“One not only drinks wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it, and—one talks about it.”
– King Edward VII of England
If the events of the past several days are any indication, one also enters it into wine competitions, and then one talks – and talks, and talks – about the results!
In case you’ve been living inside of a bottle lately, here’s a recap.:
Last week, the Journal of Wine Economics issued a report that included an article by Robert T. Hodgson titled An Analysis of the Concordance Among 13 U.S. Wine Competitions. Hodgson’s report analyzed data garnered from 13 wine competitions and more-or-less concluded that the distribution of medals from those competitions showed no difference statistically then if the medals had been awarded by chance.
My personal take was that the report lacked sufficient analysis of the potential context impacting wine competitions for the data to support the conclusion drawn in the report – even if that conclusion might ultimately be true. Several people agreed and disagreed with me – which is one of the great things about blogging, after all!
The article was probably designed to kick-off discussion on the relative value of wine competitions in general, and no mater what your view of Hodgson’s analysis, it would be difficult to refute it’s success in doing just that.
The repercussions of the report were discussed on Dr. Vino, Vinography, and right here on 1wineDude.com – and judging by the excellent and myriad opinions on the topic that were voiced in the responses to those articles, the topic has more legs than half a glass of 16% abv Grenache. The topic even found its way into the discussion forums on the mead website GotMead.com (seriously).
Topping it all off, on Friday the Business Section of the L.A. Times ran a story by Jerry Hirsch on the aftermath of the report, in which I was quoted. What I liked about the L.A. times piece, aside from the fact that they spelled the name of my blog correctly (though they incorrectly stated that I am a Certified Wine Educator – I’m not, I’m a Certified Specialist of Wine, which is a different cert. but from the same organization), was that it had a slightly different take on the report – namely, how the competition results are used after the competition is over…
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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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A very quick blurb to let you know that the latest edition of Chester County Cuisine & Nightlife has hit the stands. This month’s issue (August 2009) includes a piece that I wrote in late 2008 on Penns Woods winemaker Gino Razzi.
CCC, masterminded by WCDish.com co-founder and irrepressible Philly-area foodie Mary Bingham, continues to improve with every issue and seems like it’s really starting to hit its stride. And best of all, it’s FREE.
So if you happen to find yourself in visiting, living in, or mysteriously waking up somewhere in Chester County, PA, be sure to grab yourself a copy or two, or hit the PDF after the jump for a tree-friendly version!
You really like my limousine
You like the way the wheels roll.
You like my seven inch leather heels
and coming to all of the shows.
Do you love me?
– KISS, Do You Love Me (from Destroyer, 1976)
The American Association of Wine Economists has released another working paper, which often is great fodder for wine-related discussion, unless of course you want to talk about the wine itself. And it might piss some women wine lovers off…
This particular working paper, No. 25, is titled “WHEN DOES THE PRICE AFFECT THE TASTE? RESULTS FROM A WINE EXPERIMENT” and details an experiment performed on approximately 130 people (average age: 29) to measure how knowledge of a price of a bottle of wine impacts people’s perception of that wine (good or bad). The experiment gave three different scenarios to the subjects:
- Taste then Rate the wine with no price info. given (control).
- Give the Price, taste, then rate the wines.
- Taste the wine, give the price, then rate the wine.
There were some interesting findings from this little study, including a reinforcement of the subjective nature of tasting wine:
“Objective measures of wine quality are not easily defined, and consumer tastes with regard to wine are highly heterogeneous…”
as well as what seems like the AAWE’s obligatory dig at professional wine tasters and judges (they love to do this, I think):
“Tasters are only marginally better than a random guess at distinguishing vintage years from non-vintage years from the same vineyard, or reserve bottlings from regular bottlings from the same vineyard and year, despite very large differences in price.”
and an underscoring of a not-so-revolutionary finding that seems to have been proven for nearly any kind of marketed consumer good:
“…extrinsic information provided prior to first-hand experience with the good in question has a significant effect of how the good is experienced, whereas extrinsic information provided after the experience does not.”
WARNING: Some women may want to stop reading at this point.
The most interesting finding was the gender bias that the AAWE claims resulted during the study.
“…an expensive wine gets considerably higher ratings when tasters are informed about the high price before tasting, relative to tasting “blind” – but only from female tasters. By contrast, women that taste the wine before being told the price do not assign significantly higher ratings, suggesting that once they form a first-hand opinion the attribute information has little effect.”
It seems that some women at least think that they prefer expensive wine, even if the wine they’re given is not really expensive. In other words, Chicks dig pricey wine (even if it’s not really pricey)!
The finding is interesting but I’m guessing it would hardly prove a revelation to any guy who has ever lied to a date about the price of wine and dinner.
Now, I know what some of you guys are probably thinking.
“Egads! Does she really love me, or just my expensive wine?!??”
Take heart, guys – the wine doesn’t have to really be expensive, she just needs to think that it’s expensive!
But seriously, before any wineries out there up their prices, put a picture of a shirtless hot guy on the label, and contact their marketing department to start running commercials during Desperate Housewives – you all need to know a few things about this AAWE study.
As far as I’m concerned, the study isn’t scientifically reliable, and supports no real conclusions, until such time as it’s repeated (possibly with larger & larger subject groups). Otherwise, it’s just guessing based on a very small sample size.
So – guys with deep pockets and deep cellars, don’t dump your better halves just yet. Because chances are they are really just that – your better halves!
(images: hollywood-elsewhere, wine-economics.org)