Monday, March 04, 2013

Expertise of Wine Experts

The title of the Vox EU article says it all: "Wine tasting: Is 'terroir' a joke and/or are wine experts incompetent?". The article describes research that debunks the alleged expertise of wine experts; one of the conclusions is this:

... [A]lleged experts repeatedly cannot tell a superstar wine from a cheaper bottle. Like many cultural commodities, it seems that the quality of wine is not an objective trait. Rather, these commodities become whatever we want them to become.

More interestingly, this sort of study has a pretty rich history. Here's a short description of a study from the 1970s:

The story started in 1976: Steven Spurrier, a well-known English wine trader and owner of the Caves de la Madeleine in Paris, and US-born Patricia Gallagher, from the French Académie du Vin, turned things upside-down by organising a blind tasting of four white Burgundies, four red Bordeaux1 and 12 California wines (six whites and six reds) in Paris; the last were virtually unknown in Europe. The nine judges were judged to be extremely competent wine connoisseurs – sommeliers, producers of famous wines, a wine journalist, and owners of Michelin-starred restaurants. The tasting ended up ranking a California wine as winner, both for whites and reds.