Posts Tagged ‘blind tasting’

Reviewing wine – how to remain unbiased?

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

I was recently contacted by some people representing an Australian wine.  They found my blog and asked me if I would be willing to receive some samples and review said wines.  I responded that I would be happy to give the wines a try, but that I would only review them if I had something positive to say.  I do not see the point in bashing a wine.  Not only might it be a wine that others will love, but what constructive purpose will my writing anything negative about their wine serve.

At the same time, and more on topic as it pertains to my title, how do I remain unbiased in my review.  The people were quite warm when they reached out and even complimentary.  I really WANTED to write nice things.

I have on several occasions been given reason to believe that a wine critic I have come to know will sometimes score wines made by people he likes a point higher than he might have had he not liked the people.

And I recently watched a critic reviewing a wine online whereby he admittedly gave the wine an extra point since it contained a varietal he particularly enjoys.


For starters, I do NOT score wines.  I find this to be silly.  One man’s 90 is another’s 75.   And what really is an 80 vs. an 85?  Or an 85 vs. and 89?  How about an 89 vs. a 90?  Or my biggest issue; a 91 vs a 95???

This takes me back to a previous post where I quoted a study that concluded that wine critics themselves can not replicate their own scores when tasting wines blind.

I do not have a solution for this.  I believe that we are all human and emotions will play a role in our judging of things that are subjective, such as food or wine.  If the cook is a friend, if the dish looks appealing, if the setting is just right – you WILL enjoy said meal, wine, etc  more than had things been different.

I suppose this is the reason why wine critics maintain as non-descript a setting as possible, re-taste wines several times and (claim to) taste blind.

Well, I’m unequivocally stating, and you can all quote me on this, that  I will NEVER use a 100 point scale to give a wine a score.  I can  see an A-F scale, or even a 1-10.  But 100 points…come on….be serious.

Without further ado, on to the wine in question.  I was sent the Ozzie-Ba-Ru 2003 Hunter Valley Shiraz.  And I was worried.  The typical Australia Shiraz style is one I am at present not a big fan of.   It is often very extracted, over the top fruity, and simply not a style I go for these days (though I loved this style wine as I was developing my palate).  Lo and behold I REALLY ENJOYED THE WINE.

A reasonable 13% alcohol in a screw cap package, this clear light reddish wine was full of aromas that were present but subdued.  Cherry cola/black cherry, raspberry, pine needles and a hint of earth on the nose.  These aromas opened up to secondary aromas of mocha and chocolate (or as my special lady, unprompted, said “white chocolate”).  The palate had a nice bracing acidity and well integrated tannins with big yet well balanced and not over the top fruit.  A wine with a very nice overall structure.  I’m not certain that this is an “A” wine, but it sure is close.  Nice job!

Happy unbiased (good luck) Wine Tasting

Double blind wine tasting

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

This evening I participated in a FUN double blind wine tasting with members of my wine tasting club.  Not to be confused with a triple blind tasting…


…where one does not know anything about the wine they are tasting and they are not even allowed to see the wine.

A double blind is when you CAN look at the wine but you are not told anything else about the wine.

Our group organizer (and frequent host) put together a list of acceptable varietals/regions and set the minimum price at $20.  I suppose since we were working off a list of about 20 -30 varietals & regions that it was not a true double blind, but I tell you what – we sure were laughing at ourselves and having fun.

Anyway, each of 10 of us in attendance brought a wine that fit the list criteria, and brought it in a brown paper bag with a plain brown/tan rubber band.


We then numbered the bags and began the tasting with #1.

What added to the fun (besides the no pretension/expectation environment) was that we decided to score our tasting guesses (1 point each; per varietal, country & region) and tally total points.  We each also kicked in $7, and the person with the most points won a bottle of wine.

So how did I do you ask?  Let’s just say I could have traded in my “Wine Tasting Guy” moniker for “Wine clueless Guy”.

Of the 10 wines I successfully guessed two.  But one of the two was the wine I brought (A Sonoma Syrah) (2 points), so I really only deserve credit for guessing 1 of 9, an Argentinian Malbec (2 points – but I was unsure and thought it might end up being a Chilean Cab).

Of the other 8 wines I scored ZERO on four of them.  I thought a Washington Cab was a Grenache from Priorat, Spain (it seemed light to me).  I guessed a (stinky) NY Cab Franc was a Spanish Rioja.  I guessed a Gigondas was an Italian Piedmont Nebiollo.  And I guessed an Italian Tuscan Sangiovese was a Burgundy.  ZERO POINTS FOR ME.

Of the remaining four I guessed that an Oregon Pinot was a New Zealand Pinot (1 point), That an Italian Barbera d’alba was an Italian Sangiovese (1 point), that another Oregon Pinot was a Sonoma, CA Pinot (2 points – 1 for country and 1 for varietal).  And that an Italian Chianti was an Italian Dolcetto (1 point).

So for those of you counting at home I scored 9 points.  Two other guys scored 9 points…but someone scored 12, another 13, and the winner scored 14.

I was content with how I did, but (happily) realized I have a long wine journey ahead.  And a fun journey it will be.

Happy BLIND wine tasting!!!


Blind Tasting

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

I just enjoyed another article written by Laurie Daniel for the San Jose Mercury News. This one titled “Blind tasting Can Be A Real Eye-Opener”. OK, the title is a little old-man-pun style, and the article was written citing some recent research done by Standford Business School and California Institute of technology (regarding how price influences people’s appreciation of wine)…but she sheds some light into wine appreciation. And as an advocate of blind tasting, I like to see other people touting its unique ability to force people to appreciate what it is the glass as opposed to its label, reputation or price tag.

I like blind tasting for a multitude of reasons. As someone who DOES NOT profess to having a master palate it is OK when in a blind tasting I pick a (supposedly) inferior wine over one priced much higher or said to be much more highly regarded.

I also like blind tasting as a result of an experience from my time working in the lab at a Napa custom crush. There was a producer who made their wines there that consistently had trouble maintaining the natural balance of their wines. They would doctor the heck out of their wines just to get them into better balance. Yet these same wines carried a triple digit price tag and a reputation to match. Proof that marketing, a high price tag, or for you conspiracy theorists – paying off critics, is enough to “fool” consumers. (One of the many reasons why I STRONGLY advocate tasting wine YOURSELF and buying wines YOU like – not those you are told you should like).

The last reason I’ll mention here as to why I am such a fan of blind tasting has to do with my affinity for Israeli wines and my STRONG belief that they are STILL under appreciated. We Israeli wine people joke that simply being “Israeli” means that critics will (subconsciously??) deduct 3-5 points from their scoring of the wine. Oh how I would love to set up a blind tasting for well known critics and sneak a few Israeli wines in with some other New world wines.

Bottom line, read the Laurie Daniel article, and know that when you are contemplating that $100 bottle vs. the $30 bottle, yes you may enjoy the $100 bottle more – but it will only be BECAUSE it cost you $100 and NOT because you were drinking a better wine…

Now how do you go enjoy that $500 bottle of Bordeaux after reading that…????….SORRY!

Happy drinking!


Châteauneuf-du-Pape – blind tasting & results

Friday, December 7th, 2007

I could list the 7 Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s that we tried and my corresponding tasting notes for each. But that would be boring. I’d rather make fun of myself and the group.

There were 10 of us in attendance last night, 7 women & 3 guys (gotta love the ratio). The wines we tried were from the ’04 & ’05 vintages. Included in the tasting was the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Beaucastel ’04 – a $100 wine that is considered to be one of the best. And the Châteauneuf-du-Pape Rouge, Clos des Papes ’04, a $75 bottle and another stalwart.

We do our tastings blind and one of the things we typically find ourselves doing is trying to guess which is the “fancy” or expensive wine. Sure enough we unanimously chose a $35 bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Dom. Saint Prefert ’05 as our favorite.

The point of this post is simply that wine is something we all should have fun with. Don’t listen to critics, bloggers, sommeliers, or snobby know-it-all friends. Go to wine bars, wine shops, restaurants & try as much wine as you can. And when you find one you like, WRITE IT DOWN. To hell with what the critics tell you you should like. Do you listen to critics about what movies to like (ok, maybe) what music to listen to (OK, maybe), or what politician to vote for??? OK, so I guess critics do hold a prominent role in our society. And the bottom line is, these people gain the status of critic because they devote a TON of time to a specific topic and become (so-called) experts on that topic. But when it comes down to it, it is YOU who is buying the wine, YOU who is drinking the wine & YOU who needs to enjoy the wine.

Have fun – Drink wine. And don’t let anyone tell you what you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT like!!!!!