Tasting blind is the best way to know what your really think of a wine or mead. I devised an involved method to evaluate my boiled mead experiment, but here’s a simple method that the Lady of the House and I use for quick comparisons.
We have three different kinds of wine glasses: clear stems, blue stems, and red stems. When we want to do a quick tasting, We each pour up to three different wines into each kind of glass while the other is out of the room, note which is which, and then leave the room. We don’t know what we’re tasting as we scribble down our impressions of the “clear” wine or the “blue” wine. We only tell each other after we’re done sniffing, swirling, spitting, clearing our palates, and writing down what we think. Yes, I know what she’s tasting and she knows what I’m tasting, so it’s not double blind – that’s the price for a quick and easy setup. It’s not much of a price, though, because we’re both pretty focused on the wine in front of us.
Describing a wine
If you’re not a trained taster, it can be hard to know what to say about a wine. This is where comparing two of them side by side can help. The aroma: is one stronger than the other? Are they both strong or faint? Write that down. Do they differ in some way? Write that down – even if you have a hard time describing exactly how – “they differ in a way I can’t describe” is better than making something up or not writing down anything at all. Do the same thing for flavor (stronger, fainter, different) and make note of any familiar tastes that you notice (it’s ok if you don’t notice any or can’t describe them – the more you do this the better you’ll get). Pay attention to acidity (too much will seem tart, not enough will be flabby, and just right will feel lively), tannin (with soft tannins you’ll notice a drying sensation in your mouth, harsh tannins are bitter) and sweetness (does it taste sweet or not? is it too sweet?).
Clearing your palate
You might notice that flavors and aromas become more muted after you’ve been tasting for a while. It’s a bit like tuning out a steady sound – after a while you just don’t notice it. That’s why tasters clear their palate between different wines. A cracker or an apple will give your taste buds something different and “reset” them for the next wine. Sniffing some coffee beans or some such can do the same for your sense of smell.
Isn’t it supposed to be fun?
I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it can really turn something ordinary into an occasion. It isn’t just that you learn more about how wines differ or which ones go with which food, it’s that you have something new to talk about at dinner. Sometimes the Lady of the House and I agree on the wines, and other times it’s as though we were tasting completely different ones. There’s often a surprise and always something to talk about. So spice up your next meal with an easy blind tasting!
For a great book on how to taste wine, try How to Taste: A Guide to Enjoying Wine.
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