Wine medal competition study reveals…randomness!

The Wine Experience, Wine — By KF Louis on February 7, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I’m pretty transparent about my pet peeves about the wine industry, and near the top of that list is wine medal competitions.  It’s because, with few exceptions, I haven’t been able to correlate  gold-silver-bronze with my personal experience.  And because, I see many people rely too heavily on such medals.

But recently, I’ve felt vindicated.  I came across a comprehensive wine medal study in the Journal of Wine Economics which did an analysis of over 4000 wines entered in 13 U.S. wine competitions.  It shows “little concordance among the venues in awarding gold medals.” Feel free to read the whole thing at the link above if you wish — it’s pretty deep — or else just take a look at the punchline:

“An examination of the results of 13 U.S. wine competitions shows that (1) there is almost no consensus among the 13 wine competitions regarding wine quality, (2) for wines receiving a gold medal in one or more competitions, it is very likely that the same wine received no award at another, (3) the likelihood of receiving a gold medal can be statistically explained by chance alone.”

Or, for an easier read, check out this story in the November 15th, 2009 Wall Street Journal, “A Hint of Hype, a Taste of Illusion,” which does a great job of drilling into the how’s and why’s of wine competitions, and points to new possibilities for these types of events.

And I don’t know about you guys, but I am totally psyched about the Consumer Wine Awards at Lodi, to be held March 14-15, 2010. Not only will the organizers unveil a whole new methodology of wine tasting that aims to be more democratic, but it will be done by CONSUMERS…enthusiasts, snobs and other folks who are not considered to be wine professionals.

My main prediction:  consumer judges will put up a top 50 list that is nearly price indifferent — there will be $5 and $50 wines right next to each other.  And this rarely happens in professional tastings, because professionals for the most part can identify wines that cost more to produce, and they are likely to  award them higher marks just because…and also to look more consistent in their judging.  I mean, wouldn’t you be professionally embarrassed if you picked $6 Delicato Zinfandel over the $50 competitors in the California State Fair Wine Competition about ten years back?  I would.

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