My guess is that the paper is semi-serious: the authors were doing what seemed to them to be a fun analysis, the kind of scatterplot or regression that could go viral for a couple days on Twitter, and then they thought: Hey, maybe there’s something to this, let’s publish it. The Journal of Wine Economics went for it and there you go. Oxford University Press releases the tongue-in-cheek press release. Basically, everyone involved benefits from a sort of plausible deniability since it’s halfway between real research and a silly joke.
Poe’s law, named after its author Nathan Poe, is an Internet adage reflecting the idea that without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism. . . .Another precedent posted on Usenet dates to 2001. Following the well-known schema of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law, Alan Morgan wrote:Any sufficiently advanced troll is indistinguishable from a genuine kook.
P.S. Let me say that I have nothing against Pavel Yakovlev and Walter P. Guessford personally, and I wish them all the best in their future endeavors. I do think there is a problem with frivolous studies sucking up the attentional bandwidth that the public has for science, so I’d appreciate if these sorts of joke studies were labeled more clearly as such. Every time Cambridge University Press or some similarly prestigious organization publicizes this sort of thing, that seems to me to be one more little dilution of the brand of science. But it’s not really Yaovlev and Guessford’s fault; they just wrote a silly little paper and all of us usually take whatever attention comes to us.