Archive for November, 2010

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.


Able Grape, a wine information search engine