Is there anything more satisfying for a wine expert than to dole out "Double Gold" award at a state fair competition? Do I even have to tell you the answer? (The answer is "No", BTW.) But their exalted status as arbiters of medal-worthy wines may be in jeopardy thanks to a study by Humboldt State University Professor Bob Hodgson. Jay Grafft riffs on these findings in The Daily Nexus, which is an awesome name for a newspaper.
Hodgson entered the exact same wine into a competition multiple times and under different auspices every time as well. The results would vary a great deal not only for a particular judge's score but also among his or her fellow wine experts. The conclusion, as summarized by Grafft:
"...[J]ust about every bottle of wine has the same exact chance of receiving first place — that is, a completely random chance. Basically, instead of having a panel of high-status wine experts, he could have just had a team of coin-flipping monkeys decide which bottle to pick. The end result would have been exactly the same."
I don't know about the legal or ethical concerns regarding having primates serve as wine judges. Though watching the proceedings would be more fun than a (wine) barrel full of monkeys.
Grafft also uses these findings to discuss how we judge a wine better if told it's more expensive than its actual price, coming to this conclusion: "So grab a bottle of two-buck Chuck, slap some expensive fancy French label on it and go ahead and impress your significant other tonight. They’ll be amazed at your wine prowess, and you’ll still have money in your wallet."
I, however, would caution not to use deception as a pillar of your relationship.
Do the awards wine experts bestow influence what ends up in your glass?