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Fine wines a winning game online at Underground Cellar

Underground Cellar is making a game of getting more than you asked for when it comes to great wine. Startup founder Jeffrey Shaw playfully described it as "wine roulette," only you can't lose and the payout is cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay or other varietals crafted by renowned vineyards. "I was a technology guy; I sort of fell into wine," Shaw said while exploring undergroundcellar.com on an iPad. Shaw was in college in Arizona when he helped create a company specializing in secure photo identification badges for employees.

Beer tasting with a robotic twist

Spanish researchers have created an electronic "tongue" capable of distinguishing between beer varieties and their alcohol content. The artificial organ was accurate nearly 82 percent of the time, said its creators -- and could be the first step towards developing robots with a sense of taste. The taster was made using 21 electrodes, each responsive to different chemical compounds such as ammonium, sodium, nitrate or chloride, according to researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Summary Box: Cultural heritage honour sought for traditional Japanese cuisine as tastes change

CULTURAL HONOR: Washoku, the traditional cuisine of Japan, is being considered for designation as part of the world's cultural heritage by the U.N. this week. But even as sushi and sake booms worldwide, purists say its finer points are candidates for the endangered list at home. THE CUISINE: Washoku embraces seasonal ingredients, time-consuming preparation and a style of eating steeped in centuries of tradition. At its heart is savory "umami," recognized as a fundamental taste along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter.

Belgium wins first world blind wine-tasting contest for teams

Belgium on Saturday won the first world blind wine-tasting competition for teams, with Denmark and England finishing second and third, organisers said. Philippe Ketelslegers, Filip Mesdom, Eric Derenne and Serge Condens took top honours at the competition held in the southwestern French town of Leognan, near France's winegrowing capital of Bordeaux. A total of 16 teams from around the world including South Africa, China, Russia, Argentina and Quebec took part.

Tableware colour influences food flavour, study

British hospitals use red trays in a programme to combat malnutrition, but may have chosen the worst possible colour, according to a study Wednesday linking the tinge of tableware to food enjoyment. Researchers from the University of Oxford contributed data to the growing body of evidence that the colour, size, weight and shape of eating utensils, cups and plates have a big influence on what people taste. Their findings on cutlery tally with previous research for crockery colours, including the discovery that red tends to limit food intake, they said.
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