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 Red Wine and Expert Bias

Red v White Wine Scores
Red v White Wine Scores

Do experts rate red wines more highly than white wines, regardless of price, vintage, and region? Does this mean there is a critical bias toward red wines?

That may well be the case after a study analyzed more than 64,000 scores dating from the 1970s from the major wine magazines. The report, compiled by Suneal Chaudhary, PhD, and Jeff Siegel on the Wine Curmudgeon website, winecurmudgeon.com, found that:

  • More reds score higher than whites, while red wines are overrepresented above 90 points and whites are overrepresented below 90 points. In fact, reds are 1.2 times more likely to be rated higher than 90.
  • As an expert score crossed 90 points, selling price and selling price variation increased quickly – in some cases leading to non-intuitive results, such as median reds costing more than more highly-rated whites.
  • When two experts rate the same wine, about the only thing they agree on is if a wine is better or worse than 90 points. When the wines are scored higher than 90, the variation in the ratings increases considerably. In this, the wine experts’ rating may not be as accurate as those for other agricultural products, like potatoes.

“Wine scores have always been controversial, and there has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that they were inherently flawed,” says Siegel. “With this study, which uses one of the largest databases of wine scores ever studied, we hope that the inconsistencies that we’ve found add to the evidence that scores don’t reflect wine quality as much as they reflect the personal taste of the critics who give the scores.”

The study, say the authors, is not intended to be conclusive, given the variables involved. Rather, their goal is to present the information to allow wine drinkers to make up their own minds.

Chaudhary says a variety of factors could have influenced the results. Perhaps red wines are really better than white wines. In this, he found what he calls the chicken-egg-chick dilemma, where critics rate red wine more highly because it’s more prestigious, where producers spend more money to make red wine because critics see it as more prestigious and consumers are willing to pay for that prestige, and where consumers are willing to pay a premium for red wine because producers and critics see it as more prestigious.

A copy of the report is available at winecurmudgeon.com.

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