Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Deconstructing The French Laundry Wine List, Part II

Having more refined data than last time I focus on prices in this post.

Price Word Clouds 

Word clouds below use prices instead of frequency: size corresponds to average price of bottles of wine each term belongs to (hence, even if expression occurs only once but in very expensive wine it appears on top):

Let's remember that Domaine de la Romanée-Conti is less expensive than Château Petrus. Next, let's zoom in by splitting this into two clouds: for red and for white wines (some names will disappear from both because they don't belong to neither reds nor whites, e.g. Scion which belongs to fortified wines).

Red wine price cloud (1287 bottles total):

Now both Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Château Petrus are first among equals. The hint why the former improved lies in the white wine price cloud (539 bottles total):
The Burgundian estate is present here but not so for the one from Bordeaux. It'll be shown momentarily that the prices of whites are consistently below reds so averages tend lower when computed across the board. This effect is not present for Château Petrus as it doesn't feature whites at all.

Last cloud for today is whites price cloud without outlier Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Removing it makes viewing prestigious whites on The French Laundry list almost as pleasant as drinking (just kidding):

Gender Wine Inequality between Reds and Whites

Are whites cheaper than reds? Using population pyramid type of histogram we can compare them by price (think of white as female, red as male (or vice versa if you wish), and wine price as salary). And just like in population pyramid we have plots for each country (France, Italy, and US):

US makes the best case for inequality while France fares best for equality (longer history of wine democracy?). All 3 show consistent trends though: red prices are right skewed with fat tails, while white prices are more symmetric with lower centers of distribution. Of course, all results are subject to The French Laundry sommelier's bias in wine selection (and possibly the reason that Spain was heavily under-represented in whites so it didn't make this chart).

Compare median prices (dashed horizontal lines) across 3 countries: contrary to popular belief American wines are better value than European counterparts (assuming that all wines on the The French Laundry list are outstanding). American wines really represent the "budget" section of the list (prices under $200) while Europeans peak above $200. I will follow up on that in the future posts.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The French Laundry Wine List Deconstructed

Not that I surprise you but my little exercise in deconstructing The French Laundry wine list  may help with planning your trip there. This word cloud is from the wine list offered by the restaurant (available here):
It includes expressions parsed from the wine names. Terms that occur less than 5 times were excluded.

Wine names usually do not include varietal, country, appellation, and other standard designations. But some exceptions do occur, so below is the same cloud with top exceptions removed:
Apparently, Domain de la Romanee-Conti is a big winner for Head Sommelier Dennis Kelly. This estate in Burgundy produces some of the world's most expensive bottles of wine.

What vintages are in favor at The French Laundry today?
I did hear that 2010 was a great vintage in California. Is it really American wines that contribute to 2010 success? Next 6 vintage clouds are by country:
Indeed, 2010 is popular in USA today, but so is in France, Germany and Austria. Noticeably, sommelier favors 1996, 2004, 2006 in Italy, 1994, 2004, 2005 in Spain, 2005 and 2009 in France, 1996, 2004, 2006 in Italy.

And, finally, let's see wine price histogram:
Selection peaks around $150 to $200, with plenty of choices in $250 to $500 range still. In case you started to worry, I removed wines with price tag above $2000 to improve this chart: there are plenty to choose above $2000, especially the wines from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.

P.S. Found nothing worth trying or prices are too high? Feel free to bring your own bottle of wine keeping in mind restaurant's published corkage fee policy: "Guests are welcome to bring wines that are not represented on our wine list; however there will be a fee of $150 for each 750ml bottle with a limit of one bottle for every two guests at the table."