Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Wine

Hello. My name is Kostas Economides and I am a lecturer in the Department of Economics at the University of the South of England (USE for short). Well, actually that is not true really as the names of individuals and institutions in this blog have been changed to protect the innocent - and the guilty!

As we have the Hothouse Research Day today and various people have suggested that I might be able to do some joint work with Geoff Baxter from the Hospitality Management subject group I went looking for him yesterday lunchtime. What a really nice guy he is. As well as talking about potential research work together we got to talking about wine.

Finding I was Greek, he asked me if I had tried the Tsantali organic red wine from Halkidiki. Apparently Waitrose is now stocking it. Indeed I have. It is an ideal partner to a nice bit of roast lamb. I asked him if there were any other red wines that he particularly recommended. He said that his favourite wines were French - the Chateuneuf-du-Pape from the vineyard at Chateua de Beaucastel is hard to beat, but he also recommended the Reserve des Hospitalliers Cotes du Rhone.

He also suggested that I try a few South African reds, especially the Rustenberg Peter Barlow, although this one costs nearly £30 a bottle. A little cheaper is the Boschendal Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon. There are some good value wines from Chile and Argentina too, according to Geoff. And he likes an Australian wine called The Hedonist Shiraz.

Suddenly this reminded me of an Economic Journal article back in the 1990s which had used regression analysis to estimate a hedonic model of French wine prices. Gus had been at conference where the French authors of the paper had presented their results. The models incorporated both objective characteristics, such as the type of grape and the specific gravity (alcohol content) of the wine, but also some more subjective measurements based on the judgments of professional wine tasters. They assessed the look and the taste of the wines in blind tastings. Gus remembered that the authors had been asked whether any of the wines in the sample were "corked". The answer had been that there were a few such bottles, but the researchers had taken the precaution of asking for two bottles of each of the over 500 wines used in the study. When asked what had happened to the unused "spare" bottles of wine, the authors had smiled and replied "researchers' privilege!".

When I got back to my desk after lunch I used Google Scholar to track down the paper. Here are the details in case you want to read the paper; Combris, Pierre, S├ębastien Lecocq, and Michael Visser. "Estimation of a hedonic price equation for Bordeaux wine: does quality matter?." The Economic Journal 107.441 (1997): 390-402. I also looked for more recent wine price hedonic studies as it occurred to me that with Geoff's knowledge of wine and my econometric skills we might be able to work together on project of this type. We might be able to look at a sector that had so far not been studied (perhaps we could look at English wine, for example). Or maybe we could come up with some kind of new twist to the analysis. Geoff had said that one of his ex-students had a senior position at Waitrose and might be able to help with wine samples and other information. This sounds promising!

Geoff also wondered if it was time to revive the Faculty wine tasting social. A few years ago, together with the then Professor of Accounting (now retired), at the end of the summer term he had organised a wine tasting event for staff. There were wines from various countries together with some cheese and biscuits to eat with the wine. I said this was a great idea and that I would be willing to help in any way that I could. I'm looking forward to it already!

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