Posts Filed Under commentary
Remember Internet chat rooms? Sure you do – those were the simple, on-line places where you could converse, via written text-based messages, with other seemingly like-minded folks about an endless array of topics, ranging from politics to puppy grooming. Well, converse until the person on the other end asked “Are you a chick? are you hot?”
Back in those days, I had two buddies who would frequent on-line chat rooms dedicated to topics about Wars, and strike up a group conversation. Once they thought that they’d earned the trust of the folks chatting on-line, they would say something deliberately inflammatory like “all of the Star Wars books suck!” and start a short-lived but vicious flame-war, during which they would often change sides to try to confuse the poor people who jumped into the fray. It was kind of like an all-out Star Wars chat room ballroom brawl.
Ah, the heady, youthful and poignantly ignorant days of the Internet!
Forums came next, but aren’t real-time, and in the on-line wine world the forums most closely associated with print media (eRobertParker.com and Winespectator.com) have been marred by the negative perceptions of hostility on the part of both members and moderators.
In these more recent days, the chat room and the on-line forum have been superseded. We have seen the future of on-line wine chat, and it’s full of wine twits like me.
There is a place where wineries, media, bloggers, and wine lovers are congregating to chat about wine on-line, and it’s called twitter. And if you love wine, you need to be part of this virtual community.
I’m not going to ‘explain’ twitter here. Mostly because it’s very difficult to explain twitter, and I’m lazy. Instead, I’m just going to try to convince you that if you’re not yet part of the wine community on twitter, then you need to be.
Fortunately for me, that’s actually pretty easy, because it pretty much boils down to one only reason (and even I can explain that one!)…
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I’ve always had a bit of a mixed reaction to the reports published by the Journal of Wine Economics. On the one hand, I love the fact that serious statistical attention is being given to topics like wine awards, in the hopes that scientific examination will help reveal more about how wine and consumers interact. BUT… I’ve also had to deconstruct their lead articles to highlight what I felt to be conclusions that they draw from their analysis that I felt weren’t adequately supported by their data.
Well, now it seems that the American Association of Wine Economists has gone off the deep end.
The latest issue of the JWE (Volume 4, Issue 1, Spring 2009) contains a lead-off article by Robert T. Hodgson titled An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions. After reading the nine-page analysis, I’d go so far as to say that the AAWE’s release is bordering on being totally irresponsible. In my opinion, the science of how the statistics are applied is, at best, specious, and at worst might be downright deceitful.
Heady criticism, right? Let’s get deconstructin’!
The report examines data from 13 U.S. wine competitions in 2003. Here’s a bit of excerpt from the article abstract (emphasis is mine):
“An analysis of the number of Gold medals received in multiple competitions indicates that the probability of winning a Gold medal at one competition is stochastically independent of the probability of receiving a Gold at another competition, indicating that winning a Gold medal is greatly influenced by chance alone.”
Stochastic independence is simply another way of saying that the events are not related. For example, if you roll a 5 on a die, the event of rolling a 5 on your second role are independent. In other words, a wine winning a medal in one competition doesn’t impact what it will or won’t win in another competition. Which is exactly what you’d expect from a different competition, with different judges, and competing against different wines. The problem is that none of those other conditions are detailed in the JWE report.
Ignoring the fact that 13 competitions might not be a statistically relevant sample, not detailing the other factors that would certainly impact the outcome of the wine competitions is a seriously glaring omission.
Things get worse…
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Today we’ll be talking about listening to entire rock albums vs. individual MP3 song downloads, wine preservation systems, on-line store boycotts, Jenga, and Mozart.
Yeah, I know – how do I get myself into these messes, right?
Let’s start with the albums vs. individual songs thing. At heart, I’m an album guy. What I mean is, I find that on the whole, I prefer listening to an entire album of music vs. individual songs or best-of collections. Some of the greatest rock albums of all time – Who’s Next, Moving Pictures, The Queen Is Dead, Woyaya, Close To the Edge, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Let It Bleed – had an enormous amount of time and effort placed in the track sequence alone. Sure, the individual songs are quite enjoyable, but over the course of listening to an entire hour of a band’s work, the pieces can sometimes become more powerful when taken taken together. In rare cases, the construction of an album is so damn good that removing or rearranging even one track would be like removing an instrument from a Mozart work – the remainder starts to fall apart, like a Jenga puzzle with a foundation piece suddenly torn away. Sometimes, deconstruction isn’t worth it.
The funny thing is, when it comes to wine I’m in exactly the opposite camp. I love going through a great bottle of wine with friends, really “listening” to what the wine has to say as it unfolds and changes over the course of an evening, but all things being equal, I’d rather sample and enjoy several wines in the same time frame. And since they contain alcohol there is a simple biological limit to how many bottles can be opened and enjoyed in full by a small group of people in one evening. Not that I’ve tested that limit, of course. At least, not yet this week.
Which is why I fell in love with the wine tasting bar at the enormous Fairlakes, VA Whole Foods ‘mothership’ store while touring the Loudoun County wine country recently.
So, to recap: that’s Rock albums vs. MP3 singles, Mozart, Jenga, Virginia, and Whole Foods. Now we can talk about some wine!…
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