The human palate is arguably the weakest of the five traditional senses. This begs an important question regarding wine tasting: is it bullshit, or is it complete and utter bullshit?
There are no two ways about it: the bullshit is strong with wine. Wine tasting. Wine rating. Wine reviews. Wine descriptions. They’re all related. And they’re all egregious offenders, from a bullshit standpoint.
Exhibit A: Wine experts contradict themselves. Constantly.
Statistician and wine-lover Robert Hodgson recently analyzed a series of wine competitions in California, after “wondering how wines, such as his own, [could] win a gold medal at one competition, and ‘end up in the pooper’ at others.” In one study, Hodgson presented blindfolded wine experts with the same wine three times in succession. Incredibly, the judges’ ratings typically varied by ±4 points on a standard ratings scale running from 80 to 100. Via the Wall Street Journal:
A wine rated 91 on one tasting would often be rated an 87 or 95 on the next. Some of the judges did much worse, and only about one in 10 regularly rated the same wine within a range of ±2 points.
Mr. Hodgson also found that the judges whose ratings were most consistent in any given year landed in the middle of the pack in other years, suggesting that their consistent performance that year had simply been due to chance.
It bears repeating that the judges Hodgson surveyed were no ordinary taste-testers. These were judges at California State Fair wine competition – the oldest and most prestigious in North America. If you think you can consistently rate the “quality” of wine, it means two things:
1: No. You can’t.
2. Wine-tasting is bullshit.