Gold-medal winning wine? Take it with grain of salt

Tue Sep 1, 2009 6:00am EDT
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By Leslie Gevirtz

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - What does a gold medal on a bottle of wine mean? For a winemaker, it means confidence but for a consumer it may not convey much at all.

Robert Hodgson, a retired professor from Humboldt State College in California who owns Fieldbrook winery, said entering contests to win medals was a way of reassuring himself about the quality wine he makes.

"When we started to enter competitions, my main concern was whether or not our wines were competitive. Eventually, I discovered that we were as good as anyone else. So, I did gain confidence that we were producing very good wines," he said.

But what confounded Hodgson was winning a gold medal for his Sangiovese and entering the same wine in another contest and coming up empty handed.

"That's the thing that got me," he said in an interview from his winery that makes about 2,000 cases annually.

"I could understand winning a gold medal, but then to have the very same wine not even win a silver or a bronze in another competition made no sense. So I had taught statistics and decided to apply it."

Using data from the trade journal California Grapevine, Hodgson examined the results of 13 of the 29 major U.S. wine competitions. He found that the odds of winning a gold medal were about 10 percent, which mirrored those of chance alone.

After reviewing the results of more than 4,000 wines entered into competitions, he said of the 2,440 entered in three or more contests nearly half received gold medals. But 84 percent of those same wines were medal-less in another competition.   Continued...