Saturday’s WSJ catches up with Robert Hodgson’s research on the randomness of gold medals in wine competitions. In case you missed our discussion here and many others on them there internets, you can check out the WSJ article for a recap. The story also applies the discussion to wine ratings and scores, underscoring their inherent subjectivity even though pallets of wine are bought and sold every day on these snapshots.
The author, Leonard Mladinow, wrote a book last year called “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules or Lives” (amazon; aff). In it, he has a brief section on inherent subjectivity and variation in wine descriptions and ratings. He points out the importance of aggregating several reviews and then expressing the standard deviation with the final score, as in “90 points, plus or minus 6.” Think that would fly in a sales email? Yeah, me either. But a site of user-generated reviews, such as cellartracker, could easily calculate a mean score and standard deviation from the reviews on any given wine in their database. It may not be ever-so-slightly more difficult to read than a single number but it would be a big score for accuracy in reflecting user experiences across diverse settings.
Anyway, check out the article. Here’s one quote for the candor file, from the publisher of a magazine that uses scores: “It is absurd for people to expect consistency in a taster’s ratings. We’re not robots.”
“A Hint of Hype, A Taste of Illusion” WSJ
(Image: a reduced size crop of an image credited to Chris Wadden that ran with the story)