January 11 2010
What happens when you send 10 wine-related test questions to a mobile-based question service with human guides?
You get a mixed bag of answers.
ChaCha, based in Indianapolis, IN is a human-powered, mobile text based search engine. Text any question to 242242 and moments later you’ll get an answer texted back to your mobile phone from a (presumably) human guide.
Or, if you’re interested in seeing trending topics you can go to the site and search a topic to see what kinds of questions are being searched from other users.
ChaCha is an interesting service and one that has some utility for those times when you need to settle a (wine) bar bet.
The search engine with trending topics, in particular, is a splash of cold water in the face for anybody that forgets what it’s like to be on the light side of the wine knowledge equation. Questions like, “Is Burgundy wine a dry wine” dominate.
I decided to test the service out in an attempt to give myself a secret weapon the next time my wine tasting group gets together and a stumper of a question comes up …
Question #1: Who started the phrase, “spoofulated?”
ChaCha Answer: While there is controversy about the origin of the word, most feel the term originated (with) Michael Wheeler, a NY wine personality.
Survey Says: Kind of right. This link clearly has Harmon Skurnik stepping in and taking credit, however.
Question #2: Where in the U.S. was the first commercially successful winery?
ChaCha Answer: The first commercially successful winery in the United States, founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in the mid-1830s by Nicholas Longworth
Question #3: What does a “hogshead” refer to in wine?
ChaCha Answer: A hogshead is two liquid barrels or 14,653 cubic inches
Survey says: This is correct, I think, and more accurate than not as “hogshead” is technically a volume term
Question #4: Where is the newest U.S. wine appellation?
ChaCha Answer: With regards to wine labels, appellation refers to the place where the grapes are grown
Survey says: They bombed this question and I asked it three different times. Calistoga was nowhere near the answer for any of the inquiries.
Question #5: Who is the best U.S. wine critic?
ChaCha Answer: Robert Parker is undoubtedly the world’s most influential wine critic, who happens to be an American. His newsletter, The Wine Advocate, has had an influence on the wine buying habits of serious American consumers
Survey says: Decanter Magazine may argue this point, but who can argue its inherent truth? When you search Google for, “who is the best U.S. wine critic?” eRobertParker.com comes up as the first listing.
Question #6: What does Genesis 9:20 say?
ChaCha Answer: “Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard”
Survey says: Pretty much spot on, depending on which version of the Bible you read.
Question: #7: How many acres of Burger wine grapes are planted in California?
ChaCha Answer: 500 acres of Burger wine grapes are planted (in) California vineyards
Survey says: Very wrong according to USDA totals, accurate from 2008 – correct answer, as I found it, is 1247 acres.
Question #8: In what city does wine expert Doug Frost live?
ChaCha Answer: Doug Frost is a Kansas City author who writes and lectures about wine, beer and spirits.
Survey says: Correct.
Question #9: What is the Italian translation for, “Celebrate the Good Grape?”
ChaCha Answer: “Celebrate the Good Grape” translates to “Celebrare l’uva buona” in Italian.
Survey Says: Close, but incorrect according to my translations. Their translation reads, “Celebrate good grapes.” If translated correctly it should be, “Celebri la buona uva” for “Celebrate the Good Grape.”
Overall, if you find yourself in a bar (or with your tasting group) kibitzing about the origin of the word “bung” or the purpose of “punts” in wine bottles, you could do worse than using ChaCha, but I wouldn’t make a bold, “bet the Petrus” bottle on the accuracy of the answer. Still, it’s better than carrying around a nine pound copy of, “The Oxford Companion to Wine.”