Thursday, September 26, 2013

Is wine tasting reliable and consistent? Study says no

Think you can tell good wine from less good wine in a blind tasting? Think again. Robert Hodgson, a professor turned vintner, has published a study analyzing the performance of expert judges in the California State Fair wine competition for the years 2005-2008. His conclusion? In about half the cases the wine, and only the wine was the deciding factor.

How could he tell? Judges try wine in flights of about 30 wines each. The researchers included three different pours of four wines in one of the flights, so each judge tried four wines three times. The wine was poured from the same bottle each time. You can read the full article here. Interestingly, the article suggests that judges were more consistent at judging wine they thought was of very low quality.

But wait, there's more. Hodgson was able to compare judge performance from year to year. According to this article in the Guardian:
"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.
 Wine is complex, and a lot goes into tasting it, including the wine's temperature and what the taster ate earlier that day. So if you pick wine by the medals it has won, well, maybe you'll like it but maybe you won't.

According to the Guardian there does appear to be a scientific basis for the practice of drinking white wines while eating fish.
Researchers from Japanese drinks firm Mercian tested 64 varieties of wine with scallops, and concluded that the iron content of red wine speeded up the decay of fish, resulting in an overly ‘fishy’ taste.
How do you pick wine?

Thanks to Eli Molin for the article in the Guardian. Image via Clown Fish Wines.

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