Finally the new database is live, after a few trials and tribulations; things have been growing so fast that I had to beef up our infrastructure to manage the growth. The good news is that “under the hood” things are now not only ready for much more growth, they’re also much faster. The new database weighs in at about 36,000 sites and about 11 million pages. Which makes me wonder: what do you do when you’ve come up with some goofy tag line like “Search 10 million pages of trustworthy wine information,” and suddenly you’ve got 11 million pages? Oh well!
There are lots of new things in the database. Read on if you’d like a (marathon) overview. All of the links are to example queries, so please try things out along the way.
New & Changed Content
As noted, there are about 2,000 new sites in the database. Many of these are producers with relatively new websites, like Castello della Paneretta, Brigaldara, Lucien Crochet, Villagolf Vineyards, Château Grand Puy Ducasse, La Casaccia or Weingut Odinstal (a monopoly in the vineyard of the same name). These are often hard to find in Yahoo! or Google, especially when they’re new. We hope to help you find them more easily.
There are some great new resources for your inner data geek, such as Mike Veseth’s blog The Wine Economist and Marco Baccaglio and Aldo Maria Gay’s I Numeri del Vino, as well as deeper content from primary sources like the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), Statistics Canada, Italy’s ISMEA, and France’s AGRESTE. You can see some of the new data with queries like Washington Cabernet acreage, Vino export statistics, or Burgundy statistics and you may sometimes want to filter by official bodies to focus on official sources. This is very much a work in progress (what isn’t, around here?), and making statistics queries work well is very difficult, but I welcome your suggestions for additional top-quality sources as well as any queries where you were unable to find what you were looking for — we take them all as challenges!
We’ve been getting a lot of Norwegian users thanks to a kind print article in Vinforum. And due in large part to thoughtful lists of suggestions from Sebastian Bredal and Helge Skansen, there are a number of new resources for Norwegian users, including Vinforum, Dagens Nyheter, VG Nett, Dagbladet, Vinfakta, Winesworld, TA.no and others. Still more to do here, but hopefully this is a big improvement. Please keep the suggestions coming!
As you might imagine, the recent trip to Vinitaly involved much discussion of hot topics Velenitaly and Brunellopoli (or even just look at press about Brunello). It also brought forth many suggestions for sites. There are hundreds of new inclusions, from blogs like Ernesto Gentili and Fabio Rizzari’s l’Espresso Vino and Massimo Bernardi’s Kelablu to events like Alessandria Top Wine, organizations like Wine for Life, and a few fantastic resources on obscure topics, like the Infernot site from the Ecomuseo della Pietra da Cantone (I am now officially dreaming of someday having a house with an Infernot! Just a few thousand donations away ;-). There are lots of new official resources, from the Provincia di Trento’s Terra Trentina to viticultural information from the Provincia di Verona and the recently-launched site of the Distretto dei Vini Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato , a work in progress (we know all about that!) that already has some good information, with production regulations, links to the various regional organizations, and statistics. And there are lots of new academic resources; the query Università Enologia returns over three times as many documents as it did previously. Finally, the most ballyhooed new Italian site is Gambero Rosso‘s new wine site. Unfortunately, it’s subscription content, but during a trial period you can explore around for free (sort of; the search facility is already restricted). There’s not a whole lot of editorial content, but there’s a full archive of “Vini d’Italia” ratings, should you find that useful. We’ll work on getting that into the database as soon as we can.
Some key French web resources recently changed their sites, and we’ve done our best to keep up. The eminently useful site of the Conseil des Vins du Médoc got a facelift recently, and though the new site is pretty, it’s much harder for a search engine to use, and some good content seems to have disappeared. Still, there is great content about the Médoc appellations, from St.-Estephe to Moulis to Haut-Médoc, and the site has good information (from Cocks et Féret) about every château, from Château Margaux to Château la Tour de Mons or Château Lilian Ladouys. Meanwhile, their colleagues over at the BIVB in Burgundy, not to be outdone, launched a new site as well. There’s great content about appellations from Macon-Villages to Montrachet, statistics, and a full list of producers. Most of this content was there before, but the new site is, well, just a little more spiffy.
Last but not least, we’ve also added or expanded content from many, many English-language resources, from the (London) Times to the Australian Broadcast Corporation to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and FAOLEX (the FAO’s extensive database of agricultural regulations).
As always, if you find resources that we’re missing in our database, or sites we’re not doing a good job of crawling, please let us know. We do our best, but you, the users, are our best “eyes and ears” for great new content.
Features & Improvements
There are lots of small improvements in this database. Here are a few, chosen at random:
- Improved the way initials and acronyms are handled, so now you get improved results for queries like GD Vajra or JJ Prüm (in the latter case it knows a few useful synonyms for “JJ” as well).
- Added many useful enology and wine business concepts, so you get better results for things from cleanskins to certain Dijon clones to AXR1 rootstock, unwooded wines, and even selezione dei lieviti enologici.
- Improved the way we match accents, so you get more good results for things like Blaufränkisch, Csabagyöngye or Assmannshäuser Höllenberg.
- Added hundreds more producers to the concept database, from Château Magdelaine to Chevillon (Robert, Bernard, Michel, and Alain… didn’t realize there were so many!), including spelling correction for frequently-misspelled producers like Castello Vicchiomaggio, or producers with many spelling variants, like l’École No. 41.
- I’m not a big fan of point systems myself, but we occasionally see people looking for wines by scores, and, well, “the customer is always right.” As an experiment, we built a little shorthand expression (“90-plus”) that matches point values 90 and above. Try 90-plus vega sicilia or 90-plus bartolo mascarello. It’s still got room for improvement, but hopefully it’s useful. If you’re a point-hound, try it out and let us know what you think.
That’s probably way too much information, and it’s just scratching the surface of what’s new. We encourage you to explore around for yourself, and please do let us know if you have any suggestions or questions. And as always, if you like what you see, please let other people know about us.