Hey France, We Got Your Wines Right Here

At its Annual Conference in Princeton, the American Association of Wine Economists AAWE organized a wine tasting called “The Judgment of Princeton.” It was modeled after the 1976 “Judgment of Paris.” In 1976, British wine merchant Steve Spurrier organized a blind wine tasting with 9 French judges who were associated with the wine industry in various ways (wine journalists, critics, sommeliers, merchants or winemakers).  In the first flight the judges rated 10 white wines, 6 from Napa and 4 from Burgundy. In the second flight, the judges rated 10 reds, 6 from Napa and 4 from Bordeaux, France. In both tastings a wine from Napa, a then relatively unknown wine region, was declared the winner. George Taber of TIME magazine, the only attending journalist, reported the results to the world. The results caused considerable surprise in France and the USA, and helped to put Napa wines on the global wine map.

At the Princeton tasting, now led by George Taber, 9 wine judges from France, Belgium and the U.S. tasted French against New Jersey wines. The French wines selected were from the same producers as in 1976 including names such as Chateau Mouton-Rothschild and Haut Brion, priced up to $650/bottle. New Jersey wines for the competition were submitted to an informal panel of judges, who then selected the wines that would compete. These judges were not eligible to taste wines at the final competition. The results were surprising. Although, the winner in each category was a French wine (Beaune Clos des Mouches for the whites and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild for the reds) NJ wines barely differed in their average rank from those of France. Three of the top four whites were from New Jersey. The best NJ red was ranked 3rd place. Prices for the NJ wines are typically one-third to one-twentieth of their French competitors.

A statistical evaluation of the tasting, conducted by Princeton Professor Richard Quandt, which was similar to an earlier analysis of the Judgment of Paris (http://www.liquidasset.com/tasting.html), further shows that the rank order of the wines was mostly insignificant. That is, if the tasting were repeated, the results would most likely be different. From a statistical viewpoint, most wines were therefore indistinguishable. Only the best white and the lowest ranked red were significantly different from the other wines.

There was a third similarity to the Paris tasting. In Paris, after the identity of the wines was revealed, Odette Kahn, editor of “La Revue du Vin de France,” demanded her scorecard back. Apparently, she was not happy with having rated American wines number one and two.

At the Princeton blind tasting, both French judges preferred NJ red wines over their counterparts from Bordeaux. After disclosing the wines’ identity the French judges were surprised but did not complain. In contrast, some tasters from the U.S. did not want their wine ratings to be published.

Click here for comprehensive results and the statistical analysis.