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 !
What’s on at BKWine Tours
- Champagne, September 26-30
- Bordeaux, October 10-14
- Douro Valley in Portugal, October 17-21
- South Africa, November 9-19
- Chile-Argentina, January 20 – February 4, 2019
- South Africa, February 16-24, 2019
- New Zealand, March 11-26, 2019
For more information please contact us on email or on phone (we’re on French time), or go to our wine travel site on www.bkwinetours.com!
We also make custom designed wine tours – on-demand tours for you and a group of friends, for your company (maybe to scout new winegrowers?), for a special event… We can combine winery visits and wine touring with other activities: gastronomic workshops, visit to an oyster farm, truffles hunting, cheese making, and more. More info on the custom designed and bespoke BKWine wine tours and travel here!
Read our book(s)
We have written several wine books, ten at the last count. One of them has been translated to English; the others are (so far) only available in Swedish. This is the one that is available in English: Biodynamic, Organic and Natural Winemaking, Sustainable Viticulture and Viniculture
All our books are on wine, but on different subjects: wines of the Languedoc, wine growing and wine making, the wines of France, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Burgundy, Champagne. Several have won prestigeous prizes and awards. Read more on our wine books.
From the World of Wine
In short, news and stuff from the world of wine.
Un Château en Ville, a new wine bar in Bordeaux
Château Lestrille is a family-run chateau in Entre-deux-Mers, the region between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. This is a region that most people only pass through going from Bordeaux to Saint Emilion. But if you stop you will discover a lot of good wine producers. One of our favourites here is Lestrille, located in the small village of Saint Germain du Puch. The property is run by Estelle Roumage. She recently expanded the business with a wine bar in central Bordeaux. A good idea we think.
We were there in April and enjoyed some of the chateau’s different wines, including the crispy Château Lestrille Blanc, AOP Entre-deux-Mers. You can have either just a glass of wine or you can order one of the really good charcuterie and cheese platters. You can also buy the wines. Un Château en Ville, 25, rue Saint James, Bordeaux, open Tuesday and Wednesday 16-22 and Thursday-Saturday 11-23. More info: lestrille.com.
And if you happen to read Swedish you can get our award-winning book on Bordeaux and its wines.
2018, a very good year in Mendoza
The Argentinian wine farmers really needed this vintage. After small quantities due to severe weather conditions in 2016 and 2017, 2018 is a very good year both for quality and for quantity. The quantity is up 30% from last year. The growing season offered perfect weather. Not so much rain, hot days and cool nights, just as it should be in Mendoza.
Of course, it is early day yet, but the general view among the producers is that 2018 will be a very high-quality year. Read more about the 2018 vintage in Mendoza on winespectator.com.
Curious about the 2019 vintage? Join us early next year on our Argentina (and Chile) wine tour just before harvest.
Win a wine tour in Hungary
A new and comprehensive website about Hungarian wines organises a wine writer/blogger competition: Ágnes Németh is the former organizer of the wine fair VinCE Budapest as well as former editor of the VinCE magazine. She has now left that company and launched her own website about Hungarian Wines. “We are missionaries writing about quality wines in Hungary, without any support from the state”, she says. “And now we are even more enthusiastic as we have initiated the first online wine writing award in Hungary”.
If you are interested in participating, hurry up, the deadline is June 30! You will find more information about the wine writing award here. You can, among other prizes, win a 4-day wine tour of Hungary.
The truth about the size of the French wine regions
Sometimes it is said that statistics is an effective way to hide the truth. But often it is very interesting and sometimes surprising. New statistics – very detailed – were recently published on the wine production in France in 2017. In total, France has 745,044 hectares of vineyards. Of this, 446,000 hectares are AOP vineyards (60% of the total surface), 194,600 hectares are IGP and 28,100 hectares are Vin de France. If we exclude what is used to make Cognac and Armagnac, we have an area of 668,919 hectares of vineyards. The AOP total is then brought down to 369,875 hectares.
The largest single wine denomination is the IGP Pays d’Oc rouge with 51,000 hectares, AOP Bordeaux rouge with 36,700 hectares and 34,000 hectares of Champagne.
Sweden is world champion in bag-in-box wines
Swedes are world champions when it comes to drinking bag-in-box wines. In 2017 box wines were separated from bulk wines in international import and export statistics. Up until then, everything over 2 litres was considered as bulk wine. So now we have statistics showing which countries export and import bag-in-box. The statistics show that Sweden is the world’s largest importer of box wine. So, it is not just a question of consumption per capita, but also the biggest total volume. In Sweden, many people probably think that drinking BiB is commonplace in most countries but that is not the case. Sweden imports 493,000 hectolitres of box wine, which represents 25% of the total imported volume. However, bag-in-box wines (or simply box wines as they are called in Sweden) account for 50-60% of the sales. The explanation is probably that most of the wine imported bulk (around 27% of the total imports) is filled in boxes in Sweden. The second biggest importer is the USA, followed by Norway (!), Slovakia and Germany.
Australia is the biggest exporter of bag in box, slightly ahead of South Africa and Germany. Then come France, Italy and Spain. Read more stats here blog-export.fr
Three good value wines from Chile to taste this summer
Chile has in recent years proven itself to have an impressive breadth as a wine country. Producers big and small go exploring in all directions to find the perfect spot to grow vines. Here are three suggestions for good summer drinking from Chile:
Emiliana VIGNO 2015 comes from Maule. It is made from 100% carignan on “dry-farmed” land (no irrigation). Emilian is probably the world’s biggest biodynamic winery. (around 16 euro)
Santa Cruz de Coya 2017 comes from the south, from Bío Bío and is made by the talented Roberto Henriques. The grape is país, the original grape that arrived with the conquistadores in the 16th century. It has recently been “rediscovered” and become trendy among young winemakers.
Garage Wine Maule Valley 2013 comes from Maule. It is made from cabernet franc and also without irrigation. The winemaker is the passionate Derek Mossman Knapp.
Join us on the wine tour to Chile (and Argentina) in January to discover and taste many more exciting wines.
The most popular grapes in South Africa
In South Africa, around 100 different grape varieties are grown on an area of approximately 117,000 hectares (table grapes not included). This is quite impressive, although of course many of the varieties are grown in very small quantities. The most planted variety in South Africa is still Chenin Blanc with 19,000 hectares. This is still a lot but it used to be much more and the trend shows a continued decline. But today, the grape is used for very high-quality wines whereas previously it was mainly a grape for cheap wine and brandy. In recent years many producers have shown us what Chenin Blanc really is capable of in South Africa.
In second place we have Colombard, also a white grape, with 13,000 hectares. Cabernet Sauvignon is in third place with 12,000 hectares followed by Syrah with 11,000 ha, Sauvignon Blanc with 10,000 ha, Pinotage with 8,000 ha, Chardonnay also with 8,000 and Merlot with 6,000 ha. The grapes that specifically show an upward trend are Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Chardonnay. Numbers come from oiv.org
Join us on our wine tour to South Africa in February 2019 to discover more excellent wines!
Organic vineyards increase in France
Currently, there are 5,835 organically certified wine estates in France. This is an increase of 11% since 2016. The certified vineyard surface is 61,048 hectares, an increase of 4%. The trend shows a continued increase. 17,617 hectares are under conversion. Of these, 3,369 hectares are in their third (and last) year of conversion, 5,588 are in their second year and 8,660 are in their first year. If we add these together we have 78,665 hectares grown organically, which is 10% of the total vineyard acreage in France.
If we look at the total agricultural area in France, the figure is slightly lower, 6.5% is organic. Vineyards represent 4% of the total agricultural area. Read more agencebio.org
Popular bubbles from the Loire Valley
The various sparkling crémant wines produced around France are becoming more and more popular. Not least the Crémant de Loire, which has seen a huge boost for its exports. 2017 saw an increase in exports to the US by 9%. The wines are made mainly in the Saumur area but can also be made in Touraine and in Anjou. Crémant de Loire comes from 1,200 hectares, which gives a total of 87,000 hectolitres of wine of which 10% is rosé.
The red grapes used are Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pineau d’Aunis. The white ones are Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Pineau d’Aunis is an old local Loire grape with a character reminiscent of Cabernet Franc. Crémant de Loire is often a blend of several grapes, but you can occasionally encounter a 100% Cabernet Franc. Read more loirevalleywine.com
Vineyard prices in France on the rise
Buying a vineyard in France is not getting any cheaper. On the contrary. All categories of vineyards are becoming more and more expensive. This is evident from numbers recently published by Safer, a governmental organization overseeing property transactions. The average price per hectare of AOP vineyards is 143,900 euros, an increase from last year of 2.3%. However, if you exclude Champagne, the average price is only 69,300 euros. Wineries without AOP status are considerably cheaper, 13,800 euros per hectare.
The statistics from Safer also show that more and more companies, as opposed to private buyers, acquire vineyards. Considering the prices in some regions, this may not be so surprising. Read more mon-viti.com
Features that we have published during the past month, with lots of reading for you.
Gennaro Nasti – the pizza maker from Naples who took Paris by storm
Gennaro Nasti left Naples for Paris, where, in 2016, he opened Bijou, luxury pizzas in designer decorated restaurant. To give you an idea, Bijou was voted Pizzeria of the year in 2017 by the Italian magazine Gambero Rosso. Gennaro is an expert in fermentations, and his pizza doughs are famous for being perfect. He continues to experiment and is now also making a dough with champagne (!) He is fanatic about having high-quality ingredients and the restaurant’s menu (the pizzas) change every month. And he does no take-away even if you beg on your bare knees.
BKWine Magazine’s Åsa Johansson had a brief chat with Gennaro when he came to Florence for an evening making pizza together with Savini Tartufi who sells excellent truffles all over the world: Gennaro Nasti – the pizza maker from Naples who took Paris by storm.
Petra, revival in the Tuscan winery
“We aim for brighter, fresher wines that better reflect our terroir,” says Eleonora Guerini, presenting the new wines in designer Antonio Marra’s beautiful show-room in central Milan. Prior to 2017, Eleonora was one of three chief editors at the Italian wine guide Gambero Rosso. In the Italian wine world, the news that she left the wine guide made waves. Today she is an important component of Terre Moretti’s new initiative.
The Petra winery in Val di Cornia along the Tuscan coast is making a fresh start. Today, they focus more on elegance than power. Petra presented their new wines at the end of March in Milan. BKWine Magazine´s Åsa Johansson attended the tasting: Petra, revival in the Tuscan winery.
Some information about current and future wine tours with BKWine.
Champagne is a wine, with bubbles | wine tour
Maybe this is self-evident but still, certain producers in Champagne like to point out the fact that Champagne is a wine, not just bubbles. Maybe because so many people only drink Champagne at festive occasions when what is in the glass perhaps is not the most important thing. They just enjoy the bubbles. Many high-quality Champagnes absolutely deserve to be enjoyed as a wine, at the dinner table and not only as a quickly-forgotten aperitif. To have Champagne all through a meal is a great experience and you will have several such meals on this tour with us to Champagne. We will arrive just in time for the harvest, or maybe just after, the harvest is expected to be early this year.
Join us on this Champagne wine tour at the end of September.
And if you happen to read Swedish you can read our unique and award-winning book on growers’ champagne.
Bordeaux wine, the difference is in the cellar | wine tour
In Bordeaux, every wine estate is a chateau. Sometimes big and impressive, sometimes more modest. But the most important thing, after all, is to have a well-equipped cellar. How you equip you cellar depends on how much money you make. But it is not only a question of money. It is also about your philosophy. Some producers prefer stainless steel tanks, others concrete tanks and others maybe oak vats. We will see many different wine cellars during our Bordeaux tour in October and we will hear about the different philosophies. And maybe we will be able to taste the differences in the glass!
Join us on this wine tour to Bordeaux this fall and experience outstanding food and wine at fantastic chateaux.
And if you happen to read Swedish you can get our award-winning book on Bordeaux and its wines.
Spectacular South Africa, world-class wines | wine tour
This wine tour will show you the most important wine regions in this magnificent country. We will go to Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl as well as the lesser-known but up and coming stunning valley of Hemel-en-Aarde in Walker Bay on the south coast. We will taste a lot of wines but we will also have time for sightseeing, Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope not least. Our next tour to South Africa is in February 2019 and it will be harvest time, or very close to harvest time. You will be able to taste the grapes and there will be a lot of things going on in the cellars.
Join us on this fabulous wine tour to South Africa.
Experiences of a lifetime in the South American wine lands, Chile and Argentina wine tour
Our wine tour to South America is filled with experiences. You will get to know the two most important wine countries in South America, Argentina and Chile. You will get a close look (and taste) not only of their wines but also their gastronomy, the landscape, the cities – Buenos Aires, Santiago, Mendoza, Valparaiso – and smaller towns like Santa Cruz in the beautiful Colchagua region in Chile. One of the highlights of the tour is the breath-taking bus journey across the Andes. An experience of a lifetime.
Join us on our next wine tour to South America, Chile-Argentina, in January 2019.
The extraordinary explorer wine tour to New Zealand
In March we will go even further away than any other wine tour, to New Zealand. New Zealand has become a world-famous and highly respected wine country in just 20-25 years. Looking at export numbers it is one of the countries with wines selling at the highest prices. It started with Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough. Today not everything is about Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand has shown its excellent suitability for Pinot Noir, Syrah and many other varieties. Join us on this adventure and be one of the first to discover a different kind of wine country, far away.
Our first wine tour to New Zealand in March 2019 is already fully booked but we are planning the next one for November 2019. More info will follow soon on our website but please contact us already if you are interested. Take a look at our exceptional New Zealand wine tour program here.
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