I’ve been working in Napa these past few days and one of the tasks was holding a blind comparative tasting at the winery. I’ve participated in a few blind tastings in the past, but this was my first one with wine professionals. The flights were setup around 2-4 benchmark wines for each varietal along with our bottling. We scored on a 20 point scale and averaged these scores across all tasters to determine the final rankings.
Tasting with three winemakers was the most interesting part of the experience. These guys are part farmer, chemist and artist trying not to screw up what nature has given them while driving a consistent style. It’s not an easy job and there is significant pride (and ego) on the line in this type of tasting. They are able to identify their own wines almost every time from their familiarity with them and personal tastes. This affected their scores for the wines but not the rest of us who were scoring them based upon which we liked best with only a couple lucky guesses as to the wines identity before the bags were removed.
What I took away after tasting 32 wines is that I’m better at reds than whites. This is not too much of a surprise for me as that is what I mostly drink and prefer. Also, subtle winemaking flaws and consistent varietal character does not bother me too much. The winemakers marked down wines with hardly detectable flaws and some unexpected aromas coming off of some wines that I thought didn’t detract from the wines’ charm. Lastly, it is interesting to cross-reference wine press scores and compare them with ours. In a couple of cases highly ranked wines were at the bottom of our tasting that had us wondering if we had a bad bottle. Of the 32 wines in the tasting, two were corked; about par for the course, unfortunately.
My main take away from this experience is that tasting blind is a great equalizer for most of us and you can learn quite a bit from the results to improve your wines.