Saturday, November 10, 2007

On Tasting Blind

Blind tasting holds a fearsome and controversial place in the hearts of wine lovers. Identifying a wine blind is one of the most impressive victories a wine lover can have - and certainly there is a correlation between blind tasting ability and wine experience. Robert Parker is said to have an encyclopedic memory for aroma and flavour profiles, and an uncanny ability to identify the exact wine he is tasting blind. Some wine writers villify blind tasting, arguing that it can be misleading (by which I assume they mean "embarrassing"). Others, like Eric Asimov and Kevin Zraly, have a more conflicted view.

Mike Steinberger, in an article entitled "In Blindness Veritas?: Tasting wine blind isn't all it's cracked up to be." cites an embarrassing incident in which he attended a wine tasting designed to disprove his claim that the best California sparkling wines couldn't stand up to fine Champagnes.

This article made me MAD.

Steinberger went in to the tasting with an agenda: to prove his earlier view right. Every wine he tasted, he was trying to identify as a California or Champagne, and then score it accordingly. This defeats the purpose of a blind tasting, AND represents the kind of twisted, old-world, non-scientific thinking that makes the wine world so screwed up.

Take a hint from Robert Parker and Gary Vaynerchuk: If it's good, it's good. If you weren't expecting it, then you just learned something, so be grateful. All that matters is what's in the glass. Everything else is just to give you a shot at predicting whether that glass will be good.

Steinberg showed that stodgy old-school prejudices can come into play (with some effort) even in a blind tasting. The converse is also true: An increasing number of new wine-drinkers are able to taste impartially, even when not blind. I have read so much bullshit on vintage charts and general principles that hold "almost all the time" that at this point, I'm fed up. I accept that there are many factors that can indicate a good wine, but I take it for granted that for every wine following a rule, there are two exceptions. Thanks to RP and GV, more and more young tasters are tasting without prejudice, and enjoying wine more

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