“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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“…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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