To taste blind or not blind, that is the question. The answer is simple!
Is it better to taste wines blind, semi-blind or open? That question has popped up several times lately. In recent months, I have been to wine tastings, wine seminars and in the jury of wine competitions, where that question has been more than a peripheral curiosity.
When I say “taste blind” here I mean that you know absolutely nothing about the wines you taste. “Half-blind” often means that you know which wines it is, but not in which order they are served. Here, however, I mean something different: to taste a series of wines where you have been given information about what kind of wines it is, for example, “white bordeaux”. “Open” requires no explanation.
My answer is simple: If you want to evaluate the quality of a wine as objectively as possible, you should taste it completely blindly. (However, read here about judging “objectively.”)
This is perhaps most relevant when it is some kind of “judging” situation, like in the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (where I was judging earlier this spring), the International Wine Challenge and such events, or, why not, trade tastings. Then the purpose is to provide some kind of quality assessment. In such cases, if possible, taste completely blind.
If you know something, just anything, about the wines then you are immediately influenced by your own expectations for that type of wine, and then you will inevitably introduce a discriminatory factor in the assessment of the wine.
Some people think it is best to know what “kind” of wine it is. For example, they do this at the Decanter competition. The wines are divided into groups, often based on appellation and possibly price, and the information is given to the tasters. The advantage of it, some believe, is that you can then judge the wines based on what they “should” be like or on “typicity”. But then, in my opinion, you miss the point. If you need to know what kind of wine it is to appreciate its quality, then maybe it’s not as good as the seller wants the consumer to believe.
Two examples from the Concours Mondial. We had a series of twenty red wines that were quite light and also light in colour; they had high acidity and lots of rough tannins. Overall, we gave them quite low points; unbalanced, unripe and edgy, on average. It turned out (afterwards) to be a series of nebbiolo from Piedmont. A wine type that today is super-trendy and very highly praised. Had we initially known what it was, then I am certain that we would have – Pavlovian -given the wines better points than we did now.
Another example: A series of twenty white wines, overall powerful, complex, nuanced, balanced, many with excellent acidity and minerality. High points. It turned out to be pinot gris / blanc from the Czech Republic. Surely they do not make great wines in CZ? … is probably what most of us in the jury had as a pre-conceived idea. But yes, they do! Knowing in advance that we were tasting Czech wines, the scores would most likely have slipped.
In other words, if you want to evaluate the quality to the best of your ability, then taste blind. Completely blind. (With a small additional note: you should also avoid guessing games, trying to figure out what it is that you are tasting. Inevitably, this will destroy one’s own neutrality.)
This is not a criticism of wine judges or wine critics, or of anyone tasting wine. It is just a description of the weakness of man, or the subjectivity and psychology of assessing wines.
There are countless examples that one’s expectations directly affect one’s appreciation and assessment of a wine.
First: Taste blind if you want to evaluate the quality of the wines.
And then: If you have a very exclusive or expensive wine, do not serve it blind. To appreciate such a wine to its fullest, one needs to know that it is expensive, unusual or exclusive. Hence the importance of marketing for expensive wines. If one does not know that it’s expensive, one does not appreciate it as much…
Britt & Per
PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief !
This post is also available in: Swedish