We all know the type. Twirling and wafting. Sipping and Spitting. Oohing and Aahing. Yes, the wine “aficionados” of the world (and I think we can all admit to occasionally crossing that line) have for years been sampling and pontificating the nuances of any given bordeaux or chardonnay. “A hint of cherry” here or “subtle oak notes” there. But how many times have you guzzled sampled one of these same wines with out the same sensory observation? And how many times have you found yourself nodding simply to avoid the embarrassment; the embarrassment of your mediocre palate.
Fear not! Read this Wall Street Journal article and you may just have to laugh next time you hear the grumblings of a wine expert. Robert Hodgson, a retired Statistics professor and proprietor of his own vineyard, set out years ago to determine the validity of the popular 100 point rating system and has made some pretty fascinating conclusions along the way. One of the most interesting points made in this article is that related to the award system within the wine industry.
Hodgson was curious how one wine could be given an award at one competition while being ridiculed at another. Any realistic wine drinker wouldn’t be that shocked. Wine along with food is about experiences, memories, settings, and so much more. There is no exact rating system for a given taste; especially from person to person. Each individual will have their own opinion. But what that same realistic wine drinker may be shocked to hear, the variation comes from much more than the individual’s preference.
100 wines were served to 70 trained judges over two days in a blind tasting consistent with a competition setting. Except in this experiment, each wine was served three separate times to each judge, all from the same bottle. Rather than having consistent opinions (they didn’t know this was happening), the average judge rated the wine +/- 4 points. That means if the judge rated the wine a 90, the other two times could have been an 86 or a 94. And this wouldn’t even be so shocking if the prices we pay weren’t so heavily dictated by these results. As a consumer, we use the scale to tell us if something is worth the money. But it makes sense. We have all had those expensive duds.
Honestly, even before reading this article I’ve always felt strongly about wine. That is, I felt strongly that you should find what you like and drink it! It’s true, some wines compliment food better than others, and some vineyards and some varietals are historically amazing but go with what you like and 99 times out of 100 you won’t be disappointed. Lastly, I find trusting the opinion of someone you respect to be a surefire way to find good wine. Recently my most trusted friend…Trader Joe. If you haven’t checked out the wine store in Union Square you’re really missing out. Sure you can buy the three buck chuck and you’ll be content but pick any of their “Top 50” (almost all around $4.99) and you may be blown away…even if your mediocre palate can’t taste the licorice.