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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"

A Bluffer's Guide to Blind Tasting
Part 2 - Know your Enemy

© Murray Almond
19 August 2001

In the first lesson of this course I discussed the ways in which the presence of the bottle, even significantly disguised, can greatly aid in providing clues to working out the identity of a wine. However in most cases, the bottle is not present or too well hidden, to use as a source of clues. Therefore the next phase needs to be used, that is to Know Your Enemy.

Knowing a bit about out the person presenting the wine, and how they act, can provide valuable clues to cutting down the options for the wine.

Watch the Face
Watch their face as the wine is poured and as they take their first taste, are they looking forward to it, are their eyes misting over? Chances are it's a good wine. If there are two people who know the identity of the wine, watch the interchange between them. A surprised look may mean a cheaper wine tasting better than expected, a satisfied look may, again, be a better wine.

What do they like?
Know your enemy's likes and dislikes, if he's a big red fan, you're unlikely to get a Pinot. If he has a cellar full of lovely aged wine, add a couple of years to your pick on the masked wine's age. An ideal approach would be to get a look at the cellar prior to the tasting starting.

What's their Track Record?
How has this Blinder shamed you in the past? A 'friend' of mine knows that I have trouble picking a Balgownie Estate wine from Bendigo in Central Victoria, which is a great wine that ages well. Accordingly he pops up with this one about twice a year. As such if I can get no other clues as to what the wine is, I'll go the Balgownie, it's worked twice so far.

Which Glassware is used?
The standard show tasting glass, known as ISO or XL-5, is the usual, and probably best, choice for blind wine tastings. However a choice of a different glass can give valuable clues to the wine in the reaction to your Blinder's face. The Riedel glass company has revolutionised wine glassware by offering different wine glass shapes for different wines. It is worth knowing a few of these shapes. If the Blinder brings out the Pinot Glass to present the wine, you've got a walk to first base. If you're in the room where the glassware is stored, reach for a riesling glass for yourself. The unwary Blinder will say 'No, use these instead', providing further clues to making you a wine tasting genius.

Get them Tipsy
Like it or not, wine is an alcoholic drink, and alcohol has various effects on the human body, one effect in particular is to make someone more talkative. A good technique in the Blind Wine Tasting challenge is to bring a thirst quencher to have before the tasting bit begins. A confident Blinder, fuelled with a couple of glasses of something refreshing, nice and 15% can let slip all sorts of clues to the later wines. Make sure they aren't driving though.

Is he a Bastard?
The worst kind of Blind Wine Taster Blinder is the bastard. This is the guy, and it's usually a he, that picks the Roussane/Cinsault blend, fermented in glass and aged in Russian oak from the microclimate just west of Otago, and then puts it into a foil-covered Châteauneuf-du-Pape bottle and presents the wine to you in a Vegemite Glass. He then mocks you for not picking it straight off.

But all is not lost. I know many such people, some say one of them is you poor humble tutor, and even these people give away clues to the wine as I've described above.

If all of this doesn't work you may need, in fact, to taste the wine. We'll explore this further in Lesson 3.

© Murray Almond
19 August 2001

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Other Lessons in the Bluffer's Guide to Blind Tasting
Introduction and Part 1 - Check the Bottle
Part 3 - The Snotta Method
Part 4 - Taking a WAG and getting to Carnegie Hall

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