A Wine Puzzle

A contest comes to town to find the best person at identifying wines. Not the kind of wines, but the region from which each comes, featuring wines from: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Alsace, and Côtes de Provence. A large cash prize, not to mention a lot of wine tasting, makes the opportunity hard to miss. Hence, I assemble a team (Team Smag), among which the prize will be divided equally if one of us wins.

To prepare Team Smag, I go to several stores to buy several bottles of wine from each region, and then cover the labels of the bottles to remove any identifying information. (I place a random ID on the bottom of the bottle to record its region, but to keep it secret from the others.) I randomly (but not haphazardly) put aside one third of the wines from each region for testing, and use the rest for training. My assistant will help train the other teammates. We train each person by repeating trials. In a trial, the participant sits in a room with several empty glasses. Outside the room, my assistant randomly selects a bottle from the training set, takes it into the room, pours a few sips of wine in a clean glass, and instructs the participant to drink and say from which region it comes. I then say whether they are correct or not. When a participant has 20 correct consecutive trials, they are considered trained.
After all teammates have been trained, my assistant tests each one (a few days later) by having them identify the regions of the other 1/3 of the wines in the bottles I saved for testing. The testing is done in the same way as the training. We find that everyone scores nearly perfectly.

The day of the contest arrives. Along with all others, Team Smag pays the entry fees, and each member takes a seat in different areas of the arena. In front of each participant sits 16 glasses of wine (just a few sips in each), each numbered 1-16. There is a No. 2 pencil and a bubble sheet as well, to note the region of each wine. Great fun is had; and when all over, the bubble sheets are tallied and a big board displays the results.
Not a single member of Team Smag scores much higher than random.
What happened?


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