Posts Tagged ‘wall street journal’

Wine and life—or at least wine and pop culture—intersected in two very enjoyable ways for me last week. I happened upon the first in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, which is my daily paper of choice (I suffer the pun-filled headlines and painful editorial page for the outstanding culture and food-and-wine features). The Journal has just added two new wine columnists: Jay McInerney and Lettie Teague. McInerney has long written about wine for the now-defunct House & Garden magazine, and his two books on wine, A Hedonist in the Cellar and Bacchus and Me, are collections of those H&G columns.

I love his new column in the Journal—it’s brimming with evocative, conversational descriptors, like when he compares Dom Pérignon pink Champagne to the actress Julianne Moore, whom he had just run into in the West Village. Teague’s column is equally impressive, but there’s a bit more ‘wine industry insider’ in her tone—which makes sense, given her longtime status as wine editor for Food and Wine magazine. The two writers will share the On Wine column, appearing on alternate Saturdays.

Later in the day that marked McInerney’s column debut, I happened to rent A Good Year, the Russell Crowe adaptation of Peter Mayle’s novel about a London financier who gives up—not quite voluntarily—his manic urban existence to run a long-lost uncle’s vineyard in Provence. The plot is a bit thin, but the film is pure eye candy. Pair it with a nice Bandol.

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Decrying wine critics, publications, and competitions that use numerical ratings to measure a wine’s worth has been the fashion for a while — but now a few academic types are using research to back up the rancor.

Robert Hodgson is one such academic. As the Wall Street Journal recounted in great detail over the weekend, this retired statistics professor-turned-vintner joined the advisory board of the California State Fair’s famed wine competition a few years back and subjected the competition’s judges to a controlled scientific study. Every year for four years, 70 judges were presented with a blind tasting of approximately 100 wines over a two-day period, with each wine being served three times. Results showed that, on average, each judge’s ratings of the same wine varied by +/-4 points, with a different rating each time it was tasted.

Hodgson followed up on that study, which was published earlier this year in the Journal of Wine Economics, with a broader look at multiple wine competitions, and the statistical odds that any one wine will win a gold medal in any competition. To quote the Journal, “The medals seemed to be spread around at random, with each wine having about a 9% chance of winning a gold medal in any given competition.” The results of the second study were published in September in a newsletter called the California Grapevine.

As recently as last week, ratings skeptics found backing in the pages of the trade journal Psychological Science, which featured Brock University business professor Antonia Mantonakis’ article “Order in Choice: Effects of Serial Position on Preferences.”

Mantonakis and her coauthors subjected volunteers to yet another blind tasting, with each taster sampling five glasses. The first glass tasted repeatedly earned higher marks than the second and third among novice tasters, while wine experts preferred the fourth or fifth glass. The kicker? Unbeknownst to the tasters, all glasses contained the same wine.

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