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How to improve your blind tasting skills

Practice makes perfect!

· Wine Culture

Have you ever attended a blind tasting and had trouble guessing the wine you’re tasting?



Today, let Hedonia give you the tools for guessing key information such as grape variety, region or vintage. Let's take a look!


Guessing the grape variety



You are comfortably sitting in front of your glass, ready to start your blind tasting journey. Start off by looking at the wine's color, which can give you some hints about the grape variety. 



You are comfortably sitting in front of your glass, ready to start your blind tasting journey. Start off by looking at the wine's color, which can give you some hints about the grape variety. 


Primitivo, a grape variety from the South of Italy


Ready to smell the wine? The primary aromas would give you information on what grape is used, as they differ from a variety to another. Put aside any oak or ageing aromas, focus on the aromas of fruits, flowers or herbs instead.



Now, take a sip. Feel the acidity level of the wine (Sauvignon Blanc is more acidic than Chardonnay), sweetness (Gewurztraminer is often made in an off-dry style) and tannins (Syrah usually has higher tannins than Gamay). 



Note that some wines might be a blend of different grapes, which would make the challenge even more difficult!


Guessing the region



At this point you might have an idea about the grape variety. Go deeper, focus on its region of origin now.



When the wine tastes delicate and fresh with higher acidity but lower sweetness and alcohol, it may come from cooler climate, such as Champagne or Mosel, Germany.



Instead, if you're noticing riper fruit or jammy aromas, a feeling of heat from alcohol with lower acidity on the palate, it may come from a warmer climate such as the Southern Rhône valley, Spain or California. 


Wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape are full-bodied with high alcohol and intense fruit flavours 


Additionally, the color can also reflect the region of origin. If you’re identifying a very deep ruby or golden color wine, then it might come from a warmer region.


Guessing the vintage



Now, how old is it? For red wines, the color becomes paler as they age. If the wine you’re tasting shows a beautiful deep ruby color with purple reflections on the side, it means it’s still a young wine.



However, if the wine looks pale and shows a garnet color with brown on the edges, then it's probably not so young anymore.



Unlike red wines, white wines become deeper in color as they age. A young white wine usually shows a pale lemon color while the older ones would look deeper and more golden.



Note that some grape varieties evolve more quickly than others, such as a Pinot noir or Merlot. Indeed, it's not rare for a Pinot noir of just a few years old to show a garnet color.



Also, tertiary aromas develop as the wine ages. When you smell aromas of mushrooms, earth or coffee, you're probably in front of an older wine. But if you can only smell fresh, primary aromas, it’s still a young wine!





If you mean to grade this wine, give it a score out of 4 points by judging its balance, length, intensity and complexity (each accounts for 1 point). Try to be as fair and objective as possible!


Tips for blind tasting



Make sure you follow a systematic approach when tasting the wine, by looking, smelling and tasting. Evaluate the wine as a whole and make a complete investigation instead of giving answers just after sniffing.



Practice makes perfect. Whenever you're tasting an interesting wine, take a picture of its label, write some notes about its aromas or how it feels on your palate. The more you are serious about this, the better your blind tasting skills will become. 



And to learn even more about wine tasting, why not join Hedonia’s next Explorer class next month? Contact us for more information!



Founded in 2018 by Matthieu Ventelon, Hedonia is the first institution in China combining professional Wine and Etiquette expertise in the same training offer.

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