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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"
A Bluffer's Guide to Blind Tasting -Introduction and Part 1
The enjoyment of wine takes many forms, from the alcoholic effect, to matching food to enjoying the wine itself. Probably the most intimidating form of enjoying wine is Blind Wine Tasting.
Blind Wine Tasting is where the wine is presented without the taster knowing the identity of the wine. The original objective of blind tasting is to allow the taster to evaluate wine without being biased by knowledge of variety, vintage, region or maker.
The better-known and far more intimidatory form of Blind Tasting arises when the objective becomes for the taster to guess the variety, vintage, region and maker. This test is typically performed in front of the sardonic raised eyebrow and the slight knowing smirk of the person who knows what's in the masked bottle.
There are some people who can reliably pick a chardonnay from a chenin, but for most it's a guess to various stages of education.
But fear not, I've applied my years of experience in Blind Wine Tasting, both as Blinder and Blindee to develop a serious of techniques to assist in the art of the Blind Wine Tasting. Perhaps more succinctly, lessons in How To Cheat at Blind Wine Tasting.
Lesson 1. Check the Bottle
Often at blind wine tastings the bottle is there on the table; but may be covered in foil, a bottle bag or a brown paper bag. This is Nirvana to the Blind Wine Taster. The presence of the bottle provides a plethora of clues to the eventual identity of the wine.
Firstly ensure that this is the bottle the wine was originally in. Many Blinders, some as clever as I, decant the bottle into a different shaped bottle to throw the unwary Blindees off their game. Posing the question "So this has been decanted out and back?" should verify this. Even if they lie you can see it in their eyes.
Having verified this, there's the shape and colour of the bottle to provide the first clues to the actual wine. Just a glance can increase your chances of being recognised as a wine guru two- or threefold. Follow the clues below.
The visual inspection is, of course, made much easier if the bottle is not wrapped, but just has the label turned away from you. In this case there are additional options:
Often your Blinder covers the bottle, but leaves the neck foil on. You need to have a browsing around the bottle shop to learn the labels here, but the investment is worth it. Here's some examples.
The final tip in this lesson is to try and get the chance to pour your own glass. If not on the first pour, reach for the bottle for to give yourself a top-up. Drink the glass hurriedly, if you have to, to make this opportunity available. Pouring your glass allows you to feel the bottle, which can provide additional clues to the identity of the wine you're trying to pick.
One last thing, while you have it, take a peek, or feel, how deep the punt indentation is under the bottom of the bottle, the deeper the punt, the better the bottle may be.
That's it for lesson one, and already you may have worked out what wine you're drinking without tasting a drop!
In future lessons I'll pass on further tips for turning the Blind Wine Tasting to your advantage.
If you have your own tips, let me know by email. It'll just be our secret, you can trust me, I'm an Australian Wine Lover.
© Murray Almond
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