This spread about holiday Champagnes is from pages 36 and 37 of a 1956 Sherry-Lehmann catalog.

Take a "sip" down memory lane

UC Davis creates wine price database with crowdsourcing, famed catalogs


Feeling nostalgic as you get ready to toast the new year?

Recommendations for “best buys” in Champagnes and party menus from some 50 years ago are among the treats in a new crowdsourcing database of historic wine prices from the University of California, Davis.

Price the Vintage, with more than 200 digitized catalogs of famed New York-based distributor Sherry-Lehmann, is the most comprehensive online database of its kind. People from around the world can enjoy browsing the catalogs, enter pricing information and help chart America’s appreciation for wine.

The UC Davis Library created the project from its collection of Sherry-Lehmann catalogs, part of an in-kind donation from the estate of wine writer Roy Brady. Published to promote business and educate the wine-buying public, the catalogs are filled with recipes, pithy advertisements and eye-catching graphics.

For wine enthusiasts to academics

With about 3,700 pages of wine pricing data, Price the Vintage has already captured the attention of wine enthusiasts, economists and academics.

Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, will use Price the Vintage in her history of modern wine course in February 2018. And Paul J. Merton, independent researcher and president of Ethos Wines Group, said it made possible a research project on the relative pricing of Champagne.

Julian M. Alston, director of the Center for Wine Economics at UC Davis’ Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science, said no other resource provides the database’s comparable detail. “This compilation promises to be an invaluable resource for students and scholars interested in understanding the evolution of California wine and much more,” said the distinguished professor in the university’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Earlier this month the library received a $50,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to develop machine-added methodologies to build out the database of prices more quickly.

“Our hope is that scholars from around the world will use the data we extract from these historical materials to do new research, draw new inferences, and make new discoveries across a variety of disciplines” said University Librarian MacKenzie Smith.

‘Greatest wine library in the world

Price the Vintage is the second phase of another wine-related, digital crowdsourcing project led by the library. Label This catalogued thousands of wine labels from the collection of the late Maynard Amerine, a world-renowned viticulture and enology professor at UC Davis.

Called “the greatest wine library in the world” by British author Hugh Johnson — the library holds over 30,000 wine books and special collections of rare manuscripts, maps and imprints on wine dating back as far as 1450.

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