyards around the world.  With data analysis and computer modeling, it is becoming possible to identify and dial-in particular attributes designed to get a high score in wine publications.

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The Great Merlot Crash: And the One Looming for Domestic Pinot

America’s love affair with Merlot was a brief and passionate one.  In the 90s and early 2000s, Merlot was almost synonymous with red wine.  It seemingly could do no wrong.  Then, the story goes, Sideways came along.  Throughout the movie, the main character, Miles, passionately stumps for Pinot Noir while occasionally and profanely taking shots at Merlot’s inferiority.  In what was widely dubbed “the Sideways effect,” US Merlot sales tumbled and have yet to recover.  

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Unnatural Selection: Mankind's Longstanding Interference in the Genetics of Wine

Centuries of selecting the choicest vines for cloning, or layering as it was called, yielded a similar result as the selective breeding of wolves and dogs: a plethora of different varieties that look, taste and act differently, but which are all the same species.  However, even with all of the human effort expended on intentional selection and propagation of vines, nature, unperturbed, continued its own experiments in tandem through cross-pollination.  As is often the case in wine, it is the combination of human labor and natural chance that yields the greatest rewards.  

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Bottled Poetry: Wine's Interplay with Emotion

Not every wine, just like not every poem, is worthy of this much consideration.  There are many more hallmark card writers than poet laureates. And that’s a good thing, because constantly contemplating the incomprehensible nature of existence would be exhausting.  Sometimes, probably most of the time, you need wine to pair with mindless TV, not an existential discussion.

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