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Winebits 454: Judgment of Paris, wine pricing, low alcohol wine

Judgment of ParisThis week’s news: An analysis of the scoring at the legendary Judgment of Paris, plus retailer Total Wine sues to lower prices, and a low alcohol wine brand.

It’s all in the scores: David Morrison, writing on the Academic Wino site, discusses the scores given to the wines at the Judgment of Paris, where California bested France and established the U.S. as a top wine producing country. It’s a fascinating post, and the math isn’t too difficult to follow. In this, it shows just random the experts’ scores seem to be. As Morrison writes, “Instead, the differences among the judges were much larger than among the wines. Of the 11 judges, it seems that 5 were fairly consistent among themselves as to which wines they thought were high quality, while the other 6 were not, and these two groups provided rather different scores from each other.” And yet we use scores to continue to determine wine quality, despite all these limitations.

Lawsuit for lower prices: Retailer Total Wine has sued the state of Connecticut, saying that state laws that set minimum prices for alcohol violate federal law. Connecticut prohibits liquor retailers from selling wine and spirits below cost in almost all cases, the only state in the union that does so (though other states have minimum pricing laws). The Total lawsuit, one more in a long line filed by the fast-expanding retailer, is yet another challenge to the three-tier system of regulation that has governed booze sales since the end of Prohibition. Ironically, the Connecticut law is only 35 years old, but was passed to update minimum pricing laws that had already been in place, and may have been there to regulate alcohol consumption as much as to protect retailers.

Less alcohol, same taste: In the on-going debate over high alcohol wines, those who like high alcohol argue that it’s the only way to get big fruit flavors. That’s where a New Zealand producer says it has found a way to get those fruit flavors, but at lower alcohols. The idea sounds goofy to me – rocks in the vineyard that hold heat from sunlight – but Stoneleigh Vineyards says it can get fruit flavors and alcohol levels at less than 10 percent, about one-quarter lower than normal. The lower alcohol wines aren’t available in the U.S., so I can’t tell you whether they’re any good. But I will keep an eye out for them.

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