Winebits 190: Liquor laws, wine tasting, winery websites

? Utah's barriers: Those of us who think our state's liquor laws are the worst need (that includes you, Pennsylvania) to check in with Utah. The New York Times reports that "Stiff drinks and doubles are illegal in Utah. Bars and restaurants must use meters on their liquor bottles to make sure they do not pour more than 1.5 ounces at a time. Other liquors can be added to cocktails in lesser amounts, not to exceed 2.5 ounces of liquor in a drink, as long as they are poured from bottles clearly marked 'flavoring.' " What's even weirder is that the state's laws are much more liberal than they used to be. I did a story about Utah's liquor laws in the run-up to the 2002 winter Olympics, which saw the state suspend some of its laws to accommodate European visitors and then un-suspend when the Olympics ended. Needless to say, bar and restaurant owners were less than thrilled.

? Blind tasting trumps all: Not that we needed any more evidence that we're predisposed to like wine if we think we know something about it, but researchers have found that telling someone where the wine is from influences their opinion. What makes this study interesting is that consumers were asked which bottle tasted better — one from India or one from Italy — and their perception of quality seemed to depend on where they thought the wine was from. The kicker? There was no wine from Italy or India, but an ordinary bottle of $16 wine that served as the wine from India and Italy.

? Winery websites stink: Or, to be more accurate: "Unfortunately, 90 to 95% of winery websites stink." That's from Sean Sullivan at the Washington Wine Report, and Sean knows his stuff. The post is must reading not only for winery owners, but for consumers who go to a website to find information about a wine or winery and find only boilerplate about the winery and almost nothing about the wine. My favorite? Sean writes that many sites have a line like "We are dedicated to producing super premium wine from Washington ?s finest vineyards." No kidding. Says Sean: "First, almost no one knows what super premium means. Second, you ?re in luck! Everyone else is looking to make plonk from vineyards that are producing 20 tons an acre!"

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