James Flewellen, my co-author on The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting, has kindly invited me to write a series of blog posts on wine blind tasting.
As you may be aware, James and I are keen to promote blind tasting, and to encourage and support those who are taking their first steps into the sometimes intimidating and obscurantist world of wine.
James and I met at the University of Oxford, which, for historical reasons, has a very strong culture of wine. Every constituent college has a wine cellar (although claret and port may no longer be the staples) and a wine steward, and the university as a whole even has a dedicated blind tasting coach!
Simply turning up to almost daily tastings enabled us to acquire, as if by osmosis, the knowledge and skills which are required to blind taste, and which we now wish to impart—one of the major motivators for writing our book.
But first, you might be asking yourself, why bother at all with blind tasting? This is the subject of this, first, post.
Future posts in this six-part series, to be published every Monday, will cover: the components of wine; the perception of wine; an approach to blind tasting; interpreting your findings; and, finally, setting up a blind tasting.
Taken together, the posts should enable you to make a strong start with blind tasting, and even to set up your own blind tasting club.
So without much further ado, let’s get on with that first post: Why blind taste wine?
Wine is a complex combination of acids, alcohols, sugars, phenolics, and other biochemicals suspended in an aqueous solution. These biochemicals may be experienced as colour, aromas, and flavours; structure and mouthfeel; and by their effects—either pleasant or unpleasant, depending on the amount consumed—on the mind and body.
Parameters such as grape variety, soil, climate, winemaking, and ageing express themselves through the ever-changing makeup of the liquid in the glass and can be analysed and interpreted by the attentive or inspired taster.
Unfortunately, unconscious bias and suggestion are all too easily introduced into this process of identification and appreciation. Ideally, a wine ought to be evaluated objectively, with only an afterthought for such factors as price or prestige, the reputation of the region or producer, the shape of the bottle, the type of closure used, and the design on the label.