Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Wine-Lovers' Guide To Italy

With 400-plus grape varieties and over 2,400 wine styles, Italy is a paradise for oenophiles. The days of straw-bottled Chiantis are a fading hangover and the country is now producing some of the world's most coveted vini (wines).
So, what to pour: a brawny Barolo, a zesty Soave, or a cultish Super Tuscan? Uncork the basics with the following guide to Italy's top drops.
Sharing a bottle of Italian prosecco. Image by knape / Getty Images.Sharing a bottle of prosecco. Image by knape / Getty Images

Talking terroir

The incredible variety of Italian wines reflects Italy's own geographic diversity, from the crisp, Alpine landscapes of FriuliAlto Adige and Valle d'Aosta, to the genteel hills of Tuscany, to the sun-baked soils of the south. Greater fluctuations between day and night temperatures deliver higher acidity to many northern wines. In the hotter south, late-harvesting grapes result in bold, robust, full-bodied drops.
A sun-drenched vineyard in Montalcino, Tuscany.A sun-drenched vineyard in Montalcino, Tuscany. Image by Gary Yeowell / Getty Images
Beyond these general guidelines are the many nuances of each growing region, from microclimates to soil variations. Pour a Piedmontese Barolo grown in the comune (parish) of La Morra and the chances are it'll be more elegant and fragrant than those from the next parish, a reflection of its limestone-rich Tortonian marl.

From DOCG to VDT: decoding the label

Italian wines are categorised according to an appellation system. The most prestigious drops are labelled DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita). Subject to blind tasting tests, they're bound by strict regulations regarding growing areas, grape varieties and winemaking method. Rigid rules also govern DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata) wines, though these are not subject to any nail-biting taste test.
Bottles of Barolo ageing in the cellar before they earn their DOC certification. Bottles of Barolo ageing in the cellar before they earn their DOCG certification. Image by Massimo Di Nonno / Getty Images
Rebellious by nature, IGT (Indicazione geografica tipica) wines aren't bound by the same traditions, resulting in more experimental blends. Last and least is VDT (Vino da tavola), straightforward mass-produced table wine.
Label decoded, it's time to explore some of Italy's finest grapes and the wines they make.

A sparkling duo

A luxe, invigorating blend of chardonnay, pinot nero and pinot bianco, Franciacorta DOCG is Italy's answer to French champagne. Hailing from Brescia province in Lombardy, Franciacorta is made using the metodo classico (classic method), which sees a second fermentation in the bottle. Star Franciacorta producers include Ca' del Bosco ( and Berlucchi (
Prosecco vineyards in the Veneto region. Prosecco vineyards in the Veneto region. Image by Peter Adams / Getty Images
Less complex but more affordable is northern Italy's favourite pre-dinner tipple, prosecco. Its finest versions are produced in the DOCG triangle between ValdobbiadeneConegliano and Vittorio Veneto in Italy's Veneto region. Prosecco's finest makers include Masottina ( and Bisol (

Wondrous whites

Pinot grigio and pinot bianco
Crisp, easy-drinking Pinot Grigio reflects the cooler climate of its main growing areas: VenetoAlto Adige and Friuli. The latter is home to Venica & Venica (, one of Italy's top pinot grigio producers. Also grown in the region is the more full-bodied pinot bianco, often defined by medium acidity and crisp pear and apple notes. Toast to simple pleasures with tipples from Eugenio Collavini (, Livio Felluga ( or Pierpaolo Pecorari (
Posher than the pinots is Friuli's pale, golden Friulano. Spanning crisp and light to rich and full-bodied, its notes commonly evoke pear and bitter almond. The minerality of younger Friulanos mellow with age, with oaked versions delivering a creamier flavour. Intrigued? Look for standout examples from Livio Felluga (, Schiopetto ( and Borgo San Daniele (
White grapes, ready to be harvested.White grapes, ready to be harvested. Image by BarMark / istock / Getty Images
Finer variations of this everyday grape include fresh, citrusy Trebbiano Toscano. Found in Tuscany and Umbria, it's one component of Tuscany's much-loved dessert wine Vin Santo. Further south, rugged Abruzzo is home to floral-scented, honey-textured Trebbiano d'Abruzzo. For a stellar sip, seek out a bottle of Valle Reale's Vigna di Capestrano Trebbiano d'Abruzzo DOC (2012).
Garganega shines brightest in the Veneto provinces of VeronaVicenza and Padua. The grape's star product is Soave DOC, named for the small medieval town east of Verona. Dry and light, Soave's notes range from honeydew, peach and apricot, to citrus zest and subtle salinity. Aged varieties offer greater elegance and intensity. Among its finest producers are Ca' Rugate ( and Suavia (
Grape vines growing on the precipitous hills above Manarola in the Cinque Terre.Grape vines growing on the precipitous hills above Manarola in the Cinque Terre. Image by Oliver Morin / AFP / Getty Images
Coast-loving Vermentino shows off its crisp acidity, savoury notes and saline minerality in cooler climes. It's the main grape in whites from the Colli di Luna DOC wine region, encompassing the coastal hills around Massa in Tuscany and La Spezia in Liguria. Air-dried, it's also a principle component in Cinque Terre Sciacchetrà DOC, a silky, amber-hued dessert wine from Liguria's precipitous coastline. Across in Sardinia, Vermentino delivers white blossom aromas, vibrant acidity and a splash of minerality in the island's prized Vermentino di Gallura DOCG.

Ravishing Reds

Tuscany and Piedmont tussle for the title of Italy's top wine region. The latter's prized grape is Nebbiolo, featured in Piedmont's DOCG heavyweights Barolo and Barbaresco. Serious oenophiles the world over go gaga for Barolo's powerful structure, distinctive tannins and decadent notes of rose, truffle, tar and chocolate. Somewhat less tannic, Barbaresco still makes an impact with its marked acidity, spice and floral notes.
Seek out Barolos made by Michele Chiarlo (, Fratelli Alessandria ( or Elvio Cogno (, and Barbarescos from Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Grésy ( and Fiorenzo Nada (
Corvina creates some of Veneto's must-try wines. Top of the heap is cult-status Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG, an intense, complex creation with a long finish and notes ranging from raisin, cherry and raspberry, to dried prune, plum, violet and mint. It's made using the passito method, which sees the grapes semi-dried on trays for up to three months, then aged in Slavonian oak barriques. An expensive wine made for long-term cellaring, its celebrated makers include Tommaso Bussola (, Allegrini ( or Giuseppe Quintarelli.
Wine being aged in oak barrels in Tuscany. Wine being aged in oak barrels in a cellar in Tuscany. Image by Perseomed / iStock / Getty Images
Sangiovese is to Tuscany what Nebbiolo is to Piedmont. This revered grape constitutes at least 80 percent of top-tier Chianti Classico DOCG, produced in the Chianti Classico DOCG zone between Florence and Siena. The result is a medium-bodied red with firm tannins and hypnotic notes ranging from cherry and mint to wild herbs and spice. The grape is also behind Tuscany's plummy Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG; voluptuous Morellino di Scansano DOCG; and aromatic Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.
Seek Chianti Classico made by Monteraponi ( and Castello di Radda (, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano by Podere Le Berne ( and Poliziano, and Morellino from Poggio Trevvalle ( and Roccapesta (
Super Tuscans
The term Super Tuscans usually refers to Tuscan blended reds using non-indigenous grapes, including merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon. A good way to identify a Super Tuscan is by the wine's name. More often than not, it will be original, with no reference to a particular grape variety or growing region.
A-listers in this category include Tenuta San Guido's ( Sassicaia, a velvety, tannic symphony of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Another marvel is Marchesa Antinori's ( Tignanello, a rich, savoury blend of sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.
Harvesting grapes by hand.Harvesting grapes by hand. Image by Sofie Delauw / Cultura / Getty Images
Late-ripening Aglianico thrives in the volcanic soils of the Taurasi area of Avellino, in Campania, and the Monte Vulture area of Potenza, in Basilicata. Both these areas deliver a varietal with arresting complexity, minerality and brooding notes spanning dark berries and chocolate to black pepper and liquorice. Nicknamed the 'Barolo of the South', Aglianico is also tailored for longer-term cellaring. Stock the shelves with outstanding vintages from Feudi di San Gregorio (, Cantine del Notaio (, Elena Fucci ( or Paternoster (
Nero d'Avola
This supple, late-ripening Sicilian offers flavours that shift magically on the palate, from luscious berries to leather and smoke. For something lighter, seek blends using fragrant Frappato. For something bolder, look for it blended with syrah, merlot or cabernet sauvignon, all of which accentuate Nero d'Avola's darker, more decadent side. Tempted? Bag some bottled beauties from Feudi del Pisciotto (, Abbazia Santa Anastasia ( and Morgante (
Basics covered, it's time to scan the shelves and cellars, to sniff, swill and savour your way to your own favourite vini italiani...a challenge worth toasting to. Cin cin!
 Cristian Bonetto

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The Airlines With The Most Legroom: A Tall Traveler's Guide

Is your favorite airline one of the roomiest?

Newer and more efficient airplanes means airlines are offering longer and longer flights, but can you handle 13 hours with only 30 inches of space? Condé Nast Traveler reports which airlines, both domestic and international, offer the best (and the worst) legroom.

Newer and more efficient airplanes means airlines are offering longer and longer flights, but can you handle 13 hours with only 30 inches of space? Condé Nast Traveler reports which airlines, both domestic and international, offer the best (and the worst) legroom.
"Pitch" isn't just a term used in baseball. The word is also thrown around quite a bit in air travel, where its definition is the measurement of the distance from a seat to the one behind it. The more popular, not to mention maligned, term is "legroom," and, yes, some airlines offer more of it than others. Condé Nast Traveler's rankings are not universally inclusive; only major, recognizable airlines were taken into account in our survey. Because airlines are constantly updating their cabins and fleets, the figures listed below are subject to change.
In the United States
Our previous report already named the most spacious airlines flying around the United States, and those results hold firm. The airlines in the USA with the most legroom are:
  1. JetBlue: 33 inches
  2. Virgin America: 32 inches
  3. Southwest: 32 inches
The "big three" airlines of Delta, American Airlines, and United all average 31-inch legroom, as does Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. At the bottom, with seriously squashed legs, are Allegiant (30 inches), Frontier (28 inches) and Spirit (28 inches with no recline). Of course, upgrading ever so slightly for the "economy plus" option on these airlines changes the situation, and you're able to enjoy a few more inches for a few more dollars.
Around the World
As in the United States, 31 inches of legroom is quite standard around the world, with some notable exceptions on either end. Comparing data from searching popular routes and long-haul aircraft onRoutehappy and SeatGuru, and cross-referencing with the airline's own sites, we're happy to find that some airlines go above and beyond the minimum to provide precious extra inches. These are the international airlines with the most legroom on long-haul flights:
  1. Aeromexico: 34 inches
  2. South African Airways: 33.5 inches
  3. Asiana: 33 inches
  4. Air India: 33 inches
  5. Air Tahiti Nui: 33 inches
Surprised by the winner? Don't be; Aeromexico now flies the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner on its lengthiest routes, including the 11-hour non-stop from Mexico City to Madrid, as well as the five-hour nonstop to New York. The airline chose to match the generous legroom of its Boeing 777s with the delivery of the new 787s, upholding their standard of offering two or more inches beyond everyone else, a difference theInternational Business Times called "positively luxurious."
As for the least legroom, three airlines stand out for squeezing passengers in space that's below the 32-to-31-inch standard, and they are: Air Berlin, Austrian Airlines, and Aeroflot, all at a measly 30 inches. Stretch those legs before boarding, during the flight, and upon arrival to keep the discomfort to a minimum, and look on the bright side—at least a new study just found that sitting for long periods actually will not kill you.

Friday, October 30, 2015

How To Hack Uber Surge-Charge Fares By 10-20%

Photo by Eric Reisberg, AP

In a pinch and need a lift? There's nothing more frustrating than getting slapped with an Uber fare four times the ride's usual cost. Well, what if waiting 5 minutes or walking a couple blocks could make the surge-charge disappear?
A study from Northeastern University researchers published Thursday, billed as "the first in-depth investigation of Uber," offers some tangible tips — and other fascinating insights — about the mysterious algorithm that guides the country's most popular ride-share service.
The bottom line: Uber's surge-pricing algorithm, which is based on supply of drivers versus demand of rides needed, resets about every five minutes, and changes based on zones that are often close together. That's just the knowledge you need to save a couple bucks (the study claims 10% to 20%) on your ride after the big game, impromptu thunderstorm, or any other instance where it feels like you and the rest of the world need a ride, stat.
"We see that around 40% of surges only last five minutes, while about 70% of surges last 10 minutes or less," Christo Wilson, an assistant professor at Northeastern and one of the writers of the study, tells the USA TODAY Network in an email. He is in Tokyo presenting the findings at the Internet Measurement Conference. "This essentially means that if you observe surge prices on Uber, your best bet is to just wait it out, because they typically don't last long."
"The other recommendation is to look at the prices being offered in adjacent surge areas. One of our key findings is that Uber divides cities up into areas, and that each area has a different surge multiplier," he says.
The study, "Peeking Beneath the Hood of Uber," gathered four weeks of data from Uber by emulating 43 copies of the Uber app on Android phones and distributing them throughout densely-populated downtown Manhattan and San Francisco. Each of Uber's ride-sharing options, which include everything from luxury black cars to shared carpools, were tested. (Wilson says the study did not test competitor Lyft because there's no way to predict fares without actually hailing a ride.)
"People love the ability to push a button and get a ride quickly and reliably -- wherever they are in a city. And dynamic or surge pricing helps make that possible because it encourages drivers to go to the neighborhoods with the highest demand -- ensuring there's always a ride available within minutes," said a spokesperson for Uber, who clarified that all the data in the report, including information that surge pricing only sometimes lured a supply of more drivers, came from "limited," publicly available information and could not monitor certain nuances, like drivers who come back online when they notice an occasion that could present surge pricing in certain areas.
"Normally, when you open the Uber app, it downloads the eight closest cars to you, the estimated wait time for a ride, and the surge multiplier. The app then refreshes this data every five seconds," Wilson said. That, plus Uber's open API, was how he and his co-authors, Le Chen and Alan Mislove, conducted the research.
"We've seen this work in practice day in day out, in cities all around the world," Uber's statement continued.
Wilson says the study's findings are more important to users than helping them save on their next ride. Like Google altering search results based on location, or Facebook selecting what you see in your newsfeed, Uber's algorithms are a "black box" — not transparent to the user, or completely to the driver, for that matter.
Wilson says he hopes the results "help the public better understand and evaluate the role of these algorithmic systems in everyday life" — especially after criticism Uber has faced for charging surge rates during Hurricane Sandy and the Sydney, Australia, hostage crisis, the study notes.
Other insights from the study:
Surge pricing does make demand for Ubers go down. People see a higher rate, and often choose to either wait or make alternate plans.
- The team found a six-month long bug in the system that was causing some people to randomly get lower fares than others requesting rides in the same area. (The team contacted Uber, which has since fixed the bug.)
- Plus, in the battle of East-West expensive cities, Wilson says New York City is the better market for riders. Because its prices may be consistently higher, there are fewer surge situations than in San Francisco.
By , USA TODAY Network

The Best Place To Experience The James Bond Lifestyle Is In Monaco

You too can experience the glamour, excitement and jetset lifestyle of James Bond by visiting one of the most glamorous Bond locations - Monaco! The Principality’s landmarks, museums and even the Belle Époque buildings reflect the colorful history of this storied nation on the French Riviera and provide the perfect backdrop for a Bond getaway.
With the release of Spectre, on November 6, here are tips on how you too can live the life of 007 in this enchanted Principality – at least for one weekend.
Heli Port■ 
Literally swoop into Monaco via helicopter and make your grand entrance. Just a quick seven-minute trip from Nice (and not much more expensive than a taxi ride) can start your jetset weekend feeling like a million bucks – or a bit like James Bond. From your perch you will see the beautiful and spellbinding views of this mesmerizing destination – from the Prince’s Palace on “The Rock,” to the yachts in the harbor and many restaurants, museums, hotels and homes.
Monte-Carlo Casino
Take a selfie as you walk up the steps of one of the most famous cultural landmarks in the world, the Monte Carlo Casino &Opera House, designed by the architect of the Paris Opera House, Charles Garnier, and featured in Never Say Never Again starring Sean Connery andGolden Eye starring Pierce Brosnan. Visitors from around the globe can walk through the famous Casino Square full of Ferraris, Bentleys, Aston Martins and Lamborghinis and then tour the Casino de Monte-Carlo in the mornings and court Lady
Luck at the Casino’s gaming tables at night. Try your hand at Baccarat (a Bond favorite) or Roulette and let the magic begin. Don’t forget – men – jacket and tie if you visit in the evening!

Yachts and Speedboats■ 
Perhaps make your entrance by jetting into Monaco on a speedboat, much like 007 is doing in Spectre. Monaco’s Port Hercule provides the perfect backdrop, and opportunity, to do so under the sparkling Mediterranean sky. Take a look at the many beautiful yachts who call it their home.
The Museum of Antique Automobiles■ 
Visit the Bond-type automobiles in The Museum of Antique Automobiles. The private collection of the late H.S.H. Prince Rainier’s exquisitely restored vintage cars from all over the world represent almost every decade since the invention of the automobile. 
Refined Gastronomy
And don’t forget a fine dining meal at one of Monaco’s restaurants, six of which feature a combined nine Michelin stars. Among the myriad exceptional experiences to be found in Monaco, dining is just one of the Principality’s many pleasures and there is no other location in the world where so much epicurean distinction can be found within less than a square mile.

Although the range of fare is international, Monaco boasts its own Monégasque cuisine: a flavorful fusion of southern French (especially Provençal and Niçoise) and northern Italian, excellent quality, legendary wine cellars and martinis - shaken not stirred!