The Mountain Times

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Challenge the senses with blind wine tastings

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 reds.

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 there.

Tagged: Wine