Blind Taste Like a Pro

Blind tasting is a skill that takes some time to develop and requires lots of practice.  The idea of practicing how to taste wine may seem strange to but any “somm” out there will tell you that in order to get the most pleasure out of your wine, you actually have to take an active part in what you are doing. It is about paying attention to what’s in your glass.  

There are two ways to taste “blind”:

1) “Single blind” where the taster has some information regarding the wine; perhaps the grape varietal or the country of origin

2) “Double Blind” where the taster knows nothing about the wine being tasted. In some cases, the wines are served in black tasting glasses so the taster doesn’t even have colour as an identifier.

Why do we taste blind?

  • To get an unbiased opinion so we can taste without any preconceived judgments or outside influence based on past knowledge and experiences. If you’ve had the good fortune to spend time at a vineyard or enjoyed an extraordinary meal with a certain type of wine, it is human nature to be swayed a little by those experiences.
  • When you have no sweet clue what it is you are drinking, you automatically must pay more attention in attempt to “solve the problem”. Who doesn’t like a good guessing game?  By paying close attention to the details of what is in the glass – the colour, aromas, flavours, textures we are given clues regarding grape variety, growing region and even age of the wine.  Again, the more you taste, the more you can draw upon past experience and see how it relates to the wine presently in your glass. You are building a memory bank of smell, taste, and texture.

How to do it?

  • Look – Start by looking at the wine’s colour.  There is an association between colour and grape variety.  For example, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo and Grenache are thin skinned grapes that make lightly pigmented wines, while Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have more anthocyanin (colour pigment) in their skins and generally produce darker coloured wines.
  • Smell – Probably the most important step in wine tasting.  Often what we call tastes are simply volatized chemical compounds reaching the olfactory receptors at the back of the nasal cavity- or more simply put; the process of smelling.  If you want to get the most enjoyment out of your wine, don’t skip this important step.  Swirl to release the wine’s volatile compounds and make it more “smellable” and what do you smell?
  • Taste-  Okay, now you can actually put the wine in your mouth.  Go ahead and swish it around, let it coat the tongue and the gums so you can feel the wine’s weight and texture which also give clues as to grape variety. Is it a light bodied, silky smooth Pinot Noir or a mouth drying, slightly tart Sangiovese?  Notice the wine’s sweetness levels, acidity levels, bitterness and astringent qualities.  These are all clues that can guide you down the path to narrowing down the grape variety, region and age of the wine.
  • Go for it, take an educated guess!

The more you taste, the skilled you’ll become and eventually you’ll have mastered this fun art. Join us at our next in-store tasting for your chance to try this out!

Cheers,

-Alanna