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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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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Teach the Controversy: Are Sulphites in Wine a Problem?

Sulphur, sulphites, or, to be precise, sulphur dioxide, is much maligned in the wine industry.  This is somewhat understandable.  Sulphur dioxide in low concentrations smells terrible and in high concentrations is quite toxic.  And if that isn’t enough, sulphur, also known as brimstone, is strongly associated with hell.

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Life's A Party: How Yeast Works to Create Wine

Notwithstanding their seeming simplicity, yeasts, specifically Saccharomyces, has become something of an unlikely scientific superstar.  It was one of the first organisms to have its entire genetic code sequenced, and has more recently been selected for interplanetary travel.  Geneticists even believe that Saccharomyces may someday unlock the secret to aging itself, dramatically extending the human lifespan.

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Doing Right by the Kids: Why Suffering Grapevines Make Great Wine

When tasting at a winery, it is common to hear about how a wine has extra character because the vines were encouraged to struggle.  It’s one of those oft-repeated statements that doesn’t even attract scrutiny, but just receives nodding acceptance before you gulp down a small pour of another wine that tastes pretty similar to the last one.

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