Virtual Blind Wine Tasting is the Please The Palate Pick of the Week

Learning about wine is a never-ending process and wine tasting is a necessary part of the learning process. When studying for my Level 3 Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, I was required to pass a blind wine tasting test. But, that was more than a few years ago. As a way to improve my tasting skills, it is useful to do a blind wine tasting from time to time. And, this past week, I co-led a virtual blind wine tasting for a group of consumers and that is why it is the Please The Palate pick of the week.

Blind wine tasting is a humbling experience. Just when you think you know a lot about wine, blind wine tasting will bring you back to earth. But the purpose of blind wine tasting is not to humiliate you. The blind wine tasting approach is something wine professionals do when they want to impartially evaluate a wine. This is especially important when one needs to judge the quality of a wine at a wine competition.

Blind wine tasting can be fun and with experience you will get better and better as you build up a your repertoire of tasting notes. The key is to have a systematic approach to tasting wine. There are four categories to tasting wine:

Appearance – This is the visual aspect of wine tasting. Look at the wine. Is it clear or hazy? What is the color and how intense is that color?

Nose – After swirling the wine, put your nose in the glass and breathe in. Does the wine smell ok or is it faulty? What is the intensity of the nose? Then start describing the aromas you smell, starting with fruit and floral notes and then spice, vegetal, and oak notes. Based on the nose, do you think the wine is young, developing, fully developed or tired?

Palate – Taste the wine. Think about if the wine is dry or sweet; how much acidity is there; are there tannins; what about the alcohol, is it low, medium, or high?  What is the body of the wine and the flavor intensity? What are the flavor characteristics? Are they the same or similar to what you smelled or are you getting other notes?  Think about the wine’s texture, balance, and finish.

Conclusion – Based on the notes from above, would you say that the wine is poor, acceptable, good, very good, or excellent? This is not about personal preference but rather if you think the wine is a good expression of the grape variety. You can also assess if you think the wine is too young, drinkable with aging potential, drinkable with no aging potential or too old.

The purpose of collecting all of this information is to assess the quality of the wine and to gather information to see if you can guess the grape variety, where it is from, and potentially the vintage.

Blind wine tasting can be fun and it is fun to set up a blind wine tasting game with friends or host a blind wine tasting party, which you can do virtually. You can do a blind tasting in which you have a few different grape varieties and try to guess the grape. Another recommendation is to pick a grape variety you like, such as Pinot Noir. Then, purchase four or six different Pinot Noirs from different regions. Blind taste the wines and see if you can assess where the grapes where grown based on the notes you take. The more familiar you become with a grape variety, the more you will recognize it in a blind tasting.

Blind wine tasting is a great way to improve your tasting skills. Have fun!