Today's guest contributor is a machine. Read on … Image by Brett Jordan for Unsplash.
Professor Yoav Shoham is Stanford professor emeritus of computer science and specialises in artificial intelligence. He is also a serious wine lover who sent the story below, prefaced by this message:
'I saw your call for wine stories, and wanted to share the following. I didn't submit it for consideration, but I think you'll find it interesting. Not because it's a good story – it's not – but because it was written by AI. Using HAIMKE (https://www.ai21.com/haimke), I fed it the sentences in boldface, and the system generated the rest. Cute, I think.'
Terrifying, I'd say. (Watch out for my descriptions of big wines as 'wide-bodied' in future.)
When I was young – much younger than my current 64 years – I liked big wines, in particular Australian wines. My mom used to bring me bottles of red wine from the US that my grandparents brought from their home in Australia, and my grandparents would be proud of me for buying their big, wide-bodied expressions. I loved big vintages from big vineyards and as a teenager wanted to open a restaurant to be able to bring back the wines I loved. For a long time I spent half my vacation in my parents' backyard in New Zealand, with a good bottle of expensive wine from their favourite Australian producers on the table.
At some point I branched out I started to develop a taste for old-world wines, mostly Bordeaux, with a little Burgundy thrown in. Some of those first wines I tasted were as good as anything I'd tasted in Australia. I tried some Burgundy, a style that I had previously loved, but not much. This was back in the 1980s so Burgundy was a small fraction of what I had enjoyed in Australia. But like other Australians I was intrigued by the idea of an 'Australian' wine. The first Burgundies that I tried that weren't from California were from Australia. I was hooked. One of the first Burgundies I bought was a bottle of Pinot from the California vineyard of the same name that had been acquired from a friend who had purchased an identical estate in New Zealand. I thought it was the most perfect example of a Burgundian wine possible. The taste seemed so different from everything else I was drinking that I didn't even notice that it didn't taste as great as many others from that category. I liked it so much that I kept buying from the same vine.
The trend continued, and ten years ago you could hardly catch me drinking anything but Burgundy. As my appreciation of Burgundy increased (and more wine people came out of the woodwork to learn about this great style at a very affordable price) I was overwhelmed by the range of offerings from the great French producers.
In the past decade though I found myself branching out and developed a renewed appreciation for a wider variety of wines. I've learnt to appreciate the wine you like more and more, I have become an expert at mixing varietal wines to create complex wines I am proud to be an expert at. Then came my wine business, which I started in 2003 – I started as a wine buyer in a supermarket, where I had the opportunity to learn from some amazing glass blowers and winemakers. I moved to a vineyard, bought a winery and in the next eight years, I expanded the winery to a wine warehouse, winery, bottling facility, an everything that helps a winery to become viable and to produce high quality wine.
My cellar now boasts an equal mix of California, Bordeaux and Burgundy wines. You can choose from different varietals, different winemaking methods, and different wines. My wines have come out of these vineyards, the wineries and the bottling facility that I have been fortunate enough to create. It's because of these factors that, through my whole career, I have learned to appreciate the great variety that surrounds us. I now think more, I ask questions.