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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“…like a Viennese waltz in my mouth…”
Thus read the words of CellarTracker.com member Kdawg, in his (her?) New Year’s Eve 2007 tasting note of a 1995 Château d’Yquem. For those who don’t yet know about CellarTracker, it’s a veritable institution in the on-line wine world, offering on-line wine management and community tasting notes. I mention this only because the community tasting notes on CellarTracker.com are widely regarded as being notoriously tough in their wine ratings (which are offered on the 100 point scoring scale).
So it’s somewhat remarkable that the tasting notes available on CellarTracker.com for the `95 d’Yquem average a score of 94.45 (excepting an outlying blank anonymously submitted score of a 50 – including that would bring the average down to a 93). The highest score offered was a 99/100. Any way you slice the numbers, it amounts to praise of the highest order when it comes to the annals of CellarTracker.
At a Whole Foods wine bar in Virginia, I recently had an opportunity to try a glass of the `95 d’Yquem. How was it? Well, it was pretty f—king good. More on that in a minute or two. Or three.
Of course, it wouldn’t be 1WineDude article without a twist, and the sand-in-the-condom of this potential vintage d’Yquem advertisement is this:
If you paid $150 for a 375ml bottle, aren’t you predisposed to say that it’s great? How much economic investment causes so much emotional investment that it clouds your judgment? Could a hefty price tag perpetuate the hype of a wine’s awesomeness?…
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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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