June 23, 2013

BUT YOU, OF COURSE, CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE:

Wine-tasting: it's junk science : Experiments have shown that people can't tell plonk from grand cru. Now one US winemaker claims that even experts can't judge wine accurately. What's the science behind the taste? (David Derbyshire, 6/22/13, The Observer)

The first experiment took place in 2005. The last was in Sacramento earlier this month. Hodgson's findings have stunned the wine industry. Over the years he has shown again and again that even trained, professional palates are terrible at judging wine.

"The results are disturbing," says Hodgson from the Fieldbrook Winery in Humboldt County, described by its owner as a rural paradise. "Only about 10% of judges are consistent and those judges who were consistent one year were ordinary the next year.

"Chance has a great deal to do with the awards that wines win."

These judges are not amateurs either. They read like a who's who of the American wine industry from winemakers, sommeliers, critics and buyers to wine consultants and academics. In Hodgson's tests, judges rated wines on a scale running from 50 to 100. In practice, most wines scored in the 70s, 80s and low 90s.

Results from the first four years of the experiment, published in the Journal of Wine Economics, showed a typical judge's scores varied by plus or minus four points over the three blind tastings. A wine deemed to be a good 90 would be rated as an acceptable 86 by the same judge minutes later and then an excellent 94.

Some of the judges were far worse, others better - with around one in 10 varying their scores by just plus or minus two. A few points may not sound much but it is enough to swing a contest - and gold medals are worth a significant amount in extra sales for wineries.

Hodgson went on to analyse the results of wine competitions across California, and found that their medals were distributed at random.

Which is why it's so easy to commodify everything.
Posted by at June 23, 2013 6:27 AM
  

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