Judgment of Princeton

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The Judgment of Princeton was a wine tasting (or blind tasting) event held on 8 June 2012 during a conference of the American Association of Wine Economists held at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey. The purpose of this event was to compare, by a blind tasting, of several French wines against wines produced in New Jersey in order to gauge the quality and development of the New Jersey wine industry. Because New Jersey's wine industry is relatively young and small, it has received little attention in the world wine market. The state's wine production has experienced growth in recent years largely as a result of state legislators offering new opportunities for winery licensing and repealing Prohibition-era laws that have constrained the industry's development in past years. This event was modeled after a 1976 blind tasting event dubbed the "Judgment of Paris" in which French wines were compared to several wines produced in California when that state's wine industry was similarly young and developing. The New Jersey wine industry heralded the results and asserted that the rating of New Jersey wines by the blind tasting's judges was a victory for the state's wine industry.[1]


The Judgment of Princeton, held at Princeton University on Friday, June 8, 2012, was a structured blind tasting of top New Jersey wines against top French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy.[2][3][4][5][6][7] The event was based on the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris (wine), in which California wines famously beat French wines in a blind tasting. The Judgment of Princeton was spearheaded by George M. Taber, who had been in Paris for the original Judgment of Paris and later written a book on the subject.[8] Along with Taber, the tasting was organized and carried out by economists Orley Ashenfelter, Richard E. Quandt, Karl Storchmann, and Mark Censits, owner of CoolVines, a local wine and spirits shop, who acted in the role of merchant Steven Spurrier, gathering the competition wines from the NJ winemakers and selecting and sourcing the French wines against which they were to be pitted. The French wines were sourced from the same estates as the original wines of the Paris tasting. The event also included other members of the American Association of Wine Economists, who then posted the data set from the tastings online as an open invitation to further analysis.[9][10]

The judges[edit]

Of the nine judges in Princeton, six were American, two French, and one Belgian. They are listed here in alphabetical order.

Name Affiliation Nationality
Jean-Marie Cardebat Université de Bordeaux  France
Tyler Colman DrVino.com  USA
John Foy The Star-Ledger, thewineodyssey.com  USA
Olivier Gergaud BEM Management School  France
Robert Hodgson Fieldbrook Winery  USA
Danièle Meulders Université Libre de Bruxelles  Belgium
Linda Murphy Decanter (magazine), American Wine  USA
Jamal Rayyis Gilbert & Gaillard Wine Magazine  USA
Francis Schott Stage Left Restaurant, RestaurantGuysRadio.com  USA


The judges were told, in advance, similar to the set up in the Judgment of Paris, that six wines in each flight of ten were from New Jersey. Subsequently, several of the judges complained about the revelation of their judgments, as also occurred in the Judgment of Paris.

Interpretation of results[edit]

In 1999, Quandt and Ashenfelter published a paper in the journal "Chance" that questioned the statistical interpretation of the results of the 1976 Judgment of Paris. The authors noted that a "side-by-side chart of best-to-worst rankings of 18 wines by a roster of experienced tasters showed about as much consistency as a table of random numbers," and reinterpreted the data, altering the results slightly, using a formula that they argued was more statistically valid (and less conclusive).[11] Quandt’s later paper "On Wine Bullshit" poked fun at the seemingly random strings of adjectives that often accompanied experts' published wine ratings.[12] More recent work by Robin Goldstein, Hilke Plassmann, Robert Hodgson, and other economists and behavioral scientists has shown high variability and inconsistency both within and between blind tasters; and little correlation has been found between price and preference, even among wine experts, in tasting settings in which labels and prices have been concealed.[13][14]


The blind tasting panel was made up of nine expert judges, with each wine graded out of 20 points. The tasting was performed behind closed doors at Princeton University, and results were kept secret from the judges until they were analyzed by Quandt and announced later that day. According to an algorithm devised by Quandt, each judge's set of ratings was converted to a set of personal rankings, which were in turn tabulated cumulatively by “votes against," with a lower score better (representing higher cumulative rankings) and a higher score worse (representing lower cumulative rankings). The data were then tested by Quandt for statistically significant differences between tasters and wines using the same software he had previously employed to re-analyze the Judgment of Paris results.[15]

The reveal[edit]

Shortly after the tasting was completed and the results tabulated, Taber, Quandt, and Ashenfelter announced the results to an audience of media, New Jersey winemakers, wine economists, and the judges themselves. The event took place in an auditorium at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs as part of the American Association of Wine Economists’ annual meeting. Due to the technical limitations of Quandt's custom-built, floppy-disk-powered FORTRAN system, it was necessary for Goldstein to scrawl the results onto a giant chalkboard, eliciting murmurs of disapproval from the audience over his poor handwriting.[16]


White wines[edit]

“Votes against” in the Ashenfelter-Quandt methodology are indicated here. (The maximum possible score in this tasting would have been 9, and the minimum 90.) Only one wine was significantly better, statistically, than the other wines: the Beaune 1er Cru Clos de Mouches 2010, the cheapest of the four white Burgundies in the lot. The rest of the wines were statistically indistinguishable from each other based on the data, meaning that no conclusions can be drawn from the rankings of wines #2 to #10.[16]

Significantly better than the other wines:

Rank Votes Against Winery Wine Vintage Origin
1. 33.5 Joseph Drouhin Beaune Clos des Mouches 2009  France

Not statistically distinguishable from each other:

Rank Votes Against Winery Wine Vintage Origin
2. 38 Unionville Vineyards Pheasant Hill Chardonnay 2010  New Jersey
3. 45.5 Heritage Vineyards Chardonnay 2010  New Jersey
4. 47.5 Silver Decoy Winery Black Feather Chardonnay 2010  New Jersey
5. 52 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 2009  France
6. (tie) 53 Bellview Winery Chardonnay 2010  New Jersey
6. (tie) 53 Marc-Antonin Blain Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2009  France
8. 54.5 Amalthea Cellars Chardonnay 2008  New Jersey
9. 57.5 Ventimiglia Vineyard Chardonnay 2010  New Jersey
10. 60.5 Jean Latour-Labille Meursault-Charmes Premier Cru 2008  France

Red wines[edit]

“Votes against” in the Ashenfelter-Quandt methodology are indicated. (The maximum possible score in this tasting would have been 9, and the minimum 90.) The only wine that was significantly worse, statistically, than the other wines was #10, the Four JG’s Cabernet Franc 2008, from New Jersey. The rest of the wines were statistically indistinguishable from each other based on the data, meaning that no conclusions can be drawn from the rankings of wines #1 to #9.[16]

Not statistically distinguishable from each other:

Rank Votes Against Winery Wine Vintage Origin
1. 35 Château Mouton-Rothschild Pauillac 2004  France
2. 40 Château Haut-Brion Pessac-Léognan 2004  France
3. 40.5 Heritage Vineyards BDX (Bordeaux-style) 2010  New Jersey
4. 46 Château Montrose Saint-Estèphe 2004  France
5. 49 Tomasello Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Oak Reserve 2007  New Jersey
6. 50.5 Château Léoville-Las Cases Saint-Julien 2004  France
7. 52 Bellview Winery Lumière (Bordeaux-style) 2010  New Jersey
8. 54 Silver Decoy Winery Cabernet Franc 2008  New Jersey
9. 55 Amalthea Cellars Europa VI (Bordeaux-style) 2008  New Jersey

Significantly worse than the other wines:

Rank Votes Against Winery Wine Vintage Origin
10. 73 Four JG's Orchards & Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2008  New Jersey

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "GSWGA - News". Garden State Winegrower's Association. Archived from the original on 11 April 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
  2. ^ Brill, Emily. "Hey, France, Jerseyans can make wine, too" in The Times of Trenton (10 June 2012). Retrieved 5 September 2013
  3. ^ "Blind test finds NJ wines hold their own with French competitors. New Jersey Today, June 12, 2012". Archived from the original on June 18, 2012. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  4. ^ In Princeton, it’s Judgment Day for NJ Wine Industry, NJTV.
  5. ^ "Murphy, Linda. Judgment of Princeton Puts NJ on the map. JancisRobinson.com". Archived from the original on 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
  6. ^ "Judgment of Princeton could be turning point for NJ wine. PBS New Jersey". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
  7. ^ Judgment of Princeton to pit Bordeaux and Burgundy against New Jersey. Bucks County Courier Times. Archived 2012-09-11 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Taber, George M Judgment of Paris: California vs France and the Historic Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2005. ISBN 0-7432-9732-6
  9. ^ AAWE: Tasting results Archived 2012-06-16 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Cowen, Tyler. Karl Storchmann reports from the front. Marginal Revolution, June 13, 2012.
  11. ^ Ashenfelter, Orley; Richard Quandt (1999). "Analyzing a Wine Tasting Statistically". Chance. 12 (3): 16–20. doi:10.1080/09332480.1999.10542152.
  12. ^ Quandt, Richard E (2007). "On Wine Bullshit" (PDF). Journal of Wine Economics. 2 (2). doi:10.1017/S1931436100000389. S2CID 170562491. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2013-04-09.
  13. ^ Goldstein, Robin (2008). "Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better? Evidence from a large sample of blind tastings". Journal of Wine Economics. 3 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1017/S1931436100000523. S2CID 2491510.
  14. ^ Goldstein, Robin (2011) [2008]. The Wine Trials: 175 wines under $15 that beat $50-150 bottles in blind taste tests. New York: Workman. ISBN 978-1-6081-6007-5.
  15. ^ Quandt, Richard. "Liquid Assets": algorithm
  16. ^ a b c "AAWE: The Judgment of Princeton". Archived from the original on 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2012-06-13.

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