Blind wine tastings can be a lot of fun. Yesterday we had a blind tasting that was incredibly fun but also quite humbling. Our goal was to distinguish Cabernet Sauvignons from Cabernet Francs. We (nine of us) tasted six Cabernet Sauvignons and four Cabernet Francs. All of the bottles were covered with construction paper. We tasted each one, talked about it, and then voted on which grape it was. The results: We were 100% right five times, largely right one time, and largely wrong three times. Given that we are all serious wine enthusiasts, those statistics were sobering. So today’s article is devoted to bling tasting learnings. I hope you enjoy it.
The Benefits of a Blind Tasting
In my article entitled Benefits of Blind Wine Tastings, I said “During a tasting, you do your best to turn off the outside world and focus on what’s in your glass – the look, the smell, the taste and the feel. But when preconceived notions intervene, you might narrow your focus and look only for the characteristics you like or dislike in a particular type of wine. During blind wine tastings, your preconceived notions can’t play a role, so you get to truly EXPERIENCE everything that’s going on in your glass.”
When you’re only tasting two grapes, you focus very intently on which of those two grapes you’re tasting. So pre-conceived notions actually do play a role as you try to figure out things like, “Does that wine look more like Cab or Cab Franc?” But doing a blind tasting is a great way to test your wine moxie.
Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Cabernet Franc
These two grapes originate in the Bordeaux region of France. They’re related – Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc are the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon – and have many similarities. But per my article comparing Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, they also have many differences. Cabernet Sauvignon is a darker red, has higher tannin, is less herbaceous, with notes of blackberry. Cabernet Franc is more perfumy and herbaceous, with notes of raspberry. To see more details about their differences, please take a look at my article.
Blind Tasting Learnings – Vintages
In our tasting, we had a wide range of vintages, from 2005 to 2016. Given that age can really mellow out and discolor a wine, this was a factor that played a big role. A few of the wines had a lighter color. Were they Cabernet Franc or an aged Cabernet? In future tastings like this one, I would limit the vintages, so that the wines could be more similar.
Blind Tasting Learnings – Terroir
Eight of our wines were from California. One was from Italy. One was from France. When you compare a Cabernet Sauvignon from Italy to a Cabernet Sauvignon from California, you will be tasting two very different wines. This is due to two very different terroirs, the natural environments where the grapes were grown. In future blind tastings, I would limit the region, again to be able to compare wines that are more similar.
Blind Tasting Learnings – Typicity
Wikipedia says that Typicity is a term “used to describe the degree to which a wine reflects its varietal origins, and thus demonstrate the signature characteristics of the grape from which it was produced, i.e., how much a Merlot wine ‘tastes like a Merlot’.” Our tasting was a good reminder that not all wines do a perfect job of exhibiting a varietal’s characteristics. So you have to allow for the fact that there are likely to be a few wines that don’t do a good job of representing their varietals. I don’t think is something that you can really control for. But perhaps, during the tasting, this could be a topic worth discussing. For each wine, do people think that the wine does a good job of representing its varietal?
I would love to hear about your blind tasting learnings.
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