jamie goode's wine blog: Tasting wines blind

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tasting wines blind

Every now and then I play a bit of a game. I close my eyes and ask Fiona to choose some wines from the various racks I have in the kitchen and serve them to me blind. Of course, I know roughly which wines I have in the rack, but there are a lot of them, so this makes the game quite fun. The stash includes numerous samples (perhaps 150) and a spattering of wines Iíve put there because they need drinking soon. In truth, there are a few wines that I'd rather Fiona didn't pick out, because they are expensive and deserving of a special occasion, but having them in there adds a bit of spice to the game.

Tonight I tried two whites, which Fiona had selected because they had similarly coloured (yellow) capsules. The first was clearly a new world Chardonnay, but a very good one. It was brilliantly balanced with lovely fruit, some lemony freshness, and well integrated oak. I couldnít really place it. It could have been a very good Australian, or even an exceptional Chilean. It turned out to be South African: the Boschendal Chardonnay 2006 (£7.99 Waitrose, Thresher). This is a wine I might not have rated so highly if Iíd seen the label, which is a bit unfair on it. Now I can give it full credit.

The second wine was really interesting, and equally good. It was aromatic and open, with lovely pure fruit. I though it was old world: maybe something serious made from RhŰne varieties, with some Viognier in the mix. Clearly not Chardonnay or Sauvignon or Riesling. It was actually the Ant„o Vaz 2006 from Alentejo winery Malhadinha Nova. I tasted this fairly recently and quite liked it; blind it seemed even better. A really interesting unoaked white wine.

Buoyed on by the success of these first two picks, Fiona chose a third Ė a red. I took a sniff and got lots of sweet, ripe, spicy fruit. New-worldish, but probably old world made in a ripe new world style. Pretty good, but accessible and drinking well now. It turned out to be the 2004 Peceguina Joao from Malhadinha Nova. What is it about this winery? Iíve been tasting quite a few of their new releases in recent weeks, and itís odd that Fionaís random-ish picks should find two of them. There's some spicy seriousness to this wine, although the 15% alcohol makes it taste a little hot. I reckon it has the stuffing to age in the medium term, though.

In conclusion, I like tasting blind. It really helps understand a wine first to taste it blind and then have the identity revealed. I must do it more often.

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At 2:10 AM, Blogger Joe said...

I love tasting blind, and I can think of many wines where the label impacts my view. I try to do this as frequently as possible, and my wife is only happy to oblige. I usually have her decant the wines (I have four cheap, identical decanters for this purpose) and mark them for a reveal later on.

At 12:13 PM, Blogger Bobbo said...

I have been reading your site for a few years now, some very good stuff. But I am dissapointed to see that you dont blind taste more often, and to suggest you would mark a wine more highly once you had seen the label ia a no no.
Well done joe on your 4 bottles a night blind tastings, I must try that.

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Cru Master said...

I think you may find this will be the result for a lot of South African wines - wines that may get dismissed merely because of where they come from.

A good lesson illustrated by this post.

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Bobbo - it might be a no-no, but at least he's "fessed up". I always think that to get the most enjoyment, expensive bottles should be served sighted and the cheapo's blind....

At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Sorry, I meant to add that nobody's immune from tasting the label (so to speak)

At 9:44 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

I actually think it's inevitable that the sight of the label will change the rating, at least a little, because knowledge adds something to the process of tasting. Context matters. There's evidence that our actual perception of the wine itself is changed by knowing what we are drinking. I'm not talking here about bigging-up the first growths, or faking our notes so that we perceive complexity where it doesn't exist just because the name is famous - I'm dead against that. Some critics are reputation-led in their ratings, and that sucks. I'm talking about something more subtle here.

At 8:35 AM, Anonymous Cru Master said...

A label represents history, origin, tradition and indeed reputation - it is hard not to ignore those factors when appreciating wine I think.

At 4:25 PM, Anonymous keith prothero said...

Blind tasting ROCKS!!

At 6:43 PM, Blogger Ole Martin SkilleŚs said...

Blind tasting reveals just what a vague object wine is. In our club, of 70-odd members, we do one blind tasting a year, where everybody's usually way off when it comes to the identity of the wines. This has nothing to do with the competence of the tasters - many are very good indeed. However, I find that is one of the more experienced tasters say that "I don't think it's a Chablis", none of the others dare think that it is (even if it is). Also, the smallest visual stimulus tends to override what we taste. The above relates to official club tastings, where whole flights are served incognito - and a theme has to be found. When we taste wines in each other's homes, however, they are served individually, and the success-rate is very high indeed - for some of us.


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