Wed, Apr 18, 2012 08:18 AM
No blindfolds needed to do a blind tasting! While it might lend
itself as a party game, blind tasting of wine can be a serious
challenge for the wine connoisseur. All you need is to hide the
identity of the wine bottle, and the taster needs to guess which
wine is being tasted. Aluminum foil or simply a brown bag is enough
to wrap the bottle.
There are plenty of variations and themes to choose, from tasting
the same grape from different wine regions, to all different and
unknown wines, to practicing with already familiar wines.
Whereas the ability to taste is genetically given to all of us,
the amount and intensity of tastes recognized can be very different
for each person. It does take some experience to recognize typical
qualities of particular wines.
There are certain clues that are helpful and can be found by
sight, smell, and taste. To start the tasting pour about an ounce
of wine into a clear, tulip shaped glass that allows for vigorous
swirling. However before you begin the swirling take a good look at
the wine in the glass. It helps to tilt the glass some and see the
wine against a white background. A wide range of colors presents
itself, from yellow-greens to reds and purples, which all give
clues to the identity of the wine.
A very pale yellow-green in young table wines usually means the
wine is from a cool growing region or made from grapes that have
not reached full ripeness or maturity, or both. A deep golden
yellow hints at an older white wine or a young white from a warm
growing region and is often a sign for barrel aging. Brick red
tones usually indicate older, mature wines, while ruby-orange
highlights high-acid reds and black-blue tones show up in low-acid
Then comes the swirling to increase the surface area of the wine
and release the volatile molecules into the glass that give us the
clues to be sniffed. But stick your nose into the glass before
swirling and then again after to really smell the difference. Have
a piece of paper handy and write down your impressions. Don't be
shy, there is no right or wrong, everybody smells something
different due to personal life experiences. A city dweller will
probably associate the smell of hay with something different than
somebody that grew up on a farm. Wines are estimated to contain
about 200 odorous compounds; our noses are capable of detecting up
to 10.000 different odors and with some training will detect about
a thousand smells of different intensities and concentrations. So
there is plenty to choose from.
When it comes to the actual tasting, there are really only four or
five different choices the tongue can identify: sweet, sour,
bitter, salty and the relatively recently added taste of "umami," a
Japanese term for "savory" or "delicious," but it is relatively
rare in wines. As is saltiness, so the only information we are
looking for is the concentration and balance of sweet, sour, and
bitter substances of the wine on our tongue.
Try to determine the acidity, absence or presence of sweetness,
balance, especially between tartness and sweetness, body or weight,
astringency and presence of tannins and alcohol.
Piqued your interest? Join me for more next week. Or come to the
Victorian Inn in Wallingford, May 2nd, and join me a blind tasting