Several years ago I went to a tasting of Bordeaux style blends organized by the Washington State Wine Commission. This tasting had been taken on the road to New York and Tokyo and I got to sample it at the Society of Wine Educators meeting in Bellevue, Washington. There were eight wines - 4 Washington, two California and 2 French Bordeaux. In New York and Tokyo mostly wine writers had been invited to the tasting. In all the tastings, the tasters were asked to rank the wines according to simple hedonistic pleasure, in other words, "which is your favorite wine." The leader, actually a P.R. person, had the scores (rankings) of the wines tabulated and announced that the four Washington wines were the winners. Even though they had the highest absolute scores there really were no meaningful differences among the scores of seven of the wines. This person had no concept of variability, variation, distribution, variance, standard deviation, statististics, whatever you want to call it. The tasters scores were all over the place, a real mishmash. The real result was that seven of the wines were excellent, flavorful Bordeaux blends, indistinguishable in terms of overall quality. I would have been happy to take any of them home with me.
A few days ago, ten of us, tasted three inexpensive American Merlots blind. The result? A statistical rarity - every taster ranked the wines the same way. The winner? 2004 Columbia Crest Merlot, available at almost every gas station in Washington state for $7 a bottle. The other two wines - Two Buck Chuck($2-$3) and Searidge Merlot (4$ -Safeway's answer to Two Buck Chuck). The Columbia Crest seems round balanced, easy with good fruit. The Charles Shaw had off, chemical smells (volatile acidity?) and tasted thin and tart. Probably a spoiled bottle, although around here, the distributors seem to hold wine too long in hot conditions. The Searidge seemed ordinary. Any of these would work better with food. If we had had a better bottle of Two Buck Chuck, it probably would have been softer, fruitier with a sweet feel to it, but the Columbia Crest still would have been better. Finally, price is related to quality!