Blind tasting, friend or foe?

Blind tastings anyone? Yes of course, one for me please, don’t we all love them? No prejudice, no labels, live and let live, peace and love. Yet behind every “innocent” & professional blind tasting lies a simple human urge, winning. This second of suspense, just before the bottle is revealed, is for many the essence of tasting.

We all want to be seen as knowledgeable and sharp with mind-blowing taste buds. And what can be better than nailing the grape variety, region, producer and vintage of the random blind sample. An educated palate will gain its owner with the right kind of respect amongst his fellow tasters. Getting it right is the ultimate challenge.

I get it wrong, many times, and even found a way to feel pretty good about it. I know it sounds strange, this is after all my profession, but there’s a positive outcome ahead.  Some of the most interesting wines I drank are ones I completely misunderstood when I blind tasted them. Smells like Riesling, tastes like Riesling but turns out to be an aged Fiano? No way I will ever forget that (happened in Campania last year). Pinot Noir “for sure” is actually a blend of Cabernet, Syrah & Mourvèdre from Roussillon? Well this just proves how programmed my brain is, I must set it free.

But enough with the talking, let’s head to some real life examples. Please allow me to share with you the special ones. The ones that made me look n feel stupid but are now my friends for life:

Vigna Grande, Castel del Monte, Tenuta Zagaria –  the classic mistake.

Final tasting just before the new wine list and I get it wrong, but really. Don’t know why, but I always want wines to be Pinot. Maybe I just think it’s better this way. French people even have a verb for wines who behaves like one, they Pinote.

Maybe it was the aromatics, maybe the slight herbal perfume or even the soft oak influence that was so well integrated that made me all defiant. Pinot it is, nothing else and cool climate of course. Well something else it was, also known as the Nero di Troia variety, typical one to Puglia, hard core Southern Italian.

Vitovska, Carso, Zidarich – the horrible mistake

As I am always fully open to new challenges, but if I was sure of one thing, it was that I can tell red from white, 24/7, eyes covered, hanged upside down from the ceiling.

Luckily, only my eyes were covered. First smells are of pungent spices, touch of red fruits and a soft floral element. Can it be that I can’t really tell? Once the palate kicks in, I’m relieved. Tannins, leather, fleshy fruit, you must be kidding right? Dear god! Not really red but ain’t white either, orange it is! So visually I’m not wrong but technically I’m in real mess. Can’t tell your reds from your whites and calling yourself a pro! Well at least I learned the hard way that orange wines are here, to stay and that I even really like them.

The moral if this slightly too long story is this: trust your palate, allow yourself to get it all wrong but know that there’s always something to learn. After all isn’t that the beauty of the wide world of wine?

4 thoughts on “Blind tasting, friend or foe?

  1. GAL says:

    blind tasting are a humbling experience.
    they let you see that you are not such an expert after all.

    this is what happens to me in blind tasting of whisky.

  2. zoharwine says:

    we should then organize a mixed wine & whisky blind tasting and see what happens.

  3. Dr Zohar says:

    Takes some courage to tell such stories, chapeau! can also tell some of your absolute blind tasting successes!!

  4. zoharwine says:

    Quite right Dr Z.
    Yet funny failures seems to be more entertaining, don’t they?

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