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Category Archives: Wine trends

Wine competitions, judging, and blind luck

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Wine competitions, judging, and blind luckOr, as the co-author of a new study told me: “Consumers should disregard results from wine competitions, because it’s a matter of luck whether a wine gets a gold medal.”

That’s the conclusion of Robert Hodgson, a winemaker and statistician whose paper (written with SMU’s Jing Cao) is called “Criteria for Accrediting Expert Wine Judges” and appears in the current issue of The Journal of Wine Economics. It says that those of us who judge wine competitions, including some of the world’s best-known wine experts, are ordinary at best. And most of us aren’t ordinary.

Because:

… [M]any judges who fail the test have vast professional experience in the wine industry. This leads to us to question the basic premise that experts are able to provide consistent evaluations in wine competitions and, hence, that wine competitions do not provide reliable recommendations of wine quality.

More on the study and what it means, after the jump:

Finding the next big wine region

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Finding the next big wine regionHow does one find the next big wine region? Is it something the Winestream Media can anoint by giving out scores and fawning over celebrity winemakers? Is it something the industry can do, in the way Sonoma has been marketing itself? Or is it about the quality of the wine, where the region works its way into our consciousness without much help from anyone?

Or is finding the next big wine region one of those quaint 20th-century things, like VCRs and walkie talkie-sized cell phones, something that doesn’t make much difference in the post-modern wine world? The answer is after the jump:

No wonder figuring out wine prices is so confusing

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No wonder figuring out wine prices is so confusing

Or not, as the case may be.

On the one hand, a news story citing several legitimate sources predicts “bad news for wine-drinkers, as California wine production is likely to go way down this year, and therefore already steep prices are going to rise.” On the other, a news story,  citing a legitimate source, predicts an oversupply of European and especially Spanish grapes, with the resultant pressure on pricing. No wonder figuring out wine prices is so confusing.

How can both be possible? Three reasons:

Parochial journalism, and especially in the first report. If most of the Winestream Media has difficulty understanding the economics of the wine business, imagine how difficult it is for non-wine writers, who don’t know the wine business or economics. One of the most important lessons for any journalist is that what happens elsewhere can affect you, even if that doesn’t seem intuitive. Because, given the law of supply and demand, cheap wine imports will mitigate higher domestic prices almost every time.

Conventional wisdom. This is lazy journalism, in which a story is passed around as truth so often that it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. That’s how we ended up with the harbinger of doom story in 2012, epitomized by the infamous Time magazine headline, “Panic! Wine Prices Due to Rise.” Which never happened. Conventional wisdom, given that Internet journalism relies on links to other stories, which have relied on links to other stories, is particularly annoying in wine these days.

• The post-modern wine world, also known as the internationalization of wine, and where none of the old rules apply. Once upon a time, it was possible to predict wine prices despite parochialism and conventional wisdom. But that changed about 15 years ago; unfortunately, not enough people who write about wine prices understand what happened.

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