Author: WineQuant

On Brexit and the international fine wine trade

Alan Livsey, an Oxonian on the FT’s Lex team has aptly started his wine-commentary piece on the FT as follows: “Fine wine does not take well to shaking – sloshing the sediments around the bottle only muddles the product inside”. There has been plenty of sloshing going around, as Livsey has noted in the same piece. There are tales of booms and busts, sticky prices and the likes. This is especially true when it comes to Bordeaux en primeur – a system that is very near the point of breaking, only to be saved from its brink of doom by a very good vintage. Even so, there are plenty of criticisms on early bottling, unfinished products and so on, which makes you wonder when will the barrage ever stop. But with cheap and abundant shell suppliers, I doubt the barrage will ever end. I am not here to discuss the limitations of the Bordeaux fine-wine market and its en primeur system. I am here to talk about Brexit and its implications on the UK fine-wine scene and the dynamics …

Brexit in a glass

One week on… let’s look at some wine vocabulary that also appears in the Brexit news. Can wine inform our understanding of Brexit related attitudes? (If you’re new to these posts, I’d recommend looking here first to understand what these wine-note visualizations are about.) An Isomap reduction of Brexit related wine-tasting vocab shows power orbited by seductiveness, with ominous words like pit, cut, hole and loose nearby. The picture suggests that power can move into expensive or complex but not both. As you move upwards from power, you get sickly, disjointed, sour. On the right it may get exciting and energetic. The further you leave the complexity behind, the more overwhelming it gets, by Gove! Through the PCA lens (our preferred view in previous posts on tasting note visualization), power lies closer to austerity. In both pictures, there’s some bitterness over access. Whatever the reasons May be, there also seems to be a seductive connection between  intrusive  and  borderline. The consolations of coffee and alcohol are linked to rising unpleasantness. So there you have it: wine-tasting visualizations can double as guides through essential Brexit concepts and the links between them. A glass of wine may improve political acuity. We form natural …

The upward creep: will price points replace Parker points?

Re-posted from the Liv-ex blog! See also this excellent overview of en-Primeur price increases this year so far.  Followers of this year’s En Primeur campaign will have noticed that release prices are creeping up again. What’s behind the upward creep? In a previous post we saw that release prices have been stuck at elevated levels since 2011: after the heady bull-market for the 2009 and 2010 vintages, prices did not revert to pre-boom levels but got stuck somewhere in between. You could say that the En Primeur system lost its innocence during the bubble years. Producers still remember a ballooning spread between En Primeur and London prices when the secondary market became red-hot. The fear of regret is a powerful motivator. No producer wants to run the risk of leaving money on the table again, especially when a vintage feels right. The Wine Society has described the vintage in 2015 as “unquestionably the finest for the past five years.” Producers are aiming higher in case the vintage booms. Apart from release price stickiness, there’s another reason …

Fruity

And the orange squeezed into the water seemed to yield to me, as I drank, the secret life of its ripening growth, its beneficent action upon certain states of that human body which belongs to so different a kingdom, its powerlessness to make that body live, but on the other hand the process of irrigation by which it was able to benefit it, a hundred mysteries concealed by the fruit from my senses, but not from my intellect. Marcel Proust, Sodome et Gomorrhe, trans. Moncrieff.   Before there is wine, there is fruit* and juice. Before we learn to appreciate wine and cider, we instinctively enjoy the taste of grapes and apple juice, just like we enjoy beer before we move on to whiskey.   In this picture of clustered fruit descriptors, we see three interesting clusters. On the bottom left we have the citrus fruit moving up into riper fruit. Some of the less frequent descriptors stand out on the side, like mirabelle, lichee and banana and fig. Then we have a berry cluster which moves up …

Tasting Algos, Spring III: Funky

Going through some of Philip White’s older posts, I came across: “What the funk do they mean?“. What’s a funky wine? Here are some of the associations he comes up with: Tobacco Stinky Naughty Passionate Soulful Pleasing Attractive Swindler Cheater Thief Whereas the text analysis says Cheesy Brett Sweat Stewed Tired Soap Curious Oxidised Muddy Not sure if this answers White’s question or which of the lists is preferable. At any rate, with imagination, they’re not all that far apart.    MK@WineQuant    

Tasting Algos, Spring II: Angular

When would you say that a wine is angular? Descriptors used in similar contexts are: attenuated astringent austere disjointed charmless lean compact compressed hollow monolithic For well-reviewed wines, angular often refers to a finely-balanced nervous tension. A JR review of 1996 Louis Roederer Cristal Brut (61% Pinot Noir, 39% Chardonnay) says  “tangy and very vibrant and nervy… very tight… tightly laced like a corset – very nerveux… firm… fine and tight and angular.” Context is everything. Quality wine has angles and edges: a complicated backbone of acidity to keep it standing as the years go by. Great wine fills in and around its polygon structure. Vertices soften and sharp edges fold into each other. Character develops slowly in a delicate balance of hardness and softness, supple flesh on sinewed angles. In a post on Australia’s Fear of Natural Acids, Philip White writes about natural versus added tartaric acids. The natural acids lock “flavours together, and train them to sing in harmony” while corrective tartaric acid “always looks awkward and angular, never really harmonising.” If you think a wine will improve with age, …

Chocolate and Fennel?

This is Models vs. Reality, Part 2. I looked at what our tool has to say about chocolate as a wine descriptor and I was a bit surprised by the result. Top 10 chocolate related descriptors in critic wine notes cocoa coffee pepper tar mocha licorice truffle fennel vanilla espresso I would never have made an association between chocolate and fennel. It turns out that only a few writers make this connection. You can verify this yourself. For example on jancisrobinson.com you find that there are only six tasting notes including fennel and chocolate. Out of these, five are written by Tamlyn Currin and one is by Richard Hemming. None of these notes are in our dataset, so it’s a good test to look at them in a bit more detail. Chocolate and fennel, really? Richard Hemming’s description of an Alvaro Palacios Priorat (65% Carignan) features “leather and fennel aromas” with “chocolate-covered cherry”. Tamlyn Currin describes a “delicious mouthful of sweet red pepper and dried herbs, liquorice and chocolate” followed by a long finish with “a thrill of fennel and aniseed” in a …