Research questions wine judging

06 September, 2009

Winning a medal in a wine competition has more to do with pure luck than an objective assessment by the judges, according to a newly-published study.

Of the 2,440 wines entered in more than three competitions, 47% received gold medals, but 84% of those wines won nothing in other competitions, according to the research. This lack of consensus among judges means that “winning gold medals may be more a matter of chance than a predictor of quality,” it has been claimed.

Robert Hodgson, who created a stir earlier this year when he claimed to prove that individual judges in the California State Fair Wine Competition often rated the same wine differently, has extended his research to 13 major competitions in the US.

Hodgson, a retired professor who previously taught statistics and now has his own winery, says there are 29 major annual wine competitions in the US, attracting well over $1 million in entry fees.

He said: “Either the wineries are sending non-uniform samples to competitions or the judges are simply unreliable instruments for assessing quality. What is the consumer to think?”

His findings have prompted controversy in the US, with organisers of the California State Fair Wine Competition describing the research conclusions as “hogwash”.