Blind wine tastings can be a fun way to test and hone your ability to determine the varietal, region, vintage and producer by using only your senses. Our expert wine guide, Jenny Siddall, has been studying for her WSET Level 4 diploma and has conducted many a blind wine tasting to help her prepare for her exams. We asked Jenny to share her thought on how to set up a proper blind wine tasting.
“In wine tasting, practice is key and it is possible to improve your tasting technique the more you taste.”
To set up a proper blind tasting for 6 wines, you´ll need to either number your wine glasses from 1 to 6 or alternatively make yourself a numbered place mat using a piece of white paper, draw 6 circles and number them 1 to 6 and place the glasses over the circles. Cover all 6 bottles with a paper bag or aluminium foil to disguise them and number them 1 to 6. Pour a small tasting sample into each glass, pouring the wine number 1 into glass 1 and so on.
It´s fun to pick wines that have some common theme, whether it be grape variety (choose Sauvignon Blancs from different countries), Sparkling wines from different countries (Champagne, Prosecco, Cava, New World Sparkling), or wines with different levels of ageing in oak barrels. Rioja is a perfect candidate for trying this one out! If you’re having a wine tasting party, you can easily ask each of your guests to bring a bottle that follows your selected theme.
There are a few key things to focus on to give you clues about the identity of the wine. Firstly, what color is the wine? And the how intense is that color? Secondly, what type of aromas does it have? There are three types of aromas – primary aromas (from the grape), secondary aromas (from the winemaking), and tertiary aromas (the time the wine spent in a barrel or bottle ageing). The primary aromas are the ones that can help you guess the grape variety. Other clues that can be helpful are to decide if the wine is dry, off-dry, medium dry, medium sweet or sweet. Does it have high / low acidity or high / low alcohol?
It´s a bit like playing detective and piecing the jigsaw pieces together to make up the bigger picture. Many grape varieties have a distinctive hallmark but don´t be disheartened if you don´t guess the correct wine. It really is very difficult. The fun is comparing how wines differ and more importantly finding out which ones you like. The most expensive and oldest wine is not necessarily the best!