The Grid Structure of Blind Wine Tasting

Blind wine tasting is an important skill to have for anyone working in wine. Blind tasting allows you to fine-tune your palate and determine which flavors and characteristics mark particular varieties, from particular regions. 

The ‘deductive tasting grid’ is often used by professional sommeliers, or for those going through tasting exams. It is the process of identifying the wine by sight, smell, structure and taste, in that order, to come out with an end result of the wine in question. 

Sight - What Does the Wine Look Like?

First, take a thorough look at the wine. Determine its clarity, its brightness, and its concentration of color. Then, identify the hue by taking a look at the stains the wine produces, as well as the viscosity. Viscosity refers to the wine's consistency and whether it is thin and watery or thick and syrupy. Sugar and alcohol are the two main factors that affect density. Therefore, if a wine appears thick, it likely has higher levels of sugar and alcohol. 

All of these characteristics work together to help narrow down the wine. For example, if there’s light staining of the glass, that would suggest that the wine comes from a thin-skinned grape, therefore helping to narrow the options down. 

Smell - What Does the Wine Smell Like?

Next, smell the wine. Identify the intensity of the aroma first. Give the glass a swirl, and if you can smell the wine when the glass is a foot away from your nose, then it’s a strong aroma, if it’s at chin height before you can smell it, it’s moderate, and if it’s a subtle smell until your nose is within the glass, then it’s very low in intensity.

Now, swirl again, put your nose to the glass and determine the fruit flavors systematically. For white wine, go through citrus flavors then tree fruits or stone fruits. For red wine, begin with red then black fruit then determine whether they have a fresh characteristic, or perhaps dried, or even stewed. 

Move on to what you can smell in ways of floral notes, herbal notes and others, before identifying whether any earth or mineral tones are coming through. Before moving on to the palate, smell for the presence of wood, or oak aging.

Structure - What Does the Wine Feel Like?

Next, it’s finally time to taste. Before exploring the flavors, note the sweetness, tannins, alcohol level, acidity and the body. 

If the wine is heavily tannic, you’ll feel your mouth completely dry up. If it’s high in acidity, then you’ll feel your mouth fill with saliva. 

Taste - What Does the Wine Taste Like?

After determining the structure of the wine, it’s time to identify the flavors. Again, go through the fruits, from white, to red, to black. Then on to the non-fruit elements, followed by the earth notes, followed by wood. Then, think about the finish and whether it lingers on the palate after swallowing, or if the taste fades away immediately.

Having gone through the previous stages, the process of identifying the wine can be made easier. Drawing on what was identified at the beginning and then using the taste to confirm assumptions. 

Calling the Wine

Having gone through the blind tasting grid, calling the wine should be easier - at least for those with some professional experience. Taking what was identified and applying the characteristics to regions, varietals and vintages, it leaves the taster with their final ‘call’ for the wine. 

Written by Steve Johnson-Stott

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