×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Chemists Build App That Could Identify Cheap Replacements For Luxury Wines

samzenpus posted about 10 months ago | from the tastes-great dept.

Science 206

schliz writes "Australian startup Wine Cue is combining the chemical composition of wines with customer ratings for what it hopes to be a more objective wine recommendation engine than existing systems that are based on historical transactions. The technology is likely to reach the market as a smartphone app, and could be used to identify cheap alternatives to expensive bottles."

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

206 comments

first post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957603)

whoot

Re:first post! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957669)

Yes, exactly.

And this had better be an Android-only app.

The absolute last thing an IDevice owner wants to know is that his/her expensive purchase is objectively inferior to a cheaper alternative.

The horror! The horror!

Re:first post! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957775)

EBT doesn't cover luxury wines so we can be certain of one thing: niggers won't be drinking any. Making fine wine inherently racist.

More objective would be welcome (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#43957623)

If there is one thing that needs more objectivity its wine tasting.
Too often the results are the opinion of the person who bought the bottle, and too seldom is there truly blind taste testing by people not already familiar with the vintage.

Re:More objective would be welcome (4, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 10 months ago | (#43957675)

Even with blind tastings there is subjectivity, as people sense of taste and smell is quite varied. I tend to be good at picking up secondary aromas (not the primary fruit) but amd not as good at picking out some of the subtle fruit smells. It all come down to chemicals ... esters and other compounds, that can be measured objectively, but for now is still quite expensive to do accurately. Any good sommelier can generally pick out a cheaper example of an expensive wine for you based on what you like though. It may not be *as* good as the expensive one, but it is a game of diminishing returns for the most part, although it is occasionally possible to get a *better* wine for less money. Wine sells for what the market will bear, based on origin, availability, and reputation.

Re:More objective would be welcome (4, Interesting)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | about 10 months ago | (#43957745)

You're also probably not as good at picking out anything as you think you are. If you've never done any kind of double-blind testing to find out then your assumptions are likely nothing more than conformation bias. Same thing with "experienced sommeliers"

Example: You drink a wine and say that you taste X. The next person at the table hears this and therefore tastes X. It also probably works in reverse. That's not to say that you couldn't tell the difference between two wines that are drastically different, but subtle differences are likely imperceptible.

Re:More objective would be welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957847)

Maybe get tables which are further away, or invent some sort of wall system to experiment on this effect?

Re:More objective would be welcome (3, Insightful)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about 10 months ago | (#43958459)

Does it make any sense to speak of confirmation bias and objectivity when talking about "taste"?

Re:More objective would be welcome (4, Informative)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 10 months ago | (#43958233)

Why on earth would people who eat different foods and have different taste profiles and come from different ethnic heritages be expected to like wines equally.

I've had several blind tastings.

For most people, the ability to taste a difference tops out in the $20-$30 a bottle range.
I've only known one person who had the ability to finely discriminate wine and he came from the new york area.

At one tasting- the one bottle he disliked, everyone else liked.

There is a tremendous difference at the lower end because many of the less expensive wines are either

a) Just bad (and just about anyone can tell this)
b) or they are "Thin" (watered down, one note) which anyone can taste pretty quickly and easily in comparison to a good wine.

But there are plenty of wines good enough for 14-18 a bottle.
And plenty of wines that are good enough after you are tipsy for $9-$14 a bottle.

The truly great wines require an experienced and truly great wine tasting ability.

And why give truly great wine to people who can't tell the difference anyway (i.e. most of us).

Re:More objective would be welcome (1)

LulzAndOrder (2667597) | about 10 months ago | (#43957683)

there is frequently blind tasting by people unfamiliar with a vintage. however, there is rarely blind tasting by people unfamiliar with the region, variety, or style of the winemaker. vintage means year.

Re:More objective would be welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957733)

there is frequently blind tasting by people unfamiliar with a vintage. however, there is rarely blind tasting by people unfamiliar with the region, variety, or style of the winemaker. vintage means year.

And vintner means "winemaker".

If you're going to be a know-it-all bastard, do it correctly.

Re:More objective would be welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958117)

And vintner means "winemaker".

It also means "wine merchant"; perhaps the parent was going for unambiguity.

If you're going to be a know-it-all bastard, do it correctly.

Ditto, although next time do please try and be civil about it too.

Re:More objective would be welcome (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | about 10 months ago | (#43957759)

And there's also never any double-blind testing, which is really important. The examiner can easily give away details to the test subject without a strictly controlled environment.

Re:More objective would be welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957879)

Not to mention that wines are quite fragile, so how will researchers establish that the bottle they are using is representative of a well-stored exemplar? The same vintage can taste completely different depending on how the bottle was stored, and I'll wager that most 20-something university students conducting or participating in research won't notice corking or cooking.

Re:More objective would be welcome (4, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#43958139)

Wine is not as fragile as some wine snobs would have you believe. You pretty well have to really abuse a bottled wine for an extended period of time for it to be noticeable. Virtually every wine you find on the shelf has gone through shipment sweltering in 100 degree heat in the back of a semi, or stored too cold in a warehouse by a uncaring wholesaler.

There is more obvious difference in a wine attributable to how long the bottle has been open than there is attributable to it was shipped, or stored.

More often than not the wine snob won't notice this either, unless it was egregious and prolonged.

Re:More objective would be welcome (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957887)

If there is one thing that needs more niggers its africa.
Send 'em all back says I. Who's with me?

Re:More objective would be welcome (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 10 months ago | (#43958481)

If there is one thing that needs more objectivity its wine tasting.
Too often the results are the opinion of the person who bought the bottle, and too seldom is there truly blind taste testing by people not already familiar with the vintage.

So they should invent a device that can detect a pack of Winnie Red's (Cheap but powerful cigarettes) and recommend a box of 4 penny dark (cheap red wine) as they wont taste anything anyway?

Many fine australian table wines (3, Funny)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 10 months ago | (#43957641)

Black Stump Bourdeaux is rightly praised as a peppermint flavored burgundy, whilst a good Sydney Syrup can rank with any of the world's best sugary wines.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957735)

You beat me to it. Australian wines for $6-7 bottle in the US, that are as good as $15-20 wines.

No app needed.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 10 months ago | (#43958385)

Strange, it's getting hard to find a bottle of Australian wine in Australia for $7 (retail) that you'd actually want to drink!

Some either we locals are getting ripped off at the checkout, or Yanks have less discerning palates.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 10 months ago | (#43958493)

Some either we locals are getting ripped off at the checkout, or Yanks have less discerning palates.

Or?

Both statements are true.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957757)

"This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding"

Ya gotta love Monty Python

Re:Many fine australian table wines (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957783)

All wine is the same, the only difference is in the package and the head of the drinker. The presumption that there is a lot of difference in "wine quality" is as much a marketing ploy to sell as is the bullshit about its "health effects". I've had a lot of fun with wine snobs at tasting parties -- I spend part of the year in a wine-making region. Put them to a blind test, or a double-blind taste and everyone reliably fails to distinguish between "good", "bad", cheap or expensive. Yep, including you.

"Peppermint flavored" my ass. How do you get that from grapes and yeast?

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957829)

Great, two buck Chuck (actually it's $3 now) will do for you.

BTW did you know that all classical music is really the same? Nobody can tell the difference between the London Symphony playing Mozart vs. the Texas A&M Symphony playing Salieri. Turns out it's all good.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957907)

That is a totally appropriate example for a wine buff. It is a poor analogy for everyone else. First, it is unclear what are we comparing here. The concert hall, the work itself or the performance? Make up your mind, because you're not qualified to speak of at least two of these.

Still, unlike "wine tasting", which is totally arbitrary [theatlantic.com], there are some objective criteria by which we can judge all three.

Admittedly, the work itself is hardest to judge, as it depends most of all on the "taste" of the listener. The proliferation of auto-tuned performances with compressed sound kinda underscores the point. Maybe Salieri is good for someone.

The performance can be compared by objective criteria -- how well the musicians know the score, how good they are technically, etc. etc. After a point, when issues of "style" and "taste" come to play, it is the same as wine.

The concert halls are easier to compare, at least in terms of acoustics. They were probably built to objective criteria.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 10 months ago | (#43957833)

"Peppermint flavored" my ass. How do you get that from grapes and yeast?

I pour myself a nice claret and put in a Monty Python DVD.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957925)

Great taste. Now, what is "nice" and how is it different from "not nice", objectively?

Re:Many fine australian table wines (2)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 10 months ago | (#43957995)

Drinking wine is a subjective experience.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958111)

No, it isn't.

Drinking wine is either a case of alcoholism or a case of exercise in conformism.

Taste for wine, like taste for all alcoholic beverages, is an "acquired taste". That means it tastes like shit and you drink it for some other reason than taste.

Some drink it because they need to get sloshed. These need help and I hope you're not one of them.

Everybody else drink it because they were introduced to it by peer pressure and marketing. You try to offset that by telling yourself there's a difference, or that it is "nice", etc. Which is okay, but it is just snobbery.

And that's all there is to it.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958177)

Yes it is.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957915)

And sweetened tea tastes exactly the same as unsweetened tea? Because at the vary least, the amount of sweetness in wine varies and can be objectively measured.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957941)

You drink wine with added sugar? And sweeten your tea? Jeez. Maybe you think Jamie Oliver is a good cook, too? Again, for your benefit, double blind tests [theatlantic.com] prove that people can't even tell white wine from red wine if they look the same. Yes, that includes you, too.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0)

arth1 (260657) | about 10 months ago | (#43958157)

Again, for your benefit, double blind tests prove that people can't even tell white wine from red wine if they look the same. Yes, that includes you, too.

The experiment proves nothing of the sort, and doesn't claim to do so either. That's all in your head. What it shows is that expectations overrides sensation. This is the same phenomenon as people getting high on smoking fake pot or feel perky after drinking decaf.
If you as an authority figure don't deliberately mislead your subjects into thinking they're tasting red wine, oenology students can indeed taste the difference.

But the power of persuasion is strong, and even you will fall for it, yes.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958273)

expectations override sensation

Yeah, yeah. Like, if I make a frothy mix of shit, piss and santorum and give it to you instead of a chocolate mousse you'll be fooled. The fact that people trained to tell wines apart can't even tell red and white, except by the color, speaks for itself. It is all snobbery, conformism and stupidity. And you exhibit mostly the latter.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (4, Insightful)

aXis100 (690904) | about 10 months ago | (#43958207)

Go and have a look at the metabolic pathways that yeast use to glean energy from sugars in wine/beer. It is truly staggering, and temperature, PH, timing and yeast variety can all play a part in preferentially modifying those pathways. As a result, there are a bunch of fermentation by-products, including different alcohol groups and esters. For example, I'm a beer brewer, and belgian yeasts are noted for producing "lolly banana" esters.

There is also a legitimate difference between cheap and expensive wine techniques - time spent cellaring, new versus second hand barrels, preservatives etc.

At the end of the day though that doesnt make a lot of difference - peoples tastes vary wildly and If you personally like the way it tastes then that's great, go buy it again. Whilst there is no such thing as a "cheap" or "expensive" flavour, if lots of poeple like the way it tastes, then you can call it "good" wine. If lots of poeple say it tastes like arse, then it's "bad" wine.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 10 months ago | (#43958259)

I have a terrible palate but I've tasted these notes and it was kinda cool.

There are probably a dozen that anyone can taste after drinking a couple dozen bottles of a particular type.

I've had a "peppery" wine and a "chocolatey" wine- which was bizarre because as you say, they were just grapes.

I've also had 3 perfect pairings and 1 near miss. When that happens- it's like magic. Each sip of wine makes the food taste better and each bite of the food makes the wine taste better in a swirling dance of gustatory delight.

There are many kinds of grapes-- many kinds of soil those grapes grow in-- and many kinds of weather conditions that occur while the grapes are growing.

What's also cool is when the wine changes taste in your mouth over time.

Re:Many fine australian table wines (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 10 months ago | (#43958453)

I have to admit-- I did try to find out whether peppermint was a standard wine aroma, and instead came across this choice tidbit on wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

The German Wine Institute has created a special German language version of the Aroma Wheel meant to be specially adapted to German wines, with one wheel for white wines and one wheel for red wines.[4] However, in the translation they removed the petroleum smell (and the entire "chemical" category) from the white wine wheel, despite the fact that mature Riesling wines - Germany's signature grape variety - are the best-known examples of wines that show this aroma. It seems that the motive for omitting the reference to petroleum was that many consumers perceive it as a "negative" aroma. The Institute's move has been criticized by foreign experts on German wines.[5]

Shiraz is sometimes described as peppery.

Any word on the technique? (1)

Nichotin (794369) | about 10 months ago | (#43957701)

If I were to do this stuff myself, I would probably use Partial Least Squares and build a regression model using the chemical composition as X, and the customer ratings as Y. Or depending on the number of variables in the chemical composition compared to the number of samples (wines), one of the Sparse Partial Least Squares variants might prove to give better predictions (and it would also be interesting to see which variables in X it discards as less important).

So, any word on what they do?

Technology can't replicate everything.... (0)

sconeu (64226) | about 10 months ago | (#43957707)

I'm not a wine snob, but I know there are certain things that sometimes you *can't* replicate.

After decades of analysis, we still can't build a violin as good as a Stradivarius. We still can't fully replicate Damascus Steel (OK, maybe the lack of a living slave in which to quench the blade is part of that :-P). I'd argue that fine liquors -- wines, whiskeys, etc... fall into that category. I'd say it's almost an art form.

I'll admit it, I have no evidence for that last assertion/argument. But I'm a romantic at heart,

insufficiently advanced technology (0)

nten (709128) | about 10 months ago | (#43957813)

Verhoeven and Pendray claim they found the recipe for Damascus, and their paper sounds plausible to me. But reading (and understanding) metalurgy 101 is the extent of my knowledge. More to the point modern tool steel surpasses the original damascus in hardness, strength, and wear resistance. Also, Japanese swords don't cut gun barrels or cleave through armor like paper. I don't know anything about violins, but I know that good whiskey uses all the tech tricks it can. While it always comes down to one person's judgement making it (which I think does qualify it as art), science makes the art better. Also you can make better fudge with a microwave and an IR thermometer than with a gas stove and a candy thermometer. Blasphemy I know, but true. The way in which the microwave heats from the inside out with no agitation from the thermometer makes it creamier. I've been told liquid nitrogen makes the best icecream.

It is unromantic, but I suspect that gas chromatograph readings of tons of wines, fed into a pandora/netflix type singular value decomposition engine where thousands of people rate the wines, would result in good recommendations. You would want "channels" though, as you need more than just like or dislike for something with that many varieties.

Re:insufficiently advanced technology (4, Informative)

c0lo (1497653) | about 10 months ago | (#43958057)

The way in which the microwave heats from the inside out...

What???? Granted:

* it's radiative heating, not contact heating
* the penetration depth of microwave in water is between 25-38 mm [wikipedia.org], I assume larger than the IR penetration depth.

but for the rest of the "inside", the heat transfer from those 25-38mm of "out" is not in any way different from cooking inside a gas oven. In other words, the stuffing inside your turkey will cook pretty much the same way in a microwave or classical oven, irrespective of spherical turkeys or placement in vacuum.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957817)

I've never believed that expensive liquors are worth that much in the first place, its a false luxury that people spend a lot of money on to prove that they can, and those that make it are happy to carry on the tradition.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

washort (6555) | about 10 months ago | (#43957949)

Some are, some aren't. Obviously any time you have a high-priced quality product, someone else will try to enter the market at that level as well. Price isn't a guarantee of quality but neither is it a guarantee of a ripoff.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958079)

Cheap vodka will fuck you up (anything that hasn't been distilled at least 3 times is swill) but you can usually get away with drinking cheap bourbon.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 10 months ago | (#43958189)

Vodka stills have horizontal plates perforated with many tiny holes in them. Each one amounts to an additional distillation. Been a long time sense p-chem.

You can drink reasonably cheap vodka. Vodka making is a science, it just doesn't get better after about $12/750ml. You just spend more and impress people with your chumpiness.

Bourbon making on the other hand is an art. Cheap bourbon isn't great, but then again, it's Bourbon, best water to make whiskey with. 'Old Grand Dad' isn't terrible. The worst Bourbon is still better then Jack Danial's.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 10 months ago | (#43958271)

But there is a difference between potato vodka and wheat vodka if you are allergic to wheat.
Friend of mine would turn red and shed skin if she got wheat vodka plus get intestinal distress.

I've found it makes a difference in rums. (did a blind taste test and Bacardi did not do well). For dark rums- big variations in taste and ability to drink them neat.

But agree on vodka otherwise. All taste the same to me.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | about 10 months ago | (#43958283)

Pusser's rum is rather good, that is if you can get a hold of it in Texas(?).

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 10 months ago | (#43958303)

I like Cane 21 and Diplomatico reserve.

For mixed drinks I use the cheapest white rum. They seem to all be the same and folks can't tell the difference.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 10 months ago | (#43958195)

I've never believed that expensive liquors are worth that much in the first place, its a false luxury that people spend a lot of money on to prove that they can, and those that make it are happy to carry on the tradition.

And your point is? If someone feels more pleasure by drinking what he believes is superior, surely you won't begrudge him that added feeling of pleasure?

"Worth" is something no outsider can determine; it is always subjective. If I think a bottle of whisky is worth $70, that's its worth to me. And if I am willing to pay $200 for a concert ticket when I could go to a different concert for $50, that's because the worth to me is higher, and that's all that matters when I'm paying.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 10 months ago | (#43958279)

It matters for whiskey...

But -- for my group Johnny Walker Blue was very smooth but not preferred over several whiskeys $210 per bottle cheaper. For some JWB was just too smokey.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (5, Insightful)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | about 10 months ago | (#43957825)

>I'm not a wine snob, but I know there are certain things that sometimes you *can't* replicate.

You're clearly also not a chemist either.

>After decades of analysis, we still can't build a violin as good as a Stradivarius.

No, what we can't do is build a violin that self-proclaimed audiophiles say is as good as a Stradivarius during NON-BLIND TESTS in UNCONTROLLED ENVIRONMENTS. If you administer proper double-blind tests then you'll find that there's no difference.

>We still can't fully replicate Damascus Steel

Talk to a metallurgist. Modern steel actually performs better. I'm not sure how much effort has been given to duplication, but why try to duplicate something when you already have a better replacement?

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | about 10 months ago | (#43958039)

It always amuses the hell out of me when people think there were these amazing ancient technologies so much better than anything modern. It is like they think various videogames and novels are real and that we study the knowledge of the ancients to advance what we have, despite all evidence to the contrary.

As you say, all this stuff is bullshit. In terms of violins we can, if anything, build even better violins today because of better material selection and manufacturing techniques. The thing that makes Stradivarius sought after is its rarity. It is a special thing to own one, as there aren't many. That then of course leads to a mystique and to people making bullshit claims.

Same kind of thing with Damascus Steel. It has been claimed to be able to do things like cut through a gun barrel, which of course it can't do (gun barrels are amazingly tough objects). We can do better with modern metallurgy and processes (like an industrial hammer forge). The reason there's research to replicating Damascus Steel is because it is neat, it was very advanced for the time and it would be of historical interest to understand how it was done. We can do better, and indeed do all the time.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#43958175)

It always amuses the hell out of me when people think there were these amazing ancient technologies so much better than anything modern. It is like they think various videogames and novels are real and that we study the knowledge of the ancients to advance what we have, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Truer words are seldom heard. The people claiming advanced knowledge of the ancients usually follow that claim up with "There is much that modern science doesn't know". Which, while true, does not mean that ancient science knew it either. So much embellished lore is taken as absolute truth, even by people who know they are passing down BS as a twisted form of self aggrandizement by proxy.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958229)

Building something like the Great Pyramid or the Great Wall of China would be difficult even with modern technology.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958745)

Talk to a metallurgist.

Thank you.

The Damascus Steel nonsense is almost, but not quite as bad as katana fanboyism.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957877)

Strad's aren't any better sounding [npr.org] than brand new violins.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 10 months ago | (#43958203)

Very interesting.

In a blind test, professional musicians:

In fact, the only statistically obvious trend in the choices was that one of the Stradivarius violins was the least favorite, and one of the modern instruments was slightly favored.

the 17 players who were asked to choose which were old Italians, "Seven said they couldn't, seven got it wrong, and only three got it right.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (4, Insightful)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 10 months ago | (#43957923)

I'm not a wine snob, but I know there are certain things that sometimes you *can't* replicate. [...] I'd argue that fine liquors -- wines, whiskeys, etc... fall into that category. I'd say it's almost an art form.

Detailed studies [wsj.com] of professional wine judges in blind tastings have shown that prizes from contest to contest are so random that they might as well be picked from a hat. And the average professional judge, tasting the same wine on consecutive days, would on average only be able to narrow the rating to within 8 points on a 20-point scale.

Other studies have even shown that professional tasters often fare pretty poorly even in tests like, "Taste 3 wines, tell me which 2 are identical," or that when given white wines dyed with red food coloring, they start spouting out the nonsense about "flavor notes" and "nose" that would be appropriate for red wines rather than whites.

Given this information, it's pretty clear that even the so-called "expert palettes" don't know what the hell they're talking about.

So, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it's pretty likely chemists could master the subtle art of getting a wine result that could satisfy even most professional judges in a blind test.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957967)

And I'll go on a limb and say that chemical analysis won't satisfy nobody and will largely be ignored. The point of separating wines into "good" and "bad" isn't about objectivity, it is about stoking snobbery and extracting a fee from the satisfaction of some nobody that they "know better".

It is fairly easy to come up with "objective" assessment of, well, laptop computers and smartphones. So, who wins in those markets, the products that objectively are at the top? Well, not really, those who win are the brands and the products that are most heavily marketed.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 10 months ago | (#43957993)

By the way, I say all of this as someone who actually appreciates liquor of various sorts. I'm not at all trying to claim that all wines (or all whiskies or whatever) taste the same -- obviously they don't. And there are plenty of cases where I've paid a premium price for a liquor whose taste I like because of previous experiences.

But in the realm of wine, I don't think there's good evidence that expensive wines are actually "better" on an objective scale; in fact, many studies suggest the contrary. Perhaps there is a somewhat smaller probability of terrible wine when buying something expensive, but that's hardly enough to say you can't find some cheaper wines that are just as "good."

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958773)

Other studies have even shown that professional tasters often fare pretty poorly even in tests like, "Taste 3 wines, tell me which 2 are identical," or that when given white wines dyed with red food coloring, they start spouting out the nonsense about "flavor notes" and "nose" that would be appropriate for red wines rather than whites.

This is why talk about wine tasting is often complete nonsense. Taste anything after one wine, and it's colored by the first. This is stupidly obvious. Except, apparently, when you're talking about wine tasting. Then somehow your palette is magically not colored whilst drinking.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 10 months ago | (#43957977)

We still can't fully replicate Damascus Steel (OK, maybe the lack of a living slave in which to quench the blade is part of that :-P). I'd argue that fine liquors -- wines, whiskeys, etc... fall into that category. I'd say it's almost an art form.

Um

Modern monosteel performs just as well as folded or damascus steel. Japanese sword makers are still in business (and a lot of Japanese kitchen knife makers who come from the same families/cities) and I'd pit that against Damascus steel as well.

I'd say a lot of those examples are a romanticized, overhyped image, something like Bruce Lee.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

Art3x (973401) | about 10 months ago | (#43958059)

I'm not a wine snob, but I know there are certain things that sometimes you *can't* replicate.

After decades of analysis, we still can't build a violin as good as a Stradivarius. We still can't fully replicate Damascus Steel (OK, maybe the lack of a living slave in which to quench the blade is part of that :-P). I'd argue that fine liquors -- wines, whiskeys, etc... fall into that category. I'd say it's almost an art form.

I'll admit it, I have no evidence for that last assertion/argument. But I'm a romantic at heart,

As a fellow romantic, I must tell you, that's your problem. I thought the same thing until I read The Wine Trials [amazon.com], in which the authors ran blind taste tests, with cheaper wines often winning. For example, Domaine Ste. Michelle ($12) consistently outranked Dom Perignon ($150). In the 2007-08 experiment, the 507 tasters "represented many different segments of the wine-buying world. . . . Some were wine experts, others everyday wine drinkers. They included New York City sommeliers (wine stewards) and Harvard professors, winemakers from France, neuroscientists and artists, top chefs and college students, doctors and lawyers, wine importers and wine store owners, novelists and economists, TV comedy writers and oenologists (wine scientists), bartenders and grad students, 21-year-olds and 88-year-olds, socialists and conservatives, heavy drinkers and lightweights."

As for Stradivarius, "the many blind tests from 1817 to the present have never found any difference in sound between Stradivari's violins and high-quality violins in comparable style of other makers and periods, nor has acoustic analysis," so sayeth Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], but you can consult its citations at the bottom.

On the other hand, I recently read that there ain't nothing like Roman concrete [berkeley.edu].

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (1)

arth1 (260657) | about 10 months ago | (#43958227)

As for Stradivarius, "the many blind tests from 1817 to the present have never found any difference in sound between Stradivari's violins and high-quality violins in comparable style of other makers and periods, nor has acoustic analysis," so sayeth Wikipedia, but you can consult its citations at the bottom.

This is true, but at the same time, many people can identify a particular violinist playing a particular violin by hearing records or radio. It doesn't imply it's better, and the reason for the recognition might be mostly wetware, i.e. the player, but it still means there can be differences. Much like there are often differences in singers' voices which we recognize, even if spectral analysis has difficulties telling two singers apart.

Re:Technology can't replicate everything.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958061)

Last I heard, there are several theories on what makes a Stradivarius sound the way it does. Some people think it's the age of the wood (i.e. the wood was decades or centuries old to begin with before it was made into a violin), the density of the wood (trees grow more slowly in cold climates and the resulting wood is denser) or a mix of both. Last I heard, the unvarnished-inside theory has already been debunked.

not about taste (1)

fermion (181285) | about 10 months ago | (#43957835)

For most people the price of wine is not about taste. It is about exclusivity and following the rules of the pack. You pay this price for this bottle of wine because that is what your peer group is doing. Otherwise why would it be so easy to forge wine labels and sell then as the real thing [nytimes.com]? If you have connections and providence people don't seem to know the difference.

That is not to say that expensive wine does not provide value. You are paying for vintage grapes and expert winemakers, which all cost money.OTOH there is no reason to go into debt for a bottle of expensive wine anymore that one should go into debt for a Prada bag.

So what services like this provide is protection for those who want to be a part of a peer group but can't afford it. They can say how silly those rich people are for paying for expensive wine that is the same as the cheap wine. It really isn't the same, but it really doesn't matter. If there is someone who has the ability to authoritively say they are the same, then those who need to feel included can.

Re:not about taste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43957929)

For most people the price of wine is not about taste. It is about exclusivity and following the rules of the pack. You pay this price for this bottle of wine because that is what your peer group is doing.

That's true about most things that aren't your particular hobby, passion, or work interest, isn't it? On the other hand, for things that you are passionate about, there most certainly is a big difference for people with experience and taste. Oh, one FPS video game isn't as good as another?

Here's what I'm hoping for... (4, Funny)

reverseengineer (580922) | about 10 months ago | (#43957837)

Welcome to Wine Cue!

INPUT: Chateau Petrus, 1998 vintage, Pomerol primarily of Merlot grapes, estimated retail 3500USD

RECOMMENDATION: Charles Shaw, 2010 vintage, Merlot, estimated retail 2USD

Re:Here's what I'm hoping for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958155)

That's something you won't get. The "recommendations" business is there to sell you wine for more, not for less.

Re:Here's what I'm hoping for... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958159)

2-Buck Chuck is up to $3.99 now. Which makes it more like 4-Buck Chuck.

I blame the oil companies for making shipping cost too much.

Re:Here's what I'm hoping for... (2)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 10 months ago | (#43958293)

From testing and experience, the $3 wines are undrinkable unless ice cold and nasty then.
$6-$12 is fine for drinking with food or getting tipsy but thin.

At $13 + you start getting decent wines.
Most folks taste buds seem to top out at $25 bucks a bottle.

And you shouldn't be wasting a $60+ bottle of wine to get tipsy or if you can't tell the difference or you just don't like it. I can tell the difference a bit but don't interpret it as better.

Here's the one recommendation you need (2)

michaelmalak (91262) | about 10 months ago | (#43957913)

Target house brand box red wine. That's right, you buy it at Target (at locations where they're allowed to sell wine).

The three varieties, Merlot, Shiraz, and blend are all good. It's like the best $12 bottle you've ever had -- not a typical $12 bottle, the best. The box is $16 and contains the equivalent of four bottles, of course with the self-sealing spigot and collapsing plastic bladder to prevent oxidation. Stays fresh for weeks or even months after opening -- provides a glass a day for three weeks.

Re:Here's the one recommendation you need (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958141)

Hell, even Carlo Rossi will do in a pinch (and you get a high-quality glass jug when the wine is gone). It's not the best wine I've ever had but for the price it's not the worst either.

Ignore the ratings, trust your buds (4, Insightful)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 10 months ago | (#43957953)

I've had some spectacular wines. No, no, not the wines that cost hundreds of euros per bottle. but wines that could be described as "WOW. I didn't know wine could do that". It would be nice to have an app that would suggest similar wines, based on a chemical spectrum instead of "that estate had a truly extraordinary summer, and more recent vintages have not faired as well."

If a particular chemical is playing around with my brain,I want to know about it and be able to invite it around again sometime.

Re:Ignore the ratings, trust your buds (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958447)

Agreed.
In Australia, James Halliday is our famous wine critic. He lives in Victoria - and guess what? Most Victorian wines are "the best".
Let me assure you that the -WORST- wines in Australia are from Victoria. I have tried QLD, NSW, SA, VIC, TAS and WA wines - and the consistently worst wines are from Victoria. "Overpriced cats piss" is a compliment.
Let's just say that there's a reason that Penfolds Grange (a SA wine) wins award after award.
Halliday is like most other critics, he has NFI.

All that glittters is not gold (1)

Crypto Gnome (651401) | about 10 months ago | (#43957971)

It's not just the basic chemicals but the molecules and how they are 'folded' which makes a MASSIVE difference to what happens.

I predict this will be technically correct but completely useless, as seen in that classic joke about mathematicians:

Two Physicists were riding in a hot air balloon and were blown off course sailing over a mountain trail, and were completely lost.

They spotted a jogger running on the trail and they shouted "Can you tell us where we are?" After a few minutes, the jogger yelled back "You're up in a balloon."

One physicists said to the other, "Just our luck to run into a mathematician". "How do you know he was a mathematician?" asked the other.

"Well, in the first place he took a long time to answer; second, his answer was 100% correct and third, ,it was totally useless."

Re:All that glittters is not gold (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958405)

It's not just the basic chemicals but the molecules and how they are 'folded' which makes a MASSIVE difference to what happens.

Uh, if you're getting a lot of protein in your wine, you should probably remove some of the bugs before you press your next batch of grapes.

This is the stupidest use of chemistry. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 10 months ago | (#43958019)

Of course you cannot tell how good a wine tastes by some chemical analysis.

Re: This is the stupidest use of chemistry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958147)

Yeah, how dare these fools who worship at the altar of science claim that taste is merely a response of specialized cells to chemical stimuli, resulting in some chemical reactions in the brain that are perceived as taste and smell! This MATERIALISTIC world-view, this DELUSION of SATAN, denies the TRUTH of the IMMORTAL SOUL of man, replacing the TRUE SPIRIT which resides in him and throughout him with the MERE CHEMICAL REACTIONS in the brain -- when we know the SOUL exists because it not only gives man FREE WILL, but allows him to TASTE THE SPIRITUAL REALITY of the wine, not its physical reality merely.

Re:This is the stupidest use of chemistry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958151)

Of course you cannot tell how good a wine tastes by some chemical analysis.

So how do you tell how good a wine tastes? If one can't tell from the chemicals, how can a wine taster tell? By the temperature? The isotopes? There really isn't much to physical substances other than the chemistry of them.

The human senses of taste and smell are chemical analyzers. What else could they possibly be?

Re:This is the stupidest use of chemistry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958167)

Of course you cannot tell how good a wine tastes by some chemical analysis.

The goal is not to objectively rank wines based solely on their composition, it's to take wines that were highly rated by people and find less expensive alternatives that are very similar chemically.

Troll is not a replacement for I disagree.

Can you recommend a suitable alternative for "didn't bother to read the first sentence of TFS"?

Re:This is the stupidest use of chemistry. (1)

miroku000 (2791465) | about 10 months ago | (#43958327)

Can you recommend a suitable alternative for "didn't bother to read the first sentence of TFS"?

I recommend that they just have people rate a bunch of wines and then calculate the tastes of people who have similar interests to you. You know, like Amazon, or Netflix.

Two thoughts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958131)

1. There are already web sites where people review wines and tell you it's got great bang for the buck. Sometimes wines with the snooty "points" ratings will even fall into this category.

2. If their system gains traction, the deals will be arbitraged away. Pricey wines might fall a bit; but more likely the cheap quality wines will be able to raise their prices because of the publicity.

In other words, another fine thing spoiled by douche bags and "smart" phones.

price != quality with wine. (1)

DMJC (682799) | about 10 months ago | (#43958183)

I used to live about 15 minutes drive from the Barossa Valley. You can definately taste the difference between a $50 bottle and a $10 bottle, but having said that I don't believe the $600-2000 bottles are justified at all. I highly recommend the Yalumba Signature and Octavius wines. Bought at the cellar door they're ~$50/bottle tastes amazing. Much better value than the Grange Hermitage people love to harp on about from Penfolds. That starts at $600/bottle and goes up from there. I've tasted both of those wines within a day of each other and the Yalumba smashed the Grange out of the park.

Re:price != quality with wine. (1)

tjb (226873) | about 10 months ago | (#43958501)

I haven't had the Grange Hermitage, but I have had a couple of bottles of the 1996 Penfolds 707, and even in 2010 it still tasted really young. I suspect the Grange may just need to be cellared for a *really* long time.

Re:price != quality with wine. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958529)

I think studies dispute your claim that their is a noticeable difference between $10 and $60 wines. People think a $60 wine tastes better. But when they do a blind test, it is a toss up.

Anecdote not data (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958191)

I know there is a huge subjective element to wine, but one (yes, anecdotal) event comes to mind. I was at a dinner party, the host was serving very good wine after a couple of bottles she slipped in a Grange Hermitage of a particularly good vintage, after tasting it I immediately declared its awesomeness and my intention to buy a case of it, only then did she tell us what it was, and a case would cost more than my car. It would seem to me that while there is a subjective element, there is also an objective one.

Do people buy wine for its taste? (1)

miroku000 (2791465) | about 10 months ago | (#43958323)

I am asking because beer companies discovered that their most avid customers couldn't taste the difference between their products and their competitors products.

Re:Do people buy wine for its taste? (1)

mjwx (966435) | about 10 months ago | (#43958669)

I am asking because beer companies discovered that their most avid customers couldn't taste the difference between their products and their competitors products.

Crap beer tastes similar to other crap beer?

I'm shocked at that revelation. Truly shocked.

Here's another grand revelation for you... People who buy mainstream beer buy it because it's cheap, not because it tastes good.

I'm willing to bet the beers in that test were 1. US mainstream beers. 2. Lagers. First off, the rest of the beer drinking world refers to #1 as "sex in a canoe" because it tastes "fucking close to water"* and as for #2 Lagers are designed to have no taste. Now comparing a semi-decent pilsner to a semi-decent pale ale, you'd have to be a pack a day smoker not to notice a difference although you'd need some rudimentary beer drinking experience to tell which one is which.

* To be 100% fair, "mainstream" beers in most countries are crap. They're designed not to have a taste so they dont offend anyone.

Develop your own sense (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43958607)

Develop your own sense for a good wine. Drink whatever you find, don't judge, don't look at the price. Also, serve wine in a group of people - the ones that are drunk rapidly are the good ones, the French say :)
Then you've built a palate and can try to find the wine for you. Always try local (~200km) suppliers, buy directly from the wineyard, because the quality is much better (no transports in heat, etc).
A perfect bottle for me is about 4EUR from a vineyard, so excellent wine needn't be expensive.

Also disregard ALL wine facists. They don't even have a clue.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...