Wisdom through Vindom

By Nick • Lifestyle • 2 Jan 2012

Wine, wine, the glorious drink, the more you imbibe the smoother you think.

I just made that up actually – I’m pretty slick. Although the closing should perhaps be “the more your head hurts the next morning”.

Whatever the first truism, there’s a second – the more you imbibe the more you spend. However that’s only true for a given wine… between wines the cost is by no means proportional to volume alone. There are expensive wines and cheap wines. There are also good wines and bad wines. But are the two correlated? Do we need to pay top dollar for top satisfaction? Or is a future filled with delicous drinks at bargain basement rates only shrouded from our view? This looks like a job for science.

The project was by no means original, but a first for me and everyone else involved on the night. Basically blind testing on wine and see what you actually like with most of the distortions of label and price removed. I decided 10 bottles – 5 types with two bottles each – was about right for the 13 or so people throwing their hat in the ring, so ‘blind’ testing was pretty appropriate as there was a good chance that by the end of the evening we would be. Fortune favours the brave and whatnot!

I wrapped all the bottles so the label was hidden, like so:

Where's your brand value NOW muthafu*ka?

People arrived, greetings were exchanged, initial glasses were charged, and I held forth on the rules. Cécile has been on at me lately for being too sciency which I interpreted as a plea for clarity in explanation… so I made sure to go into appropriate detail on the grading system and the significance of relative grades and the statistical shit I was prepared to lay down on anyone who tried to mess with the system (A threat that was very very empty – I was far too drunk to do any real maths by the time the tallyup came around). Once eyes started to glaze I figured the point was made and we better switch to drinkymode.

The rules, loose as they were:

  1. Drink the wine
  2. Taste the wine
  3. Drink the wine again to make sure you weren’t wrong the first time.
  4. DON’T spit the wine out. I paid moderately good money for that. Come on. Think!
  5. Rate the wine, from 1->5. Try out the scale for better understanding of grades: 5 is nectar of the gods being poured into your throat by Priceless era Audrey Tatou while you recline on a chaise lounge. 1 is rancid vinegar in a rusty tin can being drunk under a bridge while rats gnaw your toes, and also you just realise the can gave you tetanus.
  6. If it’s your first night, you HAVE to drink (and also fight).


Everyone seemed to have a pretty solid grasp of the principles, so the drinking commenced, and a fine evening was had by all.

Here are the raw results – for details of the wines themselves see the end of the post.

Connoisseur AU, $20 FR, $13 AG, $6 IT, $10 FR, $29 Avg
Nick 3 5 4 2 3 3.4
Erika 1 3 3 4 4 3
Sofia 5 2 2 1 3 2.6
John 4 4.5 3 4 3 3.7
Jen 1 2 1 3 1 1.6
Corey 2 3 2 2 2 2.2
Matt 4 2 2 1 1 2
Simone 4 2 4 3 2 3
Cecile 3 3.5 4 3 2 3.1
Camille 2 3 4 4 1 2.8
Simon 4 2 5 2 1 2.8
Christian 3 5 2 1 4 3
Andy 5 3 4 1 2 3
Total 41 40 40 31 29


Creating an awesome blind wine testing results analysis web app is on my list of things to do at some point when I have time (in a decade or two maybe) so I won’t go into too much detail here except to say

Our results show that

1. Price and Quality are basically uncorrelated

and to the extent that they are correlated, spending more gets you less!










2. Quality is highly subjective

Everyone likes/dislikes all sorts of damn things











WELL! I think we all learnt a little about ourselves and wine? Yes? Kinda?

In closing, some awards:

Lightweight – Erica, who appears to not like wine while sober but rather approves when 5 glasses down.

Best wine snob comment: Simon – with ‘<sip> Hmmm… not bad, but I think it rained in September’.

Biggest actual wine snob: Corey, who rated every single wine as a ’2′ before going back and changing his rating for the second bottle to ’3′. Corey is a nice guy, so I can’t help but think he was mentally rating them all ’1′ but just sparing my feelings.

Hater: Jen, who despite grading with more variability than Corey managed the lowball average of 1.6.

Lover: John, who with an average of 3.7 snuck ahead of me to snatch victory in the ‘easiest to please’ category.

Wine Ninja: Christian, who said ‘This is definitely a Bordeaux’ and was actually right.

Hedger: Andy, who didn’t fill in a single result until having tasted everything and was also the only person to use every number. (edit:Ok, so looking a bit closer Christian also used every number… and there were several people who changed their numbers at the end. Maybe Andy’s just efficient).

Brother/Sister-from-another-mother: Matt and Sofia, who were grading 1:1 up until the final bottle (Sofia went back and changed her ’4′ to a ’5′ for the first bottle at the end… but can’t let that ruin a good story)

Traitors: Camille and Cecile, who are French and who both rated the expensive French Chateau-de-mumble-mumble the worst of all the wines tasted.

Gentle Drinker: Simone. She knows what she likes; she knows what she doesn’t like… but she’s not going to get all up-in-your-face throwing out fives and ones.

Most Awesome: Me. Don’t hate the playah. Shared with anyone else who didn’t get an award above. Oh wait, everyone did! See? Awesome.


!The wines!

These were sourced from the trusted supplier to wine aficionados everywhere – Denner.

Wine 1: A 2008 Rufus Stone Syrah from Australia; 20 CHF

Wine 2: A 2009 St-Emilion Grand Cru from Chateau St-Arnaud, France; 13 CHF

Wine 3: A 2010 Malbec from Trapiche, Argentina; 6 CHF (awesome deal)

Wine 4: A 2010 Negroamaro Primitivo from Italy; 10 CHF

Wine 5: A 2009 L’Oratoire from Chateauneuf-du-Pape; 29 CHF (Complete rip)


5 Responses

  1. God you’re such a geek with your complicated graphs! I remember you starting to compute all the data on your macbook while drunk at the party… Anyway, fun post, love the “château de mumble-mumble” wine :-)

  2. Pete

    Awesome… can I play too?

    Also, please make the web-app… blind tastings have been on my list of things to do for a long time now…

    • Nick

      I’ll let you know when it’s up and running dude… but why wait? Get some practise in :-)

      • Damn Damn and Damn. Now I want to make the web app… but it’d be stealing your idea. Now I’m sad (but let me know if you want help sometime… 50-50 ;) I gots the RoR skillz now (a bit).

        • Nick

          It so would be! Although that wouldn’t matter – I’d just put in an idea claim form to get my share: http://xkcd.com/827/

          Although it’s not about the money. It’s about how great it would be. I am gradually improving my skills too, but I’m not the creator-of-an-already-successful-web-marque, so yeah I’ll build a wine ranking app with you. Are you gonna be in chch around christmas/NY this year? We could have a business meeting to discuss, and road test some wines…