Blind Tasting


Early on I had blogged about the responsibility of wine knowledge and how people rely on you for recommendations. I have found out the one thing that is even more nerve racking than making a recommendation on a good wine… that is trying to identify a wine when you can't see the label. Yes, that is right, the evil and frustrating blind tasting.

A friend of mine hosted a wine gathering where each couple brought a bottle of wine. Each bottle was quickly wrapped in a brown paper bag and received a number as its only identification. Okay, this wasn't as bad as a pure blind tasting event as my friend had printed out, in advance, all the labels and tasting notes for each of the wines. So instead of a pure blind tasting we did a blind matching.

In case you are wondering a pure blind tasting often requires that the tasters are given wine without any details and are expected to rate them quality. The idea is to determine the ‘best' wine based on its taste alone. Considering the broad spectrum of where wines can be from, blind tasting are often limited to one type of varietal, style or a region.

For our event, the only rule was the wine had to be a red but could be from anywhere. Tasting notes were provided and the goal was to guess the wine based on the tasting notes. Below are the wines that we had tasted.

2003 Red Flyer, Red Blend

This red is described as an inky-dark wine, with medium to full body, and a lot of spice. The bottle with its catchy label houses a robust, full bodied, country style wine that, at this price, can be a house red for barbecue and that sort of thing. It's totally dry, with plumy-coffee flavors and sturdy tannins. Out of this world!! Made up of Syrah, Mouvedre, Grenache, Carignan, and Clone X

2004 Sausal Family Zinfandel

This estate red is produced from dry farmed vines that average 50 years of age. Following fermentation, the wine is aged twenty months in a combination of American and French oak barrels, adding complexity. The result is a soft and approachable red.

2005 Twelve Vineyards Yamhill-Carlton District Pinot Noir

Another poor set (we were starting to believe it rains every year during bloom) resulted in our lowest yields ever. The year was a little cooler than 2004 and we picked right at our target sugar levels. The wine has higher acidity and slightly less alcohol which was very characteristic of the vintage, some of the angular edges had smoothed over. Another year of bottle age couldn't hurt.

2005 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The dark ruby-colored 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon resembles a classic Bordeaux both in aromatics and flavor. A rich bouquet of cinnamon, spice, licorice, graphite and caramel are followed by integrated layers of cherry, currant, fresh cream and balanced, sweet tannin, all of which contribute to a youthful, bright, multi-layered wine.

2003 Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2003 Frank Family Vineyard's Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon leads with generous aromas of dark chocolate black cherry and spice which are layered with dusty cedar and loam. The palate is vibrant and concentrated; bursting with ripe black cherries plum currant and blackberry which are balanced with well structured tannins providing a lasting grip while maintaining a refined elegance.

2003 Hess Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

It delivers keenly-defined cassis and black-plum fruit and picks up a nice boost in richness from its liberal oak. While it is well-balanced and fit with fairly trim tannins, it has the capacity to grow for a handful of years if left to age in the cellar.

2001 La Fiorita Laurus Toscana IGT

80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot. Rich, deep red in color. More modern in style, but oak is not really apparent. Round tannins and nice acidity. Dark berries, black cherry, some spice, and a pleasant earthiness. Very enjoyable and a nice value. While enjoyable now, it should continue to improve.

2005 Loxton Cellars Cabernet-Shiraz ‘Grandfather's Cuvee'

This wine is a classic Australian Cabernet-Shiraz. 70% Cabernet and 30% Shiraz. Australians consider cabernet to be a donut wine; there is a whole in the middle that is filled by the shiraz. Smoke, leather and spice in the aroma. Herbs, spice, current with black fruit in the taste.

As you can see there were some very similar wines and some that should be easily identifiable. The trouble is that when you get into a blind tasting everything that you think should be easy becomes more difficult. When you have the tasting notes it is like having the labels there. You can't help but persuaded by the words, vintage and reputation of the wine. You might think this would be easier but I think I might have fared better without the notes to confuse me. In my defense, I have never claimed to be able to pick out a producer or a vintage or a producer & vintage. I've always claimed that I could pick out the varietal.

Out of the 16 people there the best score was 3 out of 8. What did I get? I'm not telling but I was able to identify the wine I brought with me which is all I really care about. The next time you host a wine event make it blind tasting … you'll find the results very interesting.

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: Mark Angelillo
    Founding Member Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    2 5,324

    Sounds like a fun party idea. I wish I had some more vino-centric friends around.

    Jun 27, 2008 at 6:23 AM

  • Snooth User: oceank8
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    55708 2,030

    I love this idea. I have had a few blind parties with friends that aren't wine geeks but like the party. We are often looking for some other party ideas, I'm going to try this one! How did your friend know ahead of time what everyone was bringing so he could have the labels and tasting notes printed out?

    Jun 27, 2008 at 7:42 AM

  • Snooth User: Healy
    Hand of Snooth
    31380 232

    I attended a similar event that was a lot of fun. Everyone bought a bottle, and we blind tasted them and rated them from one to five. Then the results were tallied up and compared to the prices of the bottles to come up with the “best value;” i.e. the one that had the best rating to price ratio. It was fun, but since my tastes were a bit more specific than most of the people, I was really only interested in finding out what the bottles that I really liked were and how much they cost. But I'd definitely attend an event like it again - although it doesn't really make sense to bring an expensive bottle that will need time to open up to these types of things; we didn't decant and drank the bottles really fast.

    Jul 01, 2008 at 11:46 AM

  • Snooth User: John Andrews
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    36106 3,448

    @Ocean … my friend listed in the evite that everyone was to email her with the name and vintage of wine that each person/couple were bringing so that she could print out the tasting notes ahead of time. This event was A LOT of fun.

    Jul 01, 2008 at 12:40 PM

  • Snooth User: courgette
    124481 158

    My brother and I did a couple of parties like this, back in the late 80's. We specified the grape (one was pinot noir, and I think the other must have been chardonnay in those days)--didn't specify price parameters, but we were all young and un-rich, so I believe the priciest was about $15 (which was a LOT for our income level in those days!).

    Interesting that there were no duplicates either time, but it would have been fun to have had two of the same, to see if anyone would have caught it! My guess is that they wouldn't have.

    We all had notepads, and wrote our remarks down, then threw them into a basket. Someone read them all aloud-- very amusing, but also instructive. Also increasingly wild as the night wore on, of course.

    We voted on all-round favorite, and "best value." I'd like to do that again sometime.

    Nov 20, 2009 at 12:31 PM

  • Snooth User: courgette
    124481 158

    Adding to the above: the hosts (my bother and I) bagged the wines in another room, in identical (except for a number) brown bags, and removed the capsules to boot, to prevent anyone recognizing the neck of "their" bottle-- so they were true "blind" tastings.

    Nov 20, 2009 at 12:34 PM

Add a Comment

Search Articles

Best Wine Deals

See More Deals

Snooth Media Network