New database and improvements live

Just put the new database live on Able Grape. It’s got close to 1000 new sites, and is some 10% larger than its predecessor. It’s also much fresher. Along the way, I managed to sneak in a few improvements.

For a closer look at what’s changed, plus some fun examples, read on!

Relevance should in general be improved. There’s lots more I plan to do here, but based on some initial feedback, I made some adjustments.

I’ve extended Able Grape’s concept database a fair bit. The concept database helps Able Grape learn which things are related to which, which things are specific cases of which, which things have nothing to do with each other, and which things are synonymous. There were hundreds of additions and extensions in this version of the database. Here’s a smattering of examples:

  • It’s got a deeper understanding of the various ways people refer to mousy taint or cork taint.
  • It now knows that there are a bunch of different kinds of phomopsis. The interesting one, Phomopsis viticola, is the fungus that causes excoriose. Others aren’t very relevant to viticulture, like phomopsis of junipers, phomopsis juniperovora, or phomopsis soft rot of strawberries, phomopsis obscurans. It’s not perfect, but it does a much better job of weeding out (no pun intended) these extraneous critters.
  • It’s learned that a Stelvin is a specific kind of screwcap, that synthetic corks are made of plastic, and that all of these are examples of closures, which can be useful in looking for things like trade press about closures.
  • It’s learned that non-vintage champagne and vintage champagne are two different things. (This might seem quite obvious to us flesh-and-blood types, but to a piece of silicon looking to match the words in your query to the words in a document, the phrase “non-vintage” has the word “vintage” in it, so it’s fair game for the query “vintage.” The first result for the query “vintage champagne” on Google highlights this).
  • It knows that Ch. Latour and Louis Latour are two different producers. If you type Latour you’ll get results for both. It should do a pretty good job of sorting out the gros Gros Family as well: Anne Gros, Gros F&S, Michel Gros, and AF Gros. And similarly, if you type de Pez (or Ch de Pez, or Château de Pez), you won’t get results for Les Ormes de Pez or Tour de Pez. And then you’ve got your Conternos, Scavinos, Mascarellos, etc. etc.

I should mention that the concept database, like everything else, is a work in progress. If you see poor results, drop me an email; there’s probably something I can do to make things better.

On a related note, I’ve tried to make looking for vintage information more interesting. Here are some examples:

I see a lot of queries coming in looking for things like maps and statistics, and I can see people struggling to find good results. The data’s in there, but it can be hard to get to. These are really hard to do well in any search engine, because you’re not really looking for the words maps or statistics, or acreage, you’re trying to tell the search engine what you’re looking for. But the silly search engine doesn’t know any better, it just goes off blithely looking for documents with those words. The problem is compounded by the myriad ways in which documents refer to statistics in any given language, and even further by the fact that the documents may well be in another language. I’ve got some ideas on how to make this better, and I’ve taken a small first step in this database, really just an experiment, and I’d like to hear what people think. Here are some examples:

  • Beaune maps.
  • Bordeaux map.
  • Chardonnay statistics (filtered by official sites, which is often useful for this kind of thing). Should you wish to narrow this to a particular region, remember that you have two ways to accomplish that: either include the name of the region in your query, or use region filters. They’ll give different results, so both approaches may be worth a try.

There’s a lot more to do here, but it’s a start. Please let me know what you think!

Finally, queries for German users should be considerably improved. The new database accepts the ue/oe/ae spelling for ü/ö/ä (and also, for us anglophones not used to that, it continues to support the unaccented form u/o/a), so that people searching for JJ Prüm can spell that Prüm, Pruem, or Prum. The results will differ slightly because Prüm is accent-sensitive, but things should work much better than before. Comments and suggestions on improved accent-handling are most welcome.

As always, let me know if you have questions, suggestions, or ideas-


4 Responses to “New database and improvements live”

  1. 1 bkwine March 4, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Hi, This is a really interesting project, both from a wine perspective and what (and how) you are trying to build in terms of a web application. I will look more in detail at it soon.

    I have a question and a comment:

    1. Is there any way to find a listing of wine publications on line? I mean old-fashioned ink-on-wood publications that also have an on-line presence.

    2. I am very frustrated by that you have disabled some browser functions in your results listing. Specifically (using Firefox): I cannot control-click to open in a new tab or shift-click to open in a new window. (If I ctrl/shift-click on a serach result item heading nothing happens. If I ctrl/shift-click on a serach result item ‘last line’ (the URL) it’s like “plain vanilla” click and I move away from Able Grape. To me, that’s basic functionality and having it disabled destroys my way of looking at and managing windows… Why??! It still works by using the context menu but not with ctrl/shift click… ?? (Frankly, I find it kind-of intrusive, like when a new window opens and it is forced to fill the whole screen, disregarding if I want that or not)


  2. 2 ablegrape March 4, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Hi Per.

    To your first question, yes, for the sites that I know have in-print versions of their publications, I have this information in the database (imperfectly, since it was something I entered editorially when I reviewed the sites, and with thousands of sites editorially reviewed, there are bound to be mistakes and omissions). The only problem is that I haven’t yet exposed this information. I actually have over 100 different editorial categories, only a handful of which are exposed as topics in the topic filters. I’m not sure yet how I will expose these. I had planned to allow users to customize their own topic filters, but it might also make sense to have these expressible in the query. I’m open to suggestions…

    To your second point. I’m also an “open pages in another window” type, and I plan to have this as a user-settable preference as soon as possible. In the mean time, you can add a “&targetWin=other” to the end of your URL and it will always launch the page in the same second window (that way it doesn’t accumulate windows that you keep having to delete), or use “&targetWin=_blank” if you really want to open a new window each time. It will keep these preferences for follow-on searches, so you can just bookmark AbleGrape with this in the URL if you want that preference. As far as overriding the browser behavior, that’s not good, I apologize. It’s a side-effect of the Javascript I use to work cross-browser. Perhaps there’s a tweak I can make to get the behavior you want. I’ll put that in the hopper for upcoming fixes and see what’s possible. In the mean time, please let me know if the above workaround gets you closer to what you want.


  3. 3 bkwine March 5, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Quote: “In the mean time, you can add a “&targetWin=other” to the end of your URL and it will always launch the page in the same second window (that way it doesn’t accumulate windows that you keep having to delete), or use “&targetWin=_blank” if you really want to open a new window each time.”

    I don’t follow you here. I am not writing the html for the page… That’s code options you have when creating the page (target=_blank etc), not anything a visitor to the site can set. So, I thought, perhaps you mean some settings in a user profile, but I cannot find any such thing on AbleGrape. Or am I missing something here?

    No doubt there is some strange stuff in the java script that you use that disables shift-click and ctrl-click on the links. Very unfortunate.

    But in terms of work-around fortunately the right-click context menu options still work, so I can use that (instead of your suggestion that I don’t understand).

    But it is very odd though if you have not intended it to be this way. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen on a site, except on some peculiar sites that have very intentionally (and annoyingly) disabled all “special” clicks, be it ctrl-, shift- or right-. Odd indeed.

    On publications/sites:

    One idea could be to do a wiki-based page with the source sites you use (or some sort of sub selection of them, e.g. those who are an online version of a print media). Then people could help adding info on it to create something that could be a mix of a directory/catalogue and a wine media wikipedia…

    Another idea (more in line with developing new search options) could be to give the user the possibility to choose what kind of sites, or even what specific sites, should be included in the search, through some advanced search options. Might be difficult to find a good structure for that though.

  1. 1 Yet another new database live « Able Grapes and Garbled Peas Trackback on March 5, 2008 at 6:55 pm

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Able Grape, a wine information search engine




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