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Snooth User: ahall

A+B+C= wine quality?

Posted by ahall, Dec 12, 2007.

Did you know that you can use statistics to figure out auction prices of wine? I thought this was a joke, until reading an article entitled, Grape expectation: the price of wine that there really is a formula to predicting the quality of wine. Orley Ashenfelter, an economist at Princeton University and former editor of American Economic Review, discovered that people (may) no longer need the Robert Parkers of the wine world to tell them what wine vintage would be exceptional to drink.
Want to know how it works? It's simple: wine quality = 12.145 + 0.00117 winter rainfall + 0.0614 average growing season temperature - 0.00386 harvest rainfall. If you put the weather stats for any year, in theory, you will get the overall quality of the wine. The question is… could it be true? Do we no longer need the "swish and spit" method of wine experts to tell us which vintage is good and which is bad?
At first, no one really bothered to question Ashenfelter wine methods, because no one knew who he was. It wasn't until 1990 when the New York Times published Ashenfelter's disagreement with Parker over the quality over the 1986 vintage, as well as his bold predictions about 1989 Bordeaux , which came out while the wine was 3 months in barrel and had yet to be tasted by the critics. Ashenfelter believed this vintage to be "the wine of the century", and, somewhat confusingly, declared that the 1990 would be even better [they are both in the same century, right?]. Time would tell if his claims were right...
1989 did turn out to be an excellent vintage, and 1990 did indeed surpass it! Although many wine experts do not want to believe that you can use math to figure out a good vintage, Ashenfelter's formula appears to be an amazingly accurate early predictor of quality. So until proven wrong, I guess you really can use stats to figure out wine quality.


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