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Tasting wine blind'

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
Oct. 22, 2003
When experts taste wine for evaluation, the tasting is virtually always conducted "blind." That is, the label of the wine is covered so the taster has no idea whose wine is in his or her glass.
Generally the grape is known, cabernet or zinfandel or merlot, for example, since most professional wine tasters work a particular class or type of wine at each tasting, thus allowing them to compare one against the other.
Some tastings are, however, organized by vintage and others just for enjoyment, pit various wines against each other for recommendation purposes. Our tasting scheduled for Oct. 30 is such a blind tasting.
I have selected a merlot, cabernet, zinfandel, grenache, chianti and shiraz. They are in different price ranges and from different countries. The labels will be hidden and the tasters will attempt to differentiate between the flavors and name them.
Thus, those who think the only wine fit to drink is a merlot or a cabernet or any other red wine type may broaden their horizons and discover there are some wonderful wines other than their up-until-now personal favorites. It will be an adventure in discovery.
How it works
We will make it a tasting by committee. Each table of eight will be pitted against all others and they will submit their guess as a group. The table which is the wisest, that is names the most correctly, will receive a prize.
Last month at the wine and cheese, tasting the favorite of the evening was a Fromage from France, a double cream soft white cheese that was magnificent. Last weekend in New Orleans I purchased a four pound wheel of that cheese and members of the winning table will each be given one half-pound of this wonderful delicacy. It is a prize to strive for.
What to do
Now tips for the tasters. Wine is basically judged by its color, its smell or bouquet (commonly called the "nose") and finally by the taste.
To judge color, hold the glass at the bottom of the stem and tilt it away from you against a white background, the tablecloth or a napkin will do. Peer through the wine and judge by your own standards how pleasing the color is to your eye. Some wines are almost ros in tone. Others are so dark they appear to be black. It is a matter of personal preference.
Then smell the aroma coming from the glass.
True experts claim they can differentiate as many as 1,000 different smells from various wines, a claim I disbelieve. It is true that most people can distinguish as many as a thousand different aromas but not from a single glass of wine.
Nevertheless, it is common to smell cherry or berry or other fruity odors, and only you can tell what pleases you and what does not.
Finally the most important test of all, the taste. It is recommended the taster take a mouthful and draw air into the mouth through the wine. This will magnify the flavors and awaken the taste buds. The tongue tells you very little. Science has proven that sweetness is detected on the tip of the tongue, sourness on the sides and bitterness in the back and top area.
Much of wine's flavor comes from the odors which rise to the roof of the mouth and are picked up by the olfactory bulb. It may be difficult to believe that we taste from an organ located behind the eyes at the top of the nose, but we do.
Think about eating ice cream too quickly. Often the chilly ice cream aroma literally freezes this delicate sensory organ. How many times have you thought your nose was frozen when it was actually the olfactory bulb?
To spit or not to spit
In a multi-wine tasting most professionals do as suggested, take a mouthful, roll it around the mouth and then spit it out so as not to be affected by the alcohol content. I do not expect that to happen at our tasting, although we do provide dump buckets on the table for disposing of wines not pleasing to the taster.
Not every wine pleases every taste, but we do recommend that you keep a little of each wine in each glass used in order to return to it later for comparison.
The final decision as to which wines are the most pleasing is always up to the participant. But basically most wine lovers know that merlot is velvety, zinfandels are a bit spicy, cabernet is brawny and so on. Taste, confer and good luck. You'll love the cheese if your table wins.
Next tasting
The blind tasting is Oct. 30 at Northwood Country Club, and the public is invited. You do not have to be a member to attend. The fee is $30. We will taste the above six red wines, plus a door wine not entered in the competition. Call 482-0930 for a reservation or send your check made out to Wines Unlimited, Post Office Box 5223, Meridian, MS 39305.