Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More More More

Thanks to Decanter, I recently came across Vinopic, an online UK wine retailer and its Intrinsic Quotient for rating red wines.

What’s the Intrinsic Quotient? Developed by Roger Corder, it rewards wines with “healthy” grape tannins - as opposed to wines made from over-ripe grapes or an over-reliance on oak - and penalises wines with high levels of alcohol, sulphites, and sugars.

Tannins come from polyphenols, especially procyanidins (anti-oxidants that many credit with protecting against various illnesses, especially heart disease), so they’re a good thing. Vinopic also argues that, “polyphenol-rich wines generally taste better, complement food, and have much greater potential to evolve.”

What are some of the wines that have high Intrinsic Quotients? Think of (mostly) Old World wines with tannins and you’ll have it figured out:
  • Sagrantino di Montefalco
  • Chianti
  • Aglianico
  • Madiran
  • Cahors
  • Tempranillo
I’d bet that wines made from Mourvèdre and Pinotage could make the list as well.
Of course, scoring wines on “good” things like polyphenols, or “bad” things such as alcohol, sulphites, and sugar requires a sophisticated and reliable laboratory.
That immediately makes me think of the LCBO and its Quality Assurance department. Every single product that the LCBO sells is tested; the QA department conducts more than 400,000 laboratory tests and tastes more than 5,000 products each year. Learn more through this short video.
The LCBO collects this information on the “good” and the “bad” about the wines they sell. So why not share it with the consumer?
Yes, they do share some of it now through the online Product Search. Each wine has a “sugar content” rating. They disclose the alcohol content. I’ve even seen sulphite levels disclosed when they’re particularly low. Why not share all the information about all the wines? Other things like Total Acidity, Volatile Acidity, pH, Residual Sugar, Tartrates, Proteins, and Minerals. How about evidence of colouring agents like Mega Purple? Acidification? Chaptalisation? Or pesticide residues and other contaminants?
Maybe, in a few years, all of us aging baby boomers will buy wine based on their polyphenols. But we’d all like to know what we’re buying.
Wine is one of the few foods that producers don’t have to disclose what they’ve done to produce it. Whether you want polyphenols or not, it should be your choice.  And if a wine has a lot of additives, we should know that too.
It’s another opportunity for the LCBO to show innovative leadership. Give consumers (who the LCBO exists to serve, I hope) the information and let them make the choice.
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