July 7 2009
I’m convinced a couple of things will happen in a post-Armageddon world – cockroaches will be the first to emerge from the cataclysmic rubble followed shortly thereafter by man (woman?) who will try to A) Procreate B) Create Wine and C) Make sense of Wine.
Maybe not in that order, item A may occur after item B ... who knows ...
And, if a wine competition emerges in short order after an apocalyptic meltdown (and why wouldn’t it if there are more than two wines to drink), I have no doubt the survivor will rub his chin in existential thought while reviewing the gold medal winner wondering, “What does it all mean?”
Yeah, I’ve been thinking about wine competitions a lot lately.
And, I think most wine lovers, while perhaps not existentially, but ponderous just the same, rub their chin and wonder about wine competitions, “What does it all mean?”
First, and Armageddon notwithstanding, let’s get a couple of current intractable truths out of the way:
1) Wine points will not go away in my lifetime
2) Domestic wine production, labels and wineries will continue their upward pattern of growth; as will imports
3) Wine competitions will continue to exist, if not proliferate, commensurate with the amount of wine growth that occurs inversely proportional to the amount of wine ratings that are granted by taste arbiters.
Phew, got that? I think the net-net is that wine competitions exist to fill a quality arbitration void created by the major wine magazine glossies and their limited scope and space.
The other fact, the unspoken fact, the mixed metaphor 800lb pink elephant in the room, remains that wine competitions and their ensuing winners mean very little to consumers outside of schlock presentation value in a tasting room, sales copy on the web site and the occasional one-off sticker on a bottle at retail.
So, why the heck do they even exist?
To send out press releases that never get picked up?
After talking with Neil Monnens, Publisher of The Wine Blue Book, I’m intrigued with his metadata approach to wine scores. And, I’m likewise intrigued with the fact that he doesn’t cross-reference and analyze wine competitions.
As reviewed in previous posts, most recently last week, The Wine Blue Book is a monthly wine buying guide that groups the previous month’s major critics’ average wine ratings, and then lists them by price to determine overall value – the Quality Price Ratio (QPR) for wine.
Monnens approach, The Wine Blue Book approach, just makes sense to me. Whether or not you agree with wine points or not, as we’ve agreed, the intractable truth is they are here to stay, so why not aggregate that data in a meaningful and useful way?
Since we’ve gotten the usefulness of points and their consumer value out of the way, what to make of wine competitions?
According to The Wine Institute, there are some 25 + wine competitions, and that list represents perhaps 2/3’s of the actual number of events that exist.
Just this past week, the San Francisco International Wine Competition announced their winners. This isn’t to be confused with the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition who announced its winners in January, nor the California State Fair that will announce their winners in two days. Just to be sure, none of these should be confused with the Indy International Wine Competition who announced their winners two weeks ago.
You get the point.
There are a lot of wine competitions.
And, there are a lot of results.
The San Francisco International Wine Competition winner by winery document is 119 pages.
The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition winner by category listing is in HTML and, if printable, would represent at least a 100 pages
The Indy International Wine Competition winner by brand document is 67 pages.
And on, and on, and on …
The 2008 California State Fair does the best job of presenting the information in a clean and elegant way, keeping it manageable, but the fact remains that the results of these competitions yield a result that is tasting room, sticker and press release oriented.
I repeat, in order to make sense of wine, or at least wine competitions, you have to answer the question, “What does it all mean.”
Sadly, that’s not happening.
I wish I were a statistician, or I had an intern, because none of these wine medals really mean a thing, or will transcend their somewhat dubious place in a transparent, Internet-connected society until somebody applies some statistical analysis to them like the Wine Blue Book.
Ultimately, I really don’t care what the metadata execution is, but there is a gigantic, gaping opportunity here –publishing of some sort – the first guy that aggregates these medals with a value equation that makes sense, adds context to each wine, and publishes it on a web site, in an online document, or in book form, will have something valuable – as equally valuable as the numerous annual wine books like the Wine Enthusiast Essential Buying Guide 2009: Includes Ratings for More than 50,000 Wines!
Wait. Maybe it’s actually merciful that a book doesn’t exist to aggregate medal winners on an annual basis … actually, now that I think about it Armageddon might be better.
Let the cockroaches sort it out.