Friday, August 9, 2013

Jamie Goode, writing on the Wiseman study, which numerous media reports claim showed that average people can't tell expensive wine from cheap wine:

"There is a single, crucial detail that is absent from these reports. It was not a comparison between two wines, one cheap and one expensive. Instead, subjects were given just a single wine to taste, and then asked to say whether it was cheap or expensive."

Even though it's not recent, it's a good write-up of another misconception that's been cemented into 'common knowledge'. A good, thorough read.
John Szabo has a lengthy post at WineAlign that I missed when it was published, but that goes into some depth to address the actual experiments behind a lot of popular claims concerning wine tasting/reviewing. It well-written and a good read.

I do take a bit of an issue with his take on Robert Hodgson and his work (presented recently in completely expected overblown style in the Guardian) showing that wine ratings at the California State Fair are inconsistent. Szabo seems rather upset by the accusation (in fact making a mistake himself when reporting that experiment only went on for one year) and spends quite a bit of time talking about all of the factors that go into tasting the wine ("Bottle variation, cleanliness of glassware, temperature, order of wines, or how long the bottle had been open, not to mention taster fatigue or health...").

I think this is exactly the opposite of the point he has been making throughout the rest of his article. He wants to make the argument that wine tasting/scoring is in fact legitimate, but then claims that so many factors come into play that there is no way for anyone to expect consistency. It undermines his central thesis.

If we are to expect the public to believe that there is legitimacy to wine tasting/scoring (and there is) the goal isn't to explain away all the problems. The goal *also* has to be to address real problems with the system, admit them, and fix them. The wine competitions are one of the big public spectacles in wine tasting, and if they are being run in a fashion in which the results are completely inconsistent, waving them away as immaterial isn't the correct answer. Reworking them so that they show the public how wine scoring is a real thing is the answer.