Why amateur wine scores are every bit as good as professionals’

By Mark Schatzker and Richard Bazinet | Updated May 25, 2018

Article summary

Few consumer products offer as staggering a range of choice as wine. You can buy a bottle of Dark Horse Big Red Blend for $8. Or for around $500, you can get a 2012 bottle of Sloan Proprietary Red. Yet for each bottle, the same question applies: Is it any good?

The rise of the wine-rating crowd

Cellar Tracker online

In 2004, Eric LeVine — then a group program manager at Microsoft — launched CellarTracker, a site where amateur wine enthusiasts can rate wines. Today, CellarTracker is the web’s most popular “community” or “crowdsourced” wine review website, containing 6.3 million reviews from 113,000-plus users for more than 2.2 million different wines.

Amateur and professional wine scores correlate very tightly

How similar? We ran a statistical tool called a Spearman correlation and got a figure of 0.576. A perfect correlation is 1. An utter non-correlation is 0. A score of 0.576 may not sound impressive at first, but it can actually get worse than 0 — a negative correlation, which is what you would see if you compared, say, shortness with the likelihood of playing professional basketball.

Amateurs appear more expert than the experts

It looks very much like the enthusiasts actually do a better job of agreeing with the experts than the experts do with each other. That might sound odd, but out of thousands of wines we analyzed, only a handful contradicted this pattern. Simply put, if you want to know what the experts think, the best place to look appears to be, of all places, CellarTracker.

The better the wine, the more experts agree with the amateurs

How do wine enthusiasts compare with the experts like Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson? Very well. Javier Zarracina

There is also a tendency for scores to converge as wines improve in quality. This is evident in the arrow shape of the clusters in figures comparing CellarTracker with Wine Advocate and CellarTracker with International Wine Cellar. Average scores, furthermore, are high. On Wine Advocate, the average score was 89, on International Wine Cellar it was 91, and it was 17 out of 20 for Jancis Robinson. On CellarTracker, it was 89. This tells us that experts and enthusiasts alike don’t seem to be spending a great deal of time scoring mediocre wines.

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Have you heard – The Bottle of Wine Parable

Huang Chan was a very rich man who was deliberately tough on his farmhand, Wong. Huang Chan gave Wong a bottle and said, ‘Buy me a bottle of wine.’ Wong, the poor farmhand enquired, ‘How can I buy you wine with no money at all?’ Huang Chan replied disdainfully, ‘Anyone can buy wine with money. It takes real skill to buy wine without money.’

Time elapsed and Wong eventually returned with the empty bottle. He handed the bottle to Huang Chan and murmured, ‘Enjoy the wine, please.’

Staring at the empty bottle with some dismay, Huang asked, ‘There is no wine, how can I enjoy this?’ Wong replied to Huang Chan, with a straight face, ‘Anyone can enjoy wine if there is some but it takes real skill to enjoy wine when there is none.’

(Not sure that this would be a skill I would seek to develop. Ed)

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Science says wine and cheese make you fit and smart

If you needed another excuse to have some cheese with your wine tonight, we are hooking you up!

Because it turns out that cheese may not be so bad for you after all…

A recent study by the Global Dairy Platform, Dairy Research Institute and Dairy Australia has found that consuming cheese doesn’t increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

“There’s quite as widespread but mistaken belief among the public that dairy products in general can be bad for you, but that’s a misconception,” Ian Givens, a nutrition professor at Reading University told The Guardian. “While it is a widely held belief, our research shows that that’s wrong.”

And red wine, in moderation, can help your heart and your brain, according to a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.

The study showed that when wine residue passed through the gut it has the ability to prevent cells from dying, and therefore delay potential neurodegenerative diseases.

Good to know!

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In the News – Wine boss kickback trial begins

peter-scutts
Peter Scutts is shown here in a file photo from 2008. Photo / Tim Cuff

By Brendan Manning, Monday, 4 May 2015, The NZ Herald

(I thought it quite pertinent bearing in mind the recent revelations about FIFA. We can hold our own with scandals as well.)

Former New Zealand Wine Company chief executive Peter Scutts played a “double game”, receiving kickbacks from a wholesaler the company was supplying wine to, the Auckland High Court has heard. In a case brought by the Serious Fraud Office, Scutts is facing 16 Crimes Act charges of dishonestly using a document and one Secret Commission Act charge of receiving secret reward for procuring contracts. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

During her opening at today’s High Court trial, Crown prosecutor Rachael Reed said Scutts played a “double game” in early 2011, working for the New Zealand Wine Company (NZWC), which he later became chief executive of, while also receiving kickbacks from Australian-based wine wholesaler Liquor Marketing Group (LMG). Scutts received AUD$1 for each case of wine supplied, the kick-backs ultimately totalling AUD$53,000, Reed said. NZWC did not know of the reward paid and it was in direct conflict to his role with them.

In his contract with NZWC, Scutts was able to provide services to other companies, provided that they did not conflict with the business of NZWC. However, the contract stipulated he was to inform the company if any conflicts of interest did arise. NZWC first supplied wine to LMG in May 2011 and Scutts proceeded to invoice LMG for what he recorded on the invoices as “marketing services”. The invoices were in fact “thinly disguised brokerage payments” which were hidden from NZWC, Reed said.

Scutts told SFO investigators that LMG had asked for photographs of the head NZWC winemakers, but they had refused, so an agreement was come to where a photo of Scutts’ son Oliver was used instead for a fee of AUD$1 per case sold. The explanation defied logic and commercial reality as it was common practice in the industry for wine makers to provide marketing materials and wine tastings for free. It also contradicted the evidence, as Oliver Scutts’ image only appeared on marketing materials for six months, yet Peter Scutts invoiced for 15-months of “marketing services” from May 2011, Reed said.

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French winemakers furious at Internet administrators

NZ Herald | 24 June 2014

Winemakers say the decision to open up access to .wine and .vin domain names will make it easier for unethical wine sellers to deceive customers about the origin of their goods. Photo / Thinkstock

Just one month after Mother Nature defeated Jeff Bezos in a battle for the .amazon domain name, a new conflict is fermenting in these Internet suffixes. This time around, the hotly contested properties are .vin and .wine, and the broad-based attack is being led by a very rankled France.

Winemakers in Europe, Australia and California are protesting a decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to move forward with the introduction of .vin and .wine as so-called top-level domains – the familiar appendixes to Web addresses like .com and .edu.

The problem, as fine winemakers see it, is that opening up access to .wine and .vin will make it easier for unethical wine sellers to deceive customers about the origin and quality of their goods.

Geography is a big deal when it comes to winemaking and the European Union has strict rules that govern the use of “geographical indications” in marketing and labeling.

The best-known example of this is how in the EU and many other countries the word champagne can only be applied to bubbly beverages from the Champagne region of France. Made anywhere else in the world, it’s simply called sparkling wine.

The concern France shares over domain names with other winemakers around the world is that a company could register a Web address like champagne.wine but not sell the authentic product. “Internet users could indeed be deceived into believing that they are buying a genuine product with specific qualities and characteristics, when they are in fact getting an imitation,” Linda Reiff, president of the Napa Valley Vintners, wrote in a letter to ICANN that was cited by the Wall Street Journal.

France has gone so far in the debate over .wine and .vin as to demand an overhaul of how ICANN is structured and run. The French have said that proceeding with the domain names could “imperil” talks on a trans-Atlantic trade deal between the EU and the US.

– Slate

 

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