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Doubts over wine judges in California competition

Published:  31 January, 2009

Judging in wine competitions has been brought into question after an investigation of a leading US wine event found judges rarely rated a wine the same way twice.

The result of a four-year investigation into the California State Fair wine competition found that only one in ten judges regularly rated a wine the same, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

It said The California State Fair wine competition, tested judges' consistency by giving them repeat samples of the same wine during large blind tasting sessions.

The report found that 90% of  judges failed to give wines the same score or close to that score in repeated tastings.  It is claimed one set of judges gave a wine a double gold medal after having rejected the same vintage twice previously. But it appears judges are more consistent in their scoring with wines they did not like.

Dr Robert Hodgson, who carried out the research, told The Los Angeles Times: "Consumers need to gain more self-confidence in their own opinions and tastes rather than listen to what other people think wine should be like."

Dr Hodgson, who is a retired oceanographer and owns a small winery himself in northern California, said he wanted to know how it is "a particular wine wins a gold medal at one competition and fails to win any award at another?".

He has also been a judge at the same event that his report criticises. His study is published in the Journal of Wine Economics and was carried out with the agreement of the California State Fair as organised said they hoped to use the findings to improve the contest and quality of judges being used.