Tag Archives: wine experts

Follow-up: Expert scores and red wine bias

red wine biasOur red wine bias study has the Internet buzzing – and people are saying smart things about it

This week’s post about red wine bias among wine critics did everything that we hoped it would do: Get people talking about what our study means. There has been some tremendous discussion – not just here, but elsewhere around the cyber-ether.

My biggest surprise? That so many mainstream wine critics picked up on the study and offered serious comment, instead of dismissing it out of hand. That’s my mistake, in assuming the worst. My biggest disappointment? That not enough people saw the study as one more example of everything that’s wrong with wine scores.

Suneal Chaudhary, who crunched the numbers for the study and deserves an award for his efforts, said, “I’m starting to get a sense that there’s something about the scoring system that’s flawed in some way but can’t exactly put it in words at the moment. The other reaction I’ve seen a lot is that red wines are more complex and so they should rightly score higher. Which is a fine argument if it’s true — but I’m not sure if it is. Personally, I think whites have a different aesthetic to them. It’s like saying the smell of roses is more complex than jasmine or something, but does that make the smell of roses better?”

That was a common theme among the comments, emails, and discussions Suneal and I found – that only wines made with serious grapes deserve the best scores, and the only serious white grape is chardonnay (and don’t even think about mentioning rose). So, according to this argument, why should anyone be surprised by any kind of bias? It’s only natural and right.

Which, of course, made me very sad – the some animals are more equal than other animals theory.

A sampling of other reaction from around the Internet:

• A mostly favorable discussion on the Wine Berserkers site, which also surprised me. It’s the Internet – who says nice things?

• Winemakers, not surprisingly, were split. Those who focus on white wine (and several left comments on the blog) disagreed that red was more difficult or more expensive to make. Red winemakers, not surprisingly, said of that course red was more expensive and more difficult, so why shouldn’t it get higher scores?

• Blog reader Patrick Sirridge’s observation was one of the most astute: “In my view, many wine critics/writers follow the herd and provide higher ratings for higher priced reds,” he said in an email. “Even more modestly priced reds get the benefit of the doubt regarding quality and complexity and thus get higher ratings. Bias in favor of reds – sure.”

• Another blog reader, Bob Henry, found several old magazine articles and blog posts discussing this subject, including an interview with Robert Parker in what was then called Wine Times and today is the Wine Enthusiast. In the interview, which is at the link, Parker said that some red wines are indeed more serious than others, and that his scoring system reflects that. I wonder if Parker would disavow that comment today – or if the Wine Advocate still uses that approach.

You can download a PDF of the report here.

Expert scores and red wine bias

red wine biasIs the Winestream media biased in favor of red wine? Our study seems to show just that

Do experts rate red wines more highly than white wines, regardless of price, vintage, and region? Does this mean there is a critical bias in favor of red wines?

That may well be the case. Data scientist, wine lover, PhD, and former college math professor Suneal Chaudhary did the numbers, analyzing more than 64,000 wine scores dating to the 1970s and taken from the major wine magazines. The results are something I’ve been trying to get a handle on for years, the idea that critics favor reds over whites. The details are after the jump: Continue reading

Why the world hates wine, wine experts, and wine snobs

Self-denial is an important part of wine; how else are we going to accept so much of the overpriced, underwhelming stuff we buy with such grace? It’s also why we don’t understand why so many others think wine is silly, snotty, and elitist.

Fortunately, the Wine Curmudgeon is always ready to help burst wine’s bubble, because how else will we teach others to appreciate it as much as we do unless we get rid of the pretension? To that end, consider this clip from a show on TruTV called “Adam Ruins Everything,” where host Adam Conover says that wine is “just totally subjective, like all foods. We don’t need sandwich experts because we know what we like.”

Sound familiar?

For more about wine snobs:
? Is wine the last bastion of the snob?
? Winebits 391: Wine snobs edition
? Five things not to say about wine this holiday season

Update: Third-party wine clubs and their experts

wine club expertsGlobal Wine Company, the subject of a post in May that discussed third-party wine clubs and the “experts” who pick their wines, has decided that transparency is the better part of valor. Global, which runs wine clubs for The New York Times, the Washington Post, Williams-Sonoma, and several others, has started listing the buyers and their credentials on the wine club websites.

Martin Reyes, one of Global’s buyers, emailed me after the post ran, but not to tell me I should mind my own business. Instead, he thanked me for the post, saying he had been trying to convince the Global bosses that it would be better to name the experts and not leave consumers wondering. “I figured you might enjoy knowing briefly what came out of this. The screenshot below was a watershed moment for us. … You sir, are awesome. Thanks again.”

That screenshot, pictured above, is also part of the Times club website. It’s a new section that tells club members who buys the wines and why they’re qualified to do so. Not difficult to do, good for business, and — more importantly — the right thing to do.

The power of the press, even when it’s a cranky ex-newspaperman who likes cheap wine and does it all by himself. Maybe there’s something to this blogging business after all.

Winebits 330: Cheap wine, more cheap wine, and corrupt wine writers

Winebits 330: Cheap wine, more cheap wine, and corrupt wine writersBet you never thought you’d see cheap wine in a headline with corrupt wine writers:

? Nothing more than $10: That’s the verdict of the British wine drinking public, where 80 percent of the wine sold costs 6 (about US$10) or less a bottle. And less than seven per cent are willing to pay more than 10 (about US$17) for a bottle.This doesn’t surprise the Wine Curmudgeon, of course, who has long been an Anglophile, complete with Tom Baker Dr. Who videos, a Winston Churchill poster, and a London Underground coffee mug. And it shouldn’t surprise any intelligent U.S, wine drinker, who has followed the blog or seen the most recent Wine Market Council study (which found that even the richest wine drinkers buy cheap wine). But you know the wine business — someone, somewhere will claim it’s all a lie, and we’re actually drinking $25 wine that gets a 93. Nuts to them. I want some of the 4 Adli rose in the article in the first link.

? Even the experts love cheap wine: A tip of the WC’s fedora to visitor Julia B., who sent this to me: Some of the hippest winemakers in the business drink wine that shows up on the blog. Like the Little James Basket Press red and whites. Like the Muga rose (recommended by a guy who used to make a $20 rose). This demonstrates two things: That people, when paying their own money, are fussier about what they buy, and that the quality of cheap wine — as preached here so many times most of you are probably sick of it — has improved dramatically.

? The Chicago way? Last week’s post about wine as bribes turned this up: That a French author claims her country’s wine critics are regularly bribed and that winery ratings are influenced by “surreal criteria,” such as parking spaces. And you think we had disagreements over scores in the U.S. Isabelle Saporta writes in “VinoBusiness (Albion Michel, $23.75)” that the French wine business is a “cruel, medieval micro-society” where powerful chateau owners care more about profit than wine and that French critics write favorable reviews in return for cash. One, says Saporta, allegedly demands US$7,000 for writing nice things about a producer’s wine — something I do for free. It’s hell to have ethics, no? Think of all the white Burgundy I could buy with a glowing review of crappy cheap wine.

Winebits 301: Drink Local Wine, wine costs, wine experts

? Regional wine week: Drink Local Wine will hold its sixth annual Regional Wine Week from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, which means everyone has a chance to be a wine writer. Maybe that's my legacy as one of the group's co-founders? Anyone ?- professional wine writer to bloggers to wine drinkers with Facebook or Tumblr — can send a link to their story or post about regional wine. This year, as a bonus, there's a photo contest with wine-related prizes. Over the past five years, writers from across the United States and Canada have posted stories and sent DLW links from blogs, websites, magazines, and newspapers about their favorite
regional and local wines, wineries and events. I'll have my annual post on Oct. 6.

? Breaking down the cost of wine: One of the great mysteries about wine is how costs are allocated; that is, how much does each part of the process cost, whether grapes, bottling, marketing, and so forth. I cover this in the Cheap Wine Book (with a nifty graphic), and Jo Diaz, a long-time wine industry insider, has come up with similar numbers. What's important to note is how little the grapes cost — about seven percent of a $50 bottle of wine.

? Who do consumers trust? Not, apparently, wine writers if one study is to be believed. We're so far down the list it's hardly worth mentioning. This has caused all sorts of kerfluffle among those of us who do this for a living, which I'm mostly ignoring as part of my new policy of not writing about wine writing. It's worth mentioning that the study's author, the respected John Gillespie, has said that the survey "may not fully capture market influence." But it sure is fun to write about, no?



Winebits 228: Wine experts, wine sales, phone apps

  ? "Why do they buy wine?" The wine business would benefit if it listened to experts outside the industry on marketing its products. That's the opinion of Helen McGinn who used to buy wine for the British Tesco supermarket chain, who told a conference that the wine business is too insular in its approach.  ?The golden ticket," she said, "is thinking why does someone want to buy a bottle of wine in the first place? Who are they drinking it with? Is it a celebraion or special dinner? And then giving them options. ? This will not come as a revelation to regular visitors here, and I think it's especially significant in the wake of the industry's shock that the wine buyer for Costco isn't awed by wine as much as they think she should be.

? Direct-to-consumer wine sales: Wine drinkers buying directly from the winery could well be a key part in the future of the wine business, says the Wine Intelligence consultancy, tripling over the next decade. But there are a couple of caveats. First, the indsutry must still struggle with draconian shipping laws left over from Prohibition. Second, it's a tiny, tiny part of wine sales — just 30 million Americans buy direct in a six month period, and it accounts for just one bottle in 50 sold in this country.

? The failure of iPhone apps: Writes Paul Mabray of VinTank in Palate Press: "Why are wine iPhone apps not succeeding when other niche apps like Foodspotting are doing so well?" The piece offers a couple of good reasons, including and most imporantly the lack of wine drinkers who want to use them. It's not so much that wine drinkers are interested, says Mabray, but that there just aren't a lot of wine drinkers to use them, and especially when compared ot food apps. Since everyone, after all, eats and only 60 percent of the U.S. population drinks wine.