Ever wanted to tell your Syrahs from your Merlots without taking a cheeky look at the bottles? We walk you through the art of blind tasting.
If you’ve ever seen blind tasting in action, you’ll know how suave it looks. They take a sniff, give the glass a swirl, and then take a couple of sips. They can then tell you what it is, where it’s from, and even possibly what vintage or winemaker it is.
This sort of wine tasting expertise takes a fair few years to acquire, but there’s a simpler way to go about it. Here are a few blind wine tasting basics:
1. Take a peek
The first step is to take a look at the wine’s colour. The grape used to make a wine dictates what colour it is. Chardonnay usually has a deep, golden colour, while Pinot Gris and Riesling will show a lighter hue.
Pinot Noirs tend to be lightly pigmented, but Malbecs, Syrahs and Cabernets carry deep, purple colours.
2. Body language
After you’ve checked out the colour, do the viscosity test. Full, sweet wines with high levels of sugar and alcohol will show ‘legs’ – streaks of wine that stay on the glass after a swirl. Light, white wines will show little to no legs.
The viscosity is also a great way to take a stab at where the wine comes from. As a rule of thumb, warmer wine regions generally have a higher alcohol content than cooler regions. It’s a quick way to narrow down your wine’s birthplace.
It’s also worth paying attention to the pigmentation of the wine – this might give you an indication of how old the wine is. Again, as a rule of thumb, whites develop in colour as the age, and reds lose their deep red hues.
3. Give it a sniff
Possibly the most important part of blind tasting is a wine’s aromas. The nose is a valuable tool as it can identify up to 180 different smells – from citrusy, to floral and toffee aromas. Oftentimes, white wines will give off aromas of tropical fruit and citrus, but reds will usually carry a red fruit scent.
Old World wines from Europe have more complex, earthier aromas than New World wines from Australia and New Zealand.
4. Sip and study
Once you’ve done all that, it’s time to get the wine into your mouth for tasting. Can you taste acid or tannins? Does it taste cheap or expensy? Simple or complex? High or low in sugar? Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurtztraminer are high in residual sugar, while Chardonnay is low in acidity with a buttery finish.
Young red wines are often high in acidity and tannins, which they lose as they get older.
5. Sum it up
Merge everything you’ve noticed, smelt or tasted, and come to a conclusion. Perhaps that red you thought was a Syrah is actually a Merlot? Practice makes perfect, but make sure that you clear your mind from any wine preconceptions before you start.