Jeff Bezos had some crazy talk for Charlie Rose at the end of a 60 Minutes segment: Amazon is working to deliver some items in 30 minutes or less via unmanned, aerial drones.
It’s not April Fool’s Day; Amazon tweeted a link to a picture of the “octocopter” delivery vehicle and published this futuristic video on YouTube. Bezos did concede to Charlie Rose that the plan, possibly 4-5 years off, “requires more safety testing and FAA approvals.”
If Amazon drones were approved, this delivery method would have enormous implications. But since we’re a wine blog, we’ll focus on the wine angle here: getting wine in 30 minutes would give a lift to your Friday night. And since the Octocopter delivers to GPS coordinates, it could conceivably track your phone and deliver your whole picnic right to where you are. Hopefully, there will also be a robotic sommelier to pop and pour.
Or is it so futuristic, unworkably weather- and regulation-dependent, that the main triumph is just to give a lot of buzz (without rotors) during the busiest shopping time of the year?
A glass of pinot noir from one place often tastes different from a glass of pinot noir from another distant site. While it’s hard to control all the variables such as grape ripeness and winemaking, the resulting differences are often ascribed to the terroir, or growing microclimate. It’s such a powerful yet nebulous concept that the French institutional structure for most winemaking (the AOC system) is based on protecting terroir.
However, a study that appeared today by some American researchers suggests something less prosaic: microbes. The fungi and bacteria that appear on grapes and subsequently in pre-fermented juice (called “must”) affect the rate of the fermentation. They appear to have stable characteristics within regions but vary across regions according to data amassed from 273 samples for the study. The researchers, David Mills and Nicholas Bokulich of UC Davis as well as John Thorngate of Constellation Brands and Paul Richardson of MicroTrek, Inc., used new methods of studying genomic sequencing to arrive at their findings, published in The Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.
“The reason I love this study is that it starts to walk down a path to something we could actually measure, David Mills was quoted as saying in the New York Times’ account of the study.
The findings are both interesting and possibly powerful. All things being equal, wines from different places do tend to taste different; if wine microbes can explain the science behind terroir, so much the better. Where this powerful insight could veer into a vinous horror film is if microbes can be harnessed or replicated to make wines from less expensive regions approximate wines from more expensive regions.
But, then again, maybe it wouldn’t be that disruptive since people who pay up are often drinking the label, as it were, rather than what’s inside the bottle.
We just finished up another session of my wine class at NYU this week. As part of an assignment, one student decided to present an “impossible” food to pair with wine to a wine shop. She made some homemade peanut brittle, went to Chambers Street Wines, presented the challenge to the staff there who–lo and behold–had never been hit with this precise challenge before. But they rose to it! A few ideas came up but the student had budgetary and practical considerations (had to be cold right then and there if it needed to be). So the suggestion was…a Felsina Vin Santo with 14 years of age on it! Although it wouldn’t occur to me to even pair peanut brittle with wine, the nuttiness of the mature wine and it’s richness worked well. And the brittle was darned good.
So, if some peanut brittle is in your near future, how would you pair it with wine if you had to? Or is it…impossible??
Why do Champagne prices often decrease during the holidays? Economic logic might hold that as demand increases–a huge amount of bubbly is put away during the last few weeks of the year–that prices should also increase.
A recent article in the Times mounts a parallel quest in understanding why turkey prices fall as Thanksgiving approaches and rose prices rise into Valentine’s Day.
As with frozen turkeys supermarkets, well-known champagne brands can be used as a loss-leader. Come for the Veuve Clicquot and leave with a few bottles of malbec and other full-priced items for your party. And as with frozen turkeys, there’s a vast supply of champagne brands ready to fill sales channels for this busy time of the year. Also, as with the article’s example of low-priced tuna contributing to price compression of canned tuna during Lent, the presence of perfectly serviceable other sorts of lower-priced bubbles may act to compress the prices of champagne brands. Finally, a supermarket probably doesn’t want to devote space to frozen turkey after Thanksgiving so they might be inclined to cut prices to clear out inventory. Similarly, a large wine shop might want to reduce their stock of bubbly post-New Year’s Eve.
The article points out the different market dynamic with the price of roses at Valentine’s Day: with more demand, rose prices surge. There’s a limited supply of fresh roses and flower shops can’t benefit from a loss leader as the Valentine shopper wants only roses. In the wine world, a small shop may not stock big-label champagne, so may not have loss-leaders to flog in newspaper ads. Also, if the shop focuses on grower champagne, the supply, while not as limited as fresh roses at Valentine’s Day, is more limited than the grandes marques, which could lead to price stability at a time of discounting.
When it comes to champagne shopping this holiday season, think about are you getting a frozen turkey or a rose and shop accordingly.
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