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Fun with SimVin

by David on October 7, 2007

For those of you listened to our Napa Valley Wine Radio episode on what it takes to start a vineyard or winery, or if you’re one of the many who has that occasional fantasy, you can literally play it out in a somewhat addictive game called SimVin. I learned about this courtesy of Tom Wark at Fermentation and, while I agree with Tom, that it’s perhaps oversimplified and I didn’t always appreciate the limited choices I was offered, it’s got a certain charm.

And – it will bring out your personality and convictions, too, on what’s important in this business. For instance at work, lately, there’s been a minor debate brewing over the lunch table about what it takes to sell a bottle of wine. There’s the (to me) starry-eyed point of view that if you make great wine it sells itself and you don’t need to market it, or not much. So, a person of that opinion would probably go to the high end on every choice but marketing in the game. I kinda think that person is going to end up broke, but I’ve been wrong before! ;-)

When I played this game, I put lots of money into quality fruit, I would have preferred more options in choosing my winemaker – something between a renowned, million-dollar winemaker and Joe Average, skipped the bells and whistles in the winery in favor of good quality, sound equipment and more elbow grease and threw dollars-a-plenty at marketing (which, for me, would be heavy on the PR; certainly not conventional advertising). Anyway, it’s fun!

The game is presented by Stephen Reiss of, which is a great site to explore. Besides several informative articles there are other interactive games there, too, like a wine crossword puzzle, a quiz, a vocabulary game and a trivia game. I checked out each option – some are more user friendly than others – but, days could go by while you’re lost in this site.

I have a few quibbles, for instance in my 25+ years in wine I’ve never heard of adding sugar called “sugaring”. It’s usually just called “adding sugar” or Chaptalization. I checked my Oxford Companion and Jancis says the term “sugaring” is used occasionally. I think the game would be more instructive if we go with the more common term, unless the point is to trip up the player with arcane references. Or, maybe it’s a question of where you live.

Second to SimVin, my favorite option is the mulitiple-choice trivia game. It starts out with questions that are so simple that you suspect there’s a trick and then gets increasingly more technical to the point where, unless you’re a chemist or an enologist, you’re probably out of luck. What keeps you going is that you have just 10 seconds to read the question and choose a reply. Kind of gets the adrenaline pumping when the questions get tougher.

I wish he’d post the correct answers because, as I went through the quiz, there was one case where I was pretty-darned sure there was more than one correct response. The answers disappeared after 10 seconds, so I can’t be sure. Another question, about yeast, didn’t appear to have any good responses. There was no mention of the most commonly used species, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or its good buddy Saccharomyces bayanus. Again, checking my Oxford Companion, it turns out that the right choice in the quiz, Saccharomyces ellipsoideus, is a name that’s fallen out of use. Work with me, here! ;-)

OK, so I’m nit-picking a little. I always like to check things like this out for accuracy before I recommend them, and there were a few very minor things that made me wince, but not much. I admire the considerable effort that went into this and the great educational value that’s offered, plus it’s fun! And you could use it to liven up your next wine and cheese party. With a little adaptation, and depending upon how geeky your friends are about wine, you’ve got built in entertainment! Check it out!

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