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Can Wine Tasting Be Double Blind?

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Can wine tasting be double-blind? You think this is a misnomer, right? Let me explain myself. The basic premise of the “blind” wine tasting is that the taster has no idea what is he or she is dealing with, and by using swirling, sniffing, gargling and any other techniques should identify grape (or grapes), the place where the wine was made, and ideally the producer and the year. For the example of amazing blind tasting I have to refer you to the movie Bottle Shock (if you are into wines, definitely worth watching).

In general, tasting wines 100% blind is rare. What I mean is that even in the case of the blind tasting, there are some limiting factors which help you to identify the wine. For instance, when the wines are tasted blind for Wine Spectator ratings, usually the territory and a year and well known (and the goal of the tasting is simply to rate the wines as good and bad, not to identify grapes and producer). Even when I was tasting the wines for the Certified Sommelier exam (for more info – see About section), it was known that there will be no Pinot Grigio in the glass and grape choices would be really limited.

So what would I call a double-blind wine tasting? I was asked to taste home made wine and provide my opinion. I was asked a number of times and couldn’t refuse. I do call this double-blind – all I know is that the wine is made at home of someone leaving in Connecticut, and I don’t even know if it is made out of grapes or may be berries? Of course the whole purpose of this exercise was only to say whether I like the wine or not (no need to identify producer and the year 🙂 ), but who doesn’t want to play detective in such a case? Yes, I want to guess the grapes, and I want to guess it right!

While sharing my detailed tasting notes is really useless, as absolute majority of my readers will never taste this wine, I would like to still share a short summary. First and foremost, I did like it! I honestly don’t classify myself as a wine snob – I would gladly drink two buck chuck, as long as it tastes good. But I had a lot of home-made wines before – they are all sweet concoctions, mostly made out of fruit with addition of powerful alcohols – so they really have nothing to do with actual grape wines. This wine actually looked, smelled and tasted good, so here my notes, for what it worth:

Color: dark garnet.

Nose: wine opened with freshly squeezed berries, like raspberries and blueberries, complemented by lime zest.

Palate: very nice fruit (again raspberries, blueberries, ripe plums, some tropical fruit – very unusual for red wine), complemented with vibrant acidity and good tannins.

As you can see, it is a description of a very nice wine – and it was very nice indeed. So was it perfect? Well, it took me some time to realize what this wine was lacking. It was lacking place. There was no notion of terroir, no earth and no minerals. This wine can be from anywhere (and being made in Connecticut, it definitely is). Again, the wine was very drinkable, and a lot of commercially made wine have no notion of place whatsoever – but I think this is something to note when tasting the wine, so here it is.

What would you put as a grape(s) under such description? My top guess is Zinfandel, and if not, my next guess is Syrah. I don’t know the right answer, and I promise to share it – once I will find out.

And as I mentioned before – blind tasting is fun! Get your friends together and play the wine detectives game – I guarantee you a great time!

  1. talkavino
    September 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    Commenting on my own post: I found out that “mystery grape” was Cabernet Sauvignon from California. While I was giving Cab a slight chance to be in this wine, it was total surprise for me. I guess, the fact that I failed blind tasting test twice was no accident…

  1. October 26, 2012 at 12:36 am

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