Check out the prototype of Wall-Ye the robot.  It was designed in France to help manage vineyards.  At just over $30K a head, or the price of a car, among other things, I'd be curious to find out the lifespan of this little robot and if it'll run a full 24/7 or if it will just peter out come sunset?  YouTube video HERE.

I'd also be curious to find out if someone has to stay glued to a controller and prompt the vineyard robot, or will Wall-Ye handle decisions independently?  Was Millot checking email on that iPad or manoeuvring the machine?  What's more tedious, really?  Taking soil samples and pruning vines - or watching a slow little robot taking soil samples and pruning vines?  Just how much does one have to pay a teckie to operate a vineyard robot in the event it requires an iPadded sidekick to fully function?  When you consider the price tag on this seemingly slow little fellow, it makes me wonder if it might be more cost-effective to simply pay a little more for speedier traditional labour? 

What if someone hacked into Wall-Ye?  Could they go rogue and destroy a vineyard or do some serious damage elsewhere?  What if something shorted out on this little fellow?  Would he just sit there all day or sound the alarm?

Even better.  What if a ship comes down from outer space and Wall-Ye hooks up with an EVE?  You know, one of those saucy little Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluators.  She might swoop in on some sort of a recognizance mission, and the next thing you know it, Wall-Ye's hitching a ride on the mothership.  What would you make of your little vineyard robot then, huh?  I saw Wall-E, people.  I know he had a mind of his own.

To tech,
Heather

Photo source: YouTube
 
Did you know the word "wine" has been around since before the 12th Century?  Swing by Merriam-Webster and that's what they'll tell you there.  
Middle English win, from Old English wīn; akin to Old High German wīn wine; both ultimately from Latin vinum wine, perhaps of non-IE origin; akin to the source of Greek oinos wine  First Known Use: before 12th century
Know what else was happening around and about that time in history?  Aside from things like the Knights of the Round Table, the burning of witchesgothic art and medieval music?  Seems Christians created the notion of the existence of purgatory.  Let that roll off your tongue.  Purrr-gahhh-torrrr-eeeeeee.  Come on now, people.  Wine?  That's it?  We drink glasses of wine today because some old Latin dude called this stuff "vinum?"

You're telling me that hundreds of years ago, folks would invest all of that time tending to grapes, harvesting crops, and stomping on vats full of slimy rotting fruit - and the end result of all of their trouble was ...wine?  Isn't a word like wine more of a whimper?  A hiccup?  A burp?  
Origin of PURGATORY Middle English, from Anglo-French or Medieval Latin; Anglo-French purgatorie, from Medieval Latin purgatorium, from Late Latin, neuter of purgatorius purging, from Latin purgare
See, I totally get purgatory.  The act of purging.  Squeezing out the bad stuff.  You know if you squeeze anything that's been rotting at the back of your fridge the laws of gravity are bound to kick in.  That overripe rotting whateveritwas is going to drip or ooze or plop in one direction.  Downwards.  So any rotten scoundrels deserve a purgatory.  Go ahead and purge the bloody hell out of them.  I'm game.  But wine still doesn't quite sit right with me.  It doesn't make any sense.  I mean, these guys were surrounded with names like "Babylon" and "Mesopotamia."  They had kids with names like "Bartholomew" and "Beatrix."  

"Wine."  Are you serious?  That's it?

What if we had to come up with a name for wine today?  I mean, these days we've got fancy names for drinks like "Redbull" and "Venti Mocha Frappuccino."  I don't think "wine" would even make the cut.  Even the World Meteorological Organization could come up with a better name for wine than "wine."  These guys have already dreamed up names for this year's crop of Atlantic Tropical Storms.  Names like like "Humberto," "Lorenzo," and "Jerry."  

Host:  What can I get you?
Heather:  I'll have a glass of jerry, please.
Host:  Red or white?
Heather:  Red, I suppose.  A nice full-bodied red jerry.  Everyone on my Facebook page is telling me to stick with a nice red jerry.  That is, of course, if you think he'll fit in my glass.

You know, if we were to go back to the original source, back to where it really all started, I should really be looking into Merriam-Webster's definition for grapes.  Where did the word "grapes" come from in the first place...?
Middle English, from Anglo-French grape grape stalk, bunch of grapes, grape, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German krāpfo hook
Whoa.  In hindsight, I suppose "wine" isn't so bad after all.  Seems if the Germans had their say, we could be toasting with glasses full of krap!

Chang Bhala,
Heather
 
Believe it or not, there's been a recent resurgence in this once popular poor man's drink.  That's right.  Back in the day, many artists and writers couldn't afford to drink wine, so they turned to absinthe in order to, apparently, liberate their minds.  Ernest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec were some of this spirit's biggest - if not poorest - fans.  Their fondness for this drink can also be credited for its surge in popularity.

Historically, there has been a lot of misinformation in circulation about absinthe for quite some time - with thanks, in part, to the temperance movement and European wine associations as far back as the Victorian age.  During the 1800s, when wine producers realized absinthe was taking up a fair chunk of their market, they were only too glad to spread rumours and crazy talk about it.  Some years later, the temperance movement in the States took the misinformation and ran with it.

Many compared absinthe to nasty psychedelic drugs if for no other reason than because it was made from botanicals.  Others described absinthe as being a hallucinogenic, but this myth was merely manifested, if not celebrated, by a growing fan base of artsy types because they could afford to drink a heckuva lot more absinthe vs. wine.  Naturally, because they could afford to drink more, they'd become a whole lot tipsier.  By drinking larger doses of this cheaper booze, they were more prone to alcoholism, thus a change in temperament and their ability to function.  They'd be more prone to delusions and outrageous behaviour as the disease progressed.  

Others became frantic over absinthe's high alcohol content without acknowledging it was meant to be diluted before it was consumed.  Absinthe is typically mixed with a combination of sugar and water.  In Hemingway's case, he'd mix one jigger (1 - 2 ounces or 30 to 30 millilitres) of this spirit with champagne instead.  It wasn't uncommon for Hemingway to toss back 3 - 5 of his so-called "Death in the Afternoon" cocktails per sitting.  Again, was he delusional?  Was he hallucinating?  You try pounding back five glasses of champagne, with or without the other added ingredients, and walking a straight line.  Absinthe eventually became so popular its sales surpassed wine's.
A sign of the times?  Above, Edgar Degas's painting, L'Absinthe (1876), was simply a portrait he'd painted of friends at the Café de la Nouvelle-Athenes in Paris.  The café was frequented by the likes of Degas, Matisse, and Van Gogh.  After showing the painting, Ellen Andrée, an actress friend of Degas's known to pose for a number of artists (including Degas, Manet and Renoir - you can see their Ellen paintings HERE), was labelled a "whore" simply for appearing on a canvas with a glass of the green stuff.  

Can you imagine what damage rumours like any of the above in this day and age could do to a product via the likes of Facebook, YouTube or Twitter?  Today we can easily track back information to its source online and set the record straight.  These guys couldn't do that.  The majority believed most everything they heard or read.  They embraced the absurd.  This was an age when folks were still bloodletting, burning witches and could legally own people.  

Still, the popularity of absinthe sent some wine producers to chemists who tried to alter the appearance of their red wines so they'd look more like their growing green rival.  You know, a la if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.  In 1862, Angelo Mariani mixed a batch of Bordeaux with cocoa leaves to give the wine a green tint and Vin Mariani was born.  So, in an effort to eliminate absinthe, a rumoured psychedelic/hallucinogenic from the market, Mariani's mix extracted cocaine from the cocoa leaves and made it especially potent.  That's right.  They were producing a mix spiked with coke.  (Apparently, a predecessor of today's Coca-Cola.)  Pope Leo XIII awarded the brew a gold medal via the Vatican - and he even endorsed it!  

A more recent rumour in circulation post absinthe ban is this spirit is apparently an aphrodisiac.  The likely source of this information is rumoured to be a Playboy article, circa 1971.  There's really no scientific evidence on record to prove this claim anywhere, but it's been further fostered by absinthe fans online and, allegedly, some of its producers.  Funny thing about absinthe today?  Instead of slagging its rival like the wines of days gone by, all of its new sexy talk is spreading the love.  Another surprise for the record?  This once celebrated cheaper drink is now twice if not ten times more expensive today than your average bottle of wine.  Go figure.

Regardless of what you make of this apparently potent little drink, keep in mind everything you've heard about it in the past likely doesn't ring true.  I'd take it all with a grain of salt.  No - wait.  That's tequila.  Wrong drink. :^)

Saúde,
Heather
 
Who'd a thunk it?  That's my dog Smokey up above, circa '79.  When I was about eleven, I received my first camera for Christmas.  One of those fancy Polaroid One Steps.  The first pics I snapped off were of my pup.  Problem was, the instamatic film was so expensive, by the time I had a dozen or so pics of my dog, that was pretty much it for my stint as a photographer for quite some time.  Still, I somehow managed to take this snap.  Never thought I'd actually use it.  Gotta love the orange shag...

When Smokey was much smaller, often times we'd spot him hovering around the foot of my mother's chair.  Every so often at breakfast, she'd slip him a raisin from her toast or a hot cross bun.  Had she known what I've only just recently found out, her sneaky methods to move herself to the front of the pack would have likely involved anything other than raisins.  Turns out, raisins and grapes are highly toxic for dogs.  So much so, they can cause kidney failure and death.

Word is nobody really knows why ingesting raisins and grapes can be fatal for dogs.  Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea within a few hours of eating.  Additional symptoms include lethargy, weakness, loss of appetite and increased consumption of fluids.  Kidney failure typically develops within 48 hours.

Vets induce vomiting to eliminate toxins from the dog's system.  Additional therapies, including intravenous, may also be prescribed.  More on raisin and grape toxicity in dogs HERE and HERE.

Here's to good health - including your dog's!
Heather
 
Seriously.  How do you choose your wine?  It's not as if you can just stroll into the wine department, pick up a bottle and give it a squeeze like it's a melon.  (Trust me, I've tried it.)  In the past, if I didn't pick up a bottle because I liked the pretty butterfly on the label or thought Fat Bastard seemed appropriate under the circumstances, I'd usually resort to seeking the opinion of others before I'd pick some up.  I've heard everything from "Never buy a screw top" to "Make sure they give you one out of their cooler," but no one's really ever explained to me WHY?  

I mean, seriously.  Wine Folly has tried to make all of our lives a little easier with the Infographic below, but nine times out of ten she just boots me right out of her flowchart.  

Original Source: How to Choose Wine

So, I decided to Ask Men next.  Straight off the top, via the article HERE, they've labeled me a "rank amateur" which, frankly, I find upsetting.  I mean, these guys don't even know me.  Not only have they never tasted my salad dressing, they've never even sampled my biscotti.  It would be no different than having some guy tell you on the first date, "Feh.  You're a rank amateur."  At what?  Come here and say that to my face, Ask Men.  I dare you.

Next stop, WikiHow.  WikiWhat?  WikiHow.  And I'm even more confused.  They suggest choosing wine doesn't necessarily involve chickens, fish or beef anymore.  They suggest "weight" is now a key factor.  Give me a break, WikiHow.  I'm back into all of the healthy eating business and my daily workout post Christmas.

Seriously, how do you choose your wine?  And what if it's bad?  I mean, you get a bad melon, you can take it back to the store.  What if you pick up a bottle of wine and you really, truly don't like it?  ...I'm gonna find out.

Egészségünkre!
(pronounced ay-gash-ay-gun-gre)
Heather
 
Can you imagine what the paper computer means for the wine industry alone?  

Wine producers will be able to document everything from their wine's temperature to their harvest right on their label.  Consumers might even be able to rate their wine, offer up testimonials, and even enter contests.  What about including a link on that label to a reorder form?  A fun jingle?  Romantic music to help set the mood?  

Imagine Diana Krall crooning to wine-drinkers over dinner via the label linked to a video produced at the seller's vineyard?  

I wonder what Francis Ford Coppola Winery's labels are going to look like?  Can you imagine?

It's a whole new world! :^)

Cheers!
Heather
 
According to a variety of reports, wine consumption in China continues to soar.  Word is over 99% of of their market consumes red wine exclusively over white.  According to Ipsos and Robb Report, red wine surpassed traditional Chinese liquor as the most popular alcoholic drink consumed in China in 2011.  In fact, on a list of preferred luxury items, China's top three luxury item of choice for 2011 were cars (55%), watches (39%) and red wine (34%).
What's the big deal about red wine in China and why is white wine so apparently neglected?  In Chinese culture, the colour red symbolizes good fortune and joy.  Red is a symbol of happiness whereas white is traditionally known in China as the colour of mourning. 

So, now you know. :^)

Empty cup!
干杯
Heather

Special Note:  The above video is from The New Yorker.  
 
In the beginning God created Man.  Man was lonely, so God created Woman.  Shortly thereafter, all of the wine-ing began...
According to an item on National Geographic’s site, the earliest known winery was found in an Armenian cave about six years ago on the same site where the oldest known leather shoe was also found.  No word yet if they’ve found any leftover wheels of cheese or breadsticks, or if the shoe was the first documented case of tribal shoefiti ...

It’s believed wine was first made 7000 BC by grapes cultivated in Georgia, the apparent Cradle of Wine.  Today, according to an item posted on YouTube by KartvelianHeritage listed under the Cradle of Wine's trailer HERE (under the About section's Show More), Georgia is known for over 525 varieties of grapes of local origin and over 100 varieties of wild grapes native to the area.  By stark comparison, Canada has what appear to be a whopping TWO native varieties; the Fox Grape and the River Bank Grape (also known as the Frost Grape).  Apparently early settlers to Canada tried to cultivate European vines here without much luck.  They eventually buckled and decided to work with the native grapes thriving here.  Unfortunately, word is the results of their efforts tasted a little "off" - until they turned their offerings into things like ports and sherry-styled wines. (Note to self, apparently I should probably sample some port and sherry, too.  You know, just to be on the safe side.)

I was really surprised to discover that for the size of our country, there really isn’t that much space out there dedicated to grape production as illustrated on this Canadian Wine Region Map (I look forward to finding out why - I might even try planting some grapes here in my backyard to see if they'll fly), but I was even more surprised to discover (did I mention I know absolutely nothing about wine?) some Canadian wine producers mix their grapes with grapes from other countries in the manufacturing process (ie: it’s cheaper to buy pre-fermented grapes grown in countries like China - China's the #1 producer of grapes on the planet with about 13% of the market two years ago). 

In BC, according to an item on Wikipedia, growers there don’t even have to use Canadian grapes in their wines, period.  Uh, so what’s the point of having a vineyard in the first place?  I’m going to look more into this apparent “Cellared in Canada” wine controversy - with legitimate authorities on the subject - a little later.  Keep in mind, my research to-date has been conducted online at sites that are known for things like THIS.  So, unless I'm speaking with someone directly associated with any official laws or decisions, others may have taken their research from sites like this and others, too.  Still, if true, I had no idea a “Cellared in Canada” wine - which may appear in the Canadian wine designated section of a store - could be made from 100% foreign grapes – did you?  ... Does this mean an Australian wine, or a South African wine - or wines from countries elsewhere - might not have grapes in them from their counties either?

Gaumarjos!  
გაუმარჯოს
Heather
 
Take one 5-ounce glass of red wine.

Toss one back every night.  Drink to good health because red wine is supposed to be, among other things, "heart healthy."

But wait - first, let's do the math.

One 5-ounce glass x 125 calories per glass = 3750 calories per month.  Keeping in mind there are 3500 calories in every pound, this adds up to a whopping gain of 12.86 pounds every year!  Eek!

Red wine is supposed to be good for me?  This is truly a heart healthy proclamation?  You’d better believe it!  Apparently I’m going to have to RUN to my local wine store every evening to burn those extra calories off - how much "heart healthier" can you get?

Handy Wine Calorie Calculator HERE.

Priekā!
Heather

 
Legs.  Wine has legs.  And I’m confident if you drink enough of the stuff, she’ll grow wings and a third nipple, too.

I’ve spent this past evening sniffing around the internets Googling wine myths and it seems everyone and their dog is fascinated with wine’s legs or tears. 

Some say the higher the alcohol content, the bigger the tears.  Problem is, I don’t cry really.  I usually just stagger around a bit; slur my words, my ears and cheeks turn bright red and I might get the giggles.  Word is I may have danced on a table once but please don't tell my mother.

Seriously, tears, legs, call ‘em what you will, those runny trails of liquid on the inside of your glass after you’ve swirled a glass or two.  Or twelve.  Seems nobody knows what these leggy teary things really are.  In one contradiction after another, wine experts and bloggers attempt to explain this apparent phenomenon:  

Top 10 Wine Myths - Josh - PinotBlogger.com - Josh says the larger the legs the more alcohol in your wine.

Avoid Common Wine Myths - BetterTastingWine.com - says fuller-bodied wines have slower legs.  It's all about body - not booze content.

6 Myths About Wine - Lettie Teague - Oprah.com - Lettie says legs ARE all about viscosity or level of alcohol content.

Top 10 Wine Myths - Jathan MacKenzie (of winexpression.com) - 2009 - TopTenz.net - Jathan says legs have nothing to do with viscosity or quality of the wine.

Myth Busting - Tim Vandergrift - 2008 - WineMakerMag.com - Tim says legs are all about the quantity of ethanol in a liquid solution.  Hmmmm...

Here's the thing.  My point is not to make fun of any of the above-mentioned - they've all just further confused the heck out of me.  So, I'm off to my fridge to find some legs ...  

And guess what?  I found them.  Lots and lots and lots of them.  (Forgive me - by the time I snapped the pictures, for the most part, my samples had finished with all of their dripping and crying business.)
According to the above experts 100% Pure Maple Syrup Canada No. 1 Medium from Old Fashioned Maple Crest Brand must be PACKED with booze, Lettie!  Drink up!

Between you and me, I’m thinking this obsession with wine legs was probably really dreamed up as some sort of parlour trick back in the 18th Century so cheeks could be pecked and pockets could be picked.  I bet that's it.  Raise a glass, take a swirl and watch those splendid drippy legs in absolute wonder while your worldly neighbour, the fellow who introduced you to this new routine, cops a feel of your daughter.

Seriously.  I have seen wine legs so I know they do exist, but are they a true means of measuring the quality of your drink - or are they really all about syrup and/or sugar content?  I'm left scratching my head...  

Do legs matter?  Are they legit?

Lechyd Dda,
Heather