Wine Tasting, WSET Education

What is Blind Wine Tasting?

On January 23, I start the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 3 Award in Wines. It is a high-level course in wines for those working with wines or the serious wine enthusiast. According to WSET 3, “This course will develop to a high-level your ability to describe wine accurately, and account in detail for the style, quality and price of wines. Our experienced educators will assist you to develop your analytic tasting abilities through a carefully selected series of 82 wine samples.” Additionally, this level begins preparing you for blind-tasting.

Blind wine tasting is the skill of determining the varietal, region, vintage and producer by only using your senses. You read that right. By looking at, smelling, and tasting a wine, you need to be able to produce all of this information about it without ever seeing the bottle, or information about the wine first! Crazy, right?

Believe it or not, everyone can learn to blind taste accurately. It takes long hours of practice, but it can be done. Wine Folly provides a great article on how to start learning to blind taste if you want to amp up your wine tasting skills.

A friend in the wine industry who is studying WSET Level 4, and I decided to form a tasting group so we can help each other learn these skills. We had our first tasting yesterday. It started out with strict wine tasting of only 11 wines, and we spit for most of them (can you imagine functioning after actually swallowing 11 wines?), but after a few hours, morphed into “We must have cheese to taste with these wines! Let’s go to the market!” Then it became, “We need food or we’re going to die.” Not really, but you get the point. I think ADD kicked in after 2 hours. As you can see, it takes a lot of practice and work. It will start out slow, but as we get more familiar with the format and wines, it’ll get better and better. Maybe not the ADD, but that’s beside the point.

We tasted four different grape varietals: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. We had Old World and New World wines with a variety of flavor profiles. Here are the wines that were stand-outs from our tasting:

Trimbach Reserve Riesling 2014 (Alsace) – A standard in the Riesling world. A bone-dry Riesling with subtle notes of white peach, lemon zest, honey and acacia blossoms.

D’Aernberg Stump Jump Riesling 2015 (Adelaide, Australia) – Crisp and refreshing with searing acidity, and notes of juicy, zesty lime, passionfruit, honeysuckle, honeydew, and kiwi.

Ant Moore 2016 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) – Vibrant, featuring green papaya, zesty lemon peel, grass, grapefruit, and pineapple. Intense and juicy.

Tolino Vineyards 2010 Cabernet Franc (Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania) – Deep and rich with blackberry, mocha, mint, eucalyptus, forest floor, cola, oregano, and subtle spice and pepper. This wine is no longer available. It was in my personal stash.

B’Side 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) – Pure, rich and deep, featuring aromas of blackberry, sweet tobacco leaf, and notes of warm caramel. This wine is marked by a distinctively complex and subtle mix of black currant, toasted almond, and anise, with a supple core of cherry and dark chocolate flavors. Recommend decanting/aerating before drinking to open it up.

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