Wine and Sesame Street

Look carefully at the bling in the zoom of this cover photo. Just one question: is that a tastevin that Bert is wearing? Sort of remakes my idea of Sesame Street.

(Photo from the cover of “Sesame Street Fever,” 1978).


Search Engine Optimization for Wine Writers and Wineries

In building Able Grape I’ve looked at some 20,000 of the more than 50,000 sites we index. From the point of view of “search friendliness” I’ve seen all kinds of designs, good and bad, and every flavor of mistake imaginable. I really, really want people to be able to find great wine information on the Internet, so I love to get out and talk to the people creating great wine information, i.e. wineries, wine writers and bloggers, to help them understand how to make sure it can be found.

Last week I was honored to give just such a talk at the 2011 Wine Writers Symposium in Napa, backed by two outstanding and experienced bloggers, Joe Roberts of 1 Wine Dude and Alder Yarrow of Vinography. Thanks to all of you who attended, especially given that the talk was simultaneous with a horizontal tasting of 2001 Napa Cabernets! As promised, here are the slides. Hopefully these will make sense by themselves, but if you’ve got questions or thoughts, please fire away!

Able Grape West Coast Conference Tour

Snowy Union Park in Boston, January 2012 Boston has been beautiful this winter, my first “real” winter in 25 years. No doubt this was in part because I didn’t bring my car, and thus missed out on the dubious daily pleasure of digging one’s car out of a snowdrift, or fighting for the parking spot one has just cleared. But mostly it’s about memories: this winter has taken me right back to my childhood in the Midwest and my teenage years here on the East Coast: the wonder of waking up to see the world covered in white; remembering the way the deepening snow reflects light, but deadens sound, leading to days as eerily quiet as they are stunningly sunny; the warmth and crackle of a roaring fire while the snow silently falls outside the window (this last perhaps differentiated from my childhood by the presence of a fine glass of whisky or Armagnac). The winter would have been perfect had it not been for one mishap: slipping on a patch of ice on an otherwise beautiful long run, bruising or cracking my Continue reading ‘Able Grape West Coast Conference Tour’

A little Tuesday fun

Almost every day as I work on Able Grape I look at hundreds or thousands of queries to try to understand how people are using the search engine and how I can make it better. Today, on a lark, I took about ten thousand recent queries and put them through Jonathan Feinberg’s excellent Wordle tool to generate a word cloud from the most common search terms. Click on the image at left, or on this link, to see the full size word cloud, where the less common terms are easy to see (of course, remember that given the diverse, long, long tail of search behavior, most search terms don’t even show up).

This isn’t exactly scientific, but it does highlight a couple of things I’d like to make better: first, Able Grape’s searches are still very biased towards English… please help me get the word out in other languages! Second, lots of people still type things like “wine” or “winery” even though you don’t usually have to on Able Grape, because everything’s about wine. Anyway, a bit of Tuesday fun. Thoughts? Impressions?

Able Grape Update is now Live!

I’m very excited to announce that after months of work, Able Grape‘s first major update in a year went live last week at the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Vienna (whence comes the picture of the beautiful Wachau, at left). Though the site looks the same (for the moment!), behind the scenes there are many, many improvements in relevance, not the least of which is the size of Able Grape’s database, which now counts 26 million pages of wine information from nearly 47,000 different sites. Here are some examples of nifty features. I encourage you to try them all to see the kinds of things you can do, and to learn some hidden search tricks. The links will all open in a different window so you can keep reading through the examples.

  • Tributes to, and information about, the great Marcel Lapierre, who just passed away.
  • Information about the grape variety Blauer Wildbacher, used to make Schilcher
  • Find maps of the Côte de Beaune. Able Grape now includes all the maps from Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson’s excellent World Atlas of Wine – something you won’t find in Google. You will need a subscription to Jancis’s site to view the content.
  • Find what grape varieties went into the Zahel Sekt we had at the European Wine Bloggers Conference. Note that the grape varieties in this field blend (Gemischter Satz) show right in the search summaries, so you don’t even have to click to get the answer. Note the magic search term “anyvariety,” a wildcard which will match any grape variety. If you just type “Zahel Gemischte Satz vareties,” Able Grape will suggest this as an alternative.
  • Get information about Cornas, one of the world’s outstanding appellations for Syrah. You won’t find the excellent reference from the Oxford Companion to Wine and the official appellation regulations from the INAO on Google!.
  • Find all the producers of Semillon in Austria. I was inspired to try this by Philipp Blom‘s excellent book, The Wines of Austria. Blom mentions a Sémillon and says that it is the only one he knows of in Austria. Here are several more (though a couple are just producers that mention Sémillon on their site). To get these results, I typed Sémillon, then filtered by region (Austria) and by topic (Producer).
  • Find Virginia grape statistics. Able Grape has greatly expanded coverage of US industry statistics. Among other things, it will take you straight to the USDA’s “Quickstats” tool (see results 5 and 6) to generate ad-hoc statistics for any state or county in the US (no, you won’t find these results in Google, either).
  • Get information about the DO Pago Finca Élez.
  • Get trade press about millennials. To get these results, I just typed “millennials” and filtered by the topic “Trade Press.”
  • See tasting notes for 2003 Château Montrose. Again, just type “2003 Montrose” and then click on “Tasting Notes” in the Topic Filter section.

Suggestions? Comments? Observations? All are welcome. As always, Able Grape is a work in progress – in the process of updating things I’ve made a long list of things I want to make better. Lots more coming soon.


Can you hear the banging and clanking?

You may have noticed that Able Grape has gone a few months without any significant changes. That’s because I was off working with the fine folks at Twitter building some new search technology. During that time, of course, the wine world has changed quite a bit, meaning that sometimes Able Grape has had missing or out-of-date results.

Recently, you may have heard some banging and clanking in the boiler room – that’s because I’m back, and working on a huge update, which is coming soon. Stay tuned!

If you want to keep up with our changes (and my travels, tastings, and silly foreign-language puns), please follow me on Twitter. Cheers!

Optimizing your Blog or Winery Website: WBC 2009 Presentation

Thanks to the many of you who attended my talk on search engine optimization at the 2009 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, in Sonoma. As promised, here are the slides from that talk.

For those of you who weren’t there, I presented my view of search engine optimization (SEO), which I prefer to call “Search-Friendliness.” I talk about how users find information on the internet, what the “long tail” means, and why you must understand it in order to connect with your potential audience, backing up my points with statistics from Able Grape users. I give a crash course on how search engines work, and what implications this has for how you design and build your site. Finally, I talk a bit about analytics.

I haven’t added audio yet, and there were a lot of points that I made or amplified verbally, so hopefully the slides make sense by themselves, but I wanted to post them earlier rather than later.

Happy Canada Day

maple_syrupHappy Canada Day! A big thanks to Able Grape’s significant community of Canadian users, who have been dedicated supporters of our project. We really appreciate it.

For fun, a few links to Canadian wine resources, and related viticultural topics, on Able Grape. They’ll open in a separate window – please try them! As always, we welcome feedback. Is there something missing? Can we make these results better? Have suggestions for other examples we could include? Drop us a note.

(And yes, that is maple syrup in the wine bottle pictured at left. Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself.)
Continue reading ‘Happy Canada Day’

Able Grape Is Not Google

duvernayPardon the silly title, but with all the buzz on Bing (“Bing Is Not Google”) I just couldn’t help myself. And please, no silly questions about whether or not I’m going to change Able Grape‘s name to “Aging…”

It’s been unbelievably busy here at Able Grape central, and I’ve been quite remiss on my blogging. Hoping to get back to a more regular pace soon! In the mean time, here’s a quick update on recent changes.

This morning, I put live Able Grape’s largest — and, hopefully, best — database ever, clocking in at nearly 20 million pages of wine information from just shy of 41,000 websites. Lots and lots of new sites, and lots of improvements across the board.

Here’s a smattering of examples. Try them — they’ll open in a separate window — and compare to Google (or to Bing, for that matter) – I hope you’ll be pleased. Continue reading ‘Able Grape Is Not Google’

Come see us at Wine 2.0 this Thursday

Able Grape is excited to be demoing our search engine for trustworthy, in-depth wine information this Thursday at Wine 2.0 in San Francisco, hosted by the fine folks at Crushpad.

Want to learn more about Able Grape? Want to learn secret tips and tricks for finding great, in-depth online wine information? Have feedback or suggestions about how we can make this an even better tool for your needs? Or even if you’d just like to hang out with a bunch of wine geeks and taste lots of wine, please stop by and say hi!

Mention the secret code nebbiolo at our demo table, and we may have a special surprise for you, if it hasn’t already run out…

Able Grape, a wine information search engine