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Our Most-Read Articles of 2019

From the latest trends in craft beer to the science of wine, here’s a look back at the stories that resonated most

As we charge ahead into 2020, we’re taking a look back at our top ten most-read articles of last year. Explorations into the science of wine—understanding color, minerality, and sulfites—were favorite audience topics.  So were features on trends, like the rise of low-calorie craft beer and the explosion of hard seltzer.

Industry veteran Amy Bess Cook’s report on why women in the industry stay silent about abuse resonated with readers; it’s a critical and complex issue we will continue to cover. We were not surprised to find that the number one article of the year tackled the ever-polarizing subject of natural wine; in case you missed it, check out Rémy Charest’s fascinating investigation into the reasons that natural wines often develop reductive notes. 

10. 6 Descriptors Beer Professionals Avoid

From left to right: Tara Nurin (courtesy of herself), Erin Colligan (courtesy of Austin Eastciders), Jo Doyle (courtesy of White Labs), and Lou McKercher (courtesy of Oskar Blues Brewery).

Hoppy, light, and funky are among the vague terms beer purveyors swap out to help customers find desired flavors and styles

Beer professionals spend a lot of time describing beer to customers. It’s not always easy. Employing a diverse beer vocabulary, without resorting to descriptors that have become tired or meaningless through overuse, can make or break a sale. SevenFifty Daily asked six beer professionals to tell us about the descriptors they avoid and suggest words that better facilitate customer conversations. Each of them emphasizes that the most important way to minimize misunderstandings is to be as specific as possible with beer language. [Read more]

9. 5 Craft Beer Trends to Watch

Eric Kerns
Eric Kerns, cofounder of Bright Ideas Brewing. Photo courtesy of The Brewers Association.

Brewers and other beer experts discuss emerging craft categories at the Great American Beer Festival 2019

Craft beer’s market expansion is slowing, but still growing. As new breweries continue to open across the country, brewers must balance satiating consumer demand with popular styles against creative passion projects that will set them apart from their competitors. When it comes to predicting upcoming craft beer trends, the Great American Beer Festival (October 3–6 in Denver), the largest annual beer competition and festival in the United States, is a harbinger of American craft beer’s evolution. This year, 322 judges tasted 9,497 beers over 107 beer style categories submitted by 2,295 American breweries. (That’s 1,001 more beers than 2018, sent in by roughly one-third of all craft breweries currently operating in the U.S.) Approximately 800 breweries poured over 4,000 beers on the festival floor as well. [Read more]

8. The Science of Color in Wine

Photo courtesy of Jeff Quinn.

Wine professionals discuss pigmentation, extraction, and how color can affect everything from appearance to ageability

Although color is obviously the first thing one sees when encountering a wine, this visual aspect is the least important thing to consider when enjoying a glass of wine. However, there is much more to wine color than meets the eye. For the grapevine itself, berry color is largely responsible for grapevines’ ability to survive the throes of evolution. In red wine, color is a major factor in determining its mouthfeel and ageability. By considering how color functions in wine throughout the winemaking process, producers can make choices that determine its stability, mouthfeel, and longevity. [Read more]

7. Why Women in the Wine Industry Stay Silent About Abuse

Amy Bess Cook
Amy Bess Cook. Photo by Nicole McConville.

An industry veteran examines the structures that she says are keeping victims quiet—and provides a framework for moving forward

“Is there a Harvey Weinstein of wine?” When Karen MacNeil, the president of Karen MacNeil & Company in St. Helena, California, and the author of The Wine Bible, first posed this question on Twitter nearly two years ago, I expected more than a few nominations. According to a 2018 survey by the London-based organization Unite the Union, 89 percent of hospitality workers and 80 percent of female agricultural workers report on-the-job sexual harassment, statistics that don’t even include other forms of power abuse. But the response to MacNeil’s post was minimal.  [Read more]

6. The Rise of Low-Calorie, Low-Carb Craft Beer

SeaQuench Ale. Photo courtesy of Dogfish Head.

Brewers discuss the increasing consumer demand for “light” beers in the craft segment

In December 2018, Sam Calagione, the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware, publicly resolved to end the month of January healthier than he began it by being more physically active, eating more healthfully, and drinking beer—specifically, by committing to drinking only Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale, a tart gose with a lower-than-average alcohol content and thus fewer calories than most craft beers (which typically contain 150 to 300 calories per 12-ounce can). SevenFifty Daily spoke with Calagione about three weeks into his regimen, and at that point he said he’d only dropped three pounds. But beyond Calagione’s personal lifestyle goals, his monthlong challenge reflects a growing consumer trend toward health and wellness—a trend extending to an increased interest in lower-calorie beers among craft beer consumers. [Read more]

5. Understanding Perceived Minerality in Wine

The Science of Minerality in Wine
Illustration by Jeff Quinn.

Sensory scientists and wine experts weigh in on minerality and its effect on wine

When you’re casually perusing wine labels and shelf tags, it can sometimes be hard to find a description that doesn’t mention what kind of soil the grapes grew in. “The soil contains serpentine rock.” “A mix of mica, schist, and gneiss.” “This wine places the taster atop its loess soils.” The obvious-yet-scarcely-questioned implication is that the type of soil in the vineyard can be evident in the glass—and not just evident but of prime importance, to judge from the prominent mention of soil in wine blurbs, wine reviews, and even in winemakers’ branding, like Didier Dagueneau’s Silex (“flint”), Frank Cornelissen’s Magma, and Bill Foley’s Chalk Hill. Many of the labels offer no information about how the soil might affect the wine or an understanding of how it may be expressed. Others specify in vague terms some kind of connection: “the site contributes aromas of flint and iodine” or “the volcanic soil exhibits a profile of concentrated minerals.” [Read more]

4. How Sulfites Affect a Wine’s Chemistry

How Sulfites Affect a Wine’s Chemistry
Illustration by Jeff Quinn.

Wine professionals discuss sulfur’s impact on everything from oxidation to aromatic compounds and texture

The emergence of natural wine and the strong viewpoints that sometimes come with it—or against it—have generated endless arguments about sulfite additions and their effects on wine. Chemistry may be more useful than ideology for resolving those disputes, and on that front, scientific research is increasingly showing that sulfites have a very wide set of effects on wine’s aromas, mouthfeel, structure, and development in both the cellar and the bottle. [Read more]

3. What’s Fueling the Rapid Growth of Hard Seltzer?

 

Drinks professionals discuss the factors behind the low-ABV category’s rise—and its impact on the industry

Spring has arrived in much of the U.S., and if the last few years are any indication, an increasing number of consumers will be packing their coolers with hard seltzers, choosing them as an alternative to wine, beer, and spirits for outdoor activities. The rise in popularity of hard seltzer has been fueled by the recent trend toward more health-conscious drinking habits and a preference for low-alcohol beverages, particularly among millennials. [Read more]

2. The Science of Tannins in Wine

Tannin molecules
Diagram of two tannin molecules bound together courtesy of the U.C. Davis viticulture and enology department. Illustration by Jeff Quinn.

Wine professionals discuss how tannin management in the vineyard and cellar influences the expression of tannins in wine

Tannins form the basis of structure in red wines—and they’re the primary determinant of the longevity of red wines. White wine contains tannins as well, but in significantly lower concentrations; their ageability is mostly determined by their acid and sugar levels. The types of tannins in wine can be influenced by a number of factors—grape variety, conditions in the vineyard, vineyard management practices, vintage variation, and winemaking practices. Paying attention to the character of the tannins in a wine can give insight into the stage of a wine’s development and its potential for aging.  [Read more]

1. How Natural Wines Develop Reductive Notes

How Natural Wines Develop Reductive Notes
Illustration by Paige Vickers.

With little or no sulfites added, natural wines should be more at risk of oxidation. So why do some yield reductive notes?

Natural wines tend to prompt debate throughout the wine world. But beyond stylistic differences and philosophical principles, the subject raises a lot of interesting questions about wine chemistry and vinification approaches, particularly in terms of natural wines’ interaction with oxygen. For example, if the use of sulfites—the chief winemaking antioxidant—is avoided or severely limited, shouldn’t natural wines be at greater risk of oxidation? And shouldn’t the main threat to natural wines—and consequent faults—stem from oxidation? [Read more]

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