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Philip Armour '07 to Present "Sideways Effect" Paper at Wine Economics Conference

Philip Armour ’07 is no slouch. A triple-major in economics, mathematics and English literature while at Pomona, he spent the past year working for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and in the coming years will be keeping himself busy with a masters at the London School of Economics and then Harvard Law School. Such impressive accomplishments could make it easy to overlook his intriguing recent project: This August, he will be co-presenting a paper at the second annual American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) conference in Portland, Oregon.

The event features economists from all over the country speaking on such enticing topics as eco-friendly “biodynamic wines” and the relationship between price and quality (“Do more expensive wines taste better?”). Armour and his Fed colleague Mark Doms will be presenting their paper examining the evidence behind the supposed “Sideways Effect,” which claims that since the release of the Pinot-glorifying, Merlot-trashing 2004 indie film (co-written by Jim Taylor ’84), Pinot has soared in popularity while Merlot has crashed and burned. Armour confirms the movie’s effect on Pinot Noir but casts doubt on its connection to Merlot. “That downward trend was actually a long time coming,” he says.

For Armour, his passions for wine and economics developed from a very early age. “My mother and father are both passionate about wine,” he says, “so my childhood was filled with tiny pours of great Bordeaux and Burgundies.” Although he had dabbled in studying wine economics at Pomona, he says he never anticipated being able to do such research while working for the Fed this year.

He soon found that fellow economist Doms shared with him a “curiosity about the driving forces in wine marketing and production,” and before long the two delved into some studies and uncovered publishable results. One abstract and introduction later, the pair’s submission was accepted by the AAWE and they were headed for P-town.

Armour is looking forward to the Portland conference both for getting feedback about his work and getting the opportunity to learn more about the field. “Research in wine economics is fascinating and in such a nascent stage that there's a lot of potential for change in the near future,” Armour says. “It's an exciting time to be entering the debate.”--Adam Conner-Simons '08