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Blinding You With Wine Evaluation Science! (VineSleuth Data Shows That Expert Wine Tasters Are Actually Consistent)

Vinted on August 15, 2013 binned in commentary, wine news

Piling onto so-called expert wine evaluators has become all the rage lately. Remember when the California State Fair commercial wine competition judges got steamrolled (again) by data showing that blind tasting medals are awarded in a random distribution?

So expert wine evaluation is all just donkey-bong bunk, right?

Not so fast, Jerky.

According to data collected over the last several months by VineSleuth, it turns out that when we live by the wine evaluation data sword, we also die by the wine data evaluation sword. VineSleuth’s data shows that expert wine evaluators “are able to repeat their observations on individual wine samples about 90% of the time” when tasting wines blind.

Now, where I come from, 90% is a sh*t-ton better performance than can be explained by random chance. It suggests that the blind wine evaluation game isn’t so clearly flawed as some might make it out to be.

And before you start manically flailing away at your keyboards typing me flaming e-mails about how the experts chosen for VineSleuth’s analysis must not actually be experts, or that their (patent-pending and proprietary) methodology is somehow flawed, you should know that they ran it with the help of sensory scientists and numerical algorithms researchers/experts, and that they stocked their tasting panels with folks who make their livings tasting wine: winemakers, oenologists, sommeliers, writers… and little ol’ me.

And pretty soon, you’ll be able to test out my work for yourself…

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Pence In The Sta. Rita Hills Cross Hairs, But How’s The Wine?

Vinted on May 2, 2013 binned in overachiever wines, wine news, wine review

Central Coast-ish California’s Pence Ranch, and its charismatic owner, Blair Pence (who, with toothy grin and cowboy hat looks every bit the part of a rancher) have been making the wine scene headlines so far in 2013, and not in a good way.

To bring you up to speed on what has become the U.S. wine biz equivalent of tossing flaming poop bags about AVA boundaries, let’s quote a few spots and then we can talk about what no one else seems to be getting at in this battle, which is Pence’s wine itself.

To the tape, from Independent.com (emphasis mine):

Vintner Blair Pence filed with the federal government this February to expand the borders of the increasingly renowned Sta. Rita Hills wine-grape-growing appellation to the east to include his vineyard, which he planted in 2006 outside of Buellton… USC-educated developer-turned-farmer has been dealing with the wrath of his winemaking neighbors, and their terroir tussle is now making headlines in the international wine press. “If you look at the history, you look at the geology, you look at the weather, it belongs in the appellation,” said Pence, who built Los Angeles office buildings and industrial parks before growing grapes, ranching cattle, and raising avocados. “The science is so clear-cut.”

And the opposition summary, via WineSpectator.com (emphasis mine):

The board of the Sta. Rita Hills Winegrower Alliance (SRHWA) disagreed with Pence’s arguments, however, and voted unanimously to oppose expansion. Wes Hagen of Clos Pepe, the original petitioner who crafted the AVA boundaries, is against the expansion, saying the new border would extend into a distinct landmass called the Buellton Flats, which has a north-south orientation, while the current AVA has an east-west orientation. According to Hagen, the areas Pence wants included also lack the maritime influence that growers insist make the region ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. “We’ve spent $25 million and 20 years promoting the area,” said Hagen. “We don’t want to be catty, but we want to protect what we’ve built.”

Reaction has not been kind, probably because this seems like a bit of a money grab for Pence, who stands to gain higher grape prices if his AVA expansion bid is successful. Since I visited Pence Ranch and talked about this with Blair Pence last August, I thought I’d chime in on the debate/debacle; mostly because I find it very odd that little has been said about whether or not the Pence Ranch wine itself seems to fit what one might call the Sta. Rita Hills Pinot profile…

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Wine Blog Awards 2013 Nominations Now Open

Vinted on March 27, 2013 binned in wine blogging, wine news

Just a (very) quick hit today to let you know that the nominations for the 2013 Wine Blog Awards are now open, so head on over and submit your favorites for consideration. It might be the easiest route to upping your good karma that you’ll encounter today. Just sayin’…

Now, the WBAs have been both lauded and criticized, sometimes in the same article and sometimes right here on 1WD, but having had some involvement in how they work (both as a member of an advisory committee and as a judge) I can tell you that they’ve improved substantially in some way/shape/form every year that they’ve been in existence. The WBAs are a nice approving-nod-of-the-head from the wine blogging community and wine consumers (who are very often the same people!) to acknowledge those who are really getting it right when it comes to wine blogging. And all of that starts with your nominations.

The favorite sideshow spectacle of the WBAs sometimes seems to be moaning and groaning about which blogs weren’t included, but the simple fact is that ONLY blogs that are nominated can be considered. And so, similar to the don’t-botch-if-you-didn’t-vote argument, the best way to give your favorite wine websites a shot at winning an award – and avoid the sideshow – is to go and nominate them in the first place. Since multiple nominations don’t help (and only make for a bit more work for the WBA organizers), it’s highly recommended that you glance over the list of websites that have already been nominated before submitting your faves.

Cheers – and enjoy the good karma!

Investing In Fine Wine Is For Fools

Vinted on March 12, 2013 binned in commentary, wine news

“Investing” in fine wine is a fool’s errand.

As in, “greater fools” – for it is certainly a fool who hopes to sell his/her speculation to greater fools for a profit.

The term greater fool is actually a pseudo-technical financial one, probably best explained in William J. Bernstein’s amazing book The Four Pillars of Investing (emphasis mine):

“The acquisition of a rare coin or fine painting for purely financial purposes is clearly a speculation: these assets produce no income, and your return is dependent on someone else paying yet a higher price for them later. (This is known as the “greater fool” theory of investing; when you purchase a rapidly appreciating asset with little intrinsic value and no capability to create income on its own, you are dependent on convincing someone else to take it off your hands later at a higher price.) There’s nothing wrong with purchasing any of these things for the future pleasure they may provide, of course, but
this is not the same thing as a financial investment.”

Substitute “coin” with “red Burgundy” and “painting” with “First Growth Bordeaux” and the quote would remain apt, cogent and frighteningly applicable. The bottom line is that holding onto fine wine for any reason other than to eventually drink it (or pass it on to someone else who might) is stupid.

This is because wine does not conform in any way to the modern paradigm of investing, which is built upon lower-risk (and thus lower-returning) loans or higher risk (and thus higher-returning) valuation of something’s (usually a company’s) ability to make profit. At best, it’s a hedge that someone (the greater fool) will want the object badly enough to take it off your hands at a price higher than what you paid for it…

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