Blind Tasting! Judge like a PRO! Fun is guaranteed!

Blind wine tasting does not mean tasting wines without seeing them. A blind tasting is a way of evaluating wine without seeing its label and knowing anything about it. Through its visual aspect, aroma and taste, the intention is to appraise its characteristics and quality and to determine its region, grape varieties and age or vintage year. 

Professionals love to taste wines in blind tasting. They consider it the only way to evaluate a wine without preconceived ideas or prejudices. It is also a way to test and cultivate their knowledge and skills.

Of course, being an expert in blind tasting requires knowledge and a lot of training. You have to taste a lot to identify the distinctive characteristics of each grape variety, how it behaves in each terroir, how it develops with different winemaking techniques, how it evolves with ageing and a whole host of variables that influence the precious liquid in the glass.

But you don't need to be a professional to do a blind tasting. If you want to develop your palate more consciously without being influenced by labels, this is one of the most objective and fun ways to taste wine. You will see how surprised you will be with your notes. Use some tips to get started in a blind tasting.

How to prepare a blind tasting
Gather a group of friends and invite each to bring a bottle of wine. Some should bring whites and others reds. Cover the bottles so that no one can see the label. Wrapping them in aluminium foil is an easy way to do this.

Number the wines, in order, that the whites be the first, then the rosés and the reds last.

Each guest should have at their disposal:
- a crystal-clear glass of wine;
- a glass of water to clean the palate between tastings;
- a notebook and pen to write down their appreciation.

Usually, professionals spit out the wine. The reason is simple. Given the number of wines they have to taste, if they ingested them, they would probably not be able to reach the end of some tastings. And if they did, their senses would be affected, and the appraisal prejudiced. You don't need to swallow a wine to evaluate it. 

If some people want to spit, always have a container available. And, if you don't have a suitable container, plastic cups are a good idea. Make some crackers available for those who don't like to spit.

TIPS for assessing a wine

ASPECT (sight)

Blind Tasting

The colour and clarity of the wine give us a lot of information. With time you will realise that some grape varieties have darker shades than others. The depth and the different nuances of wine also give you clues about the wine's density and saturation.

The more intense the wine, the fuller bodied. The brighter the colour, the younger the wine. An old red wine tends to have a brownish colour with brick-coloured nuances, while a young red wine has a vivid violet colour. A red wine aged in barrels will show a grenade colour with almost no brightness.

Unlike reds, which lose colour with age, an old white wine gets a deeper colour due to oxidation. White wines are lighter when young and become golden or brown as they age. A golden-yellow white wine can also indicate barrel ageing.  Very young whites are bright and may have greenish shades. Rosés become darker with time. 

If you observe a cloudy wine, this may indicate that it is an unfiltered wine, probably the result of natural vinification, which is now so trendy. If the wine has sediment, it may be because it is an old wine.

And the "tear" that runs down the walls of the glass. Do you know what this may mean? The denser the viscosity, the more alcohol the wine contains.

And, of course, if it is sparkling, you will notice effervescence and bubbles.

As you can see, the simple observation of wine already gives a lot of clues about its characteristics.

AROMAS (olfaction)

Blind Tasting

Swirl the wine in the glass to aerate it and help release the aromas. Inhale the aromas quickly and shortly and then in a slow and long way to understand what is best for you. Do this gently, or you may end up just feeling the alcohol in your nose.

Have fun identifying the aromas, but more important than naming them is to try understanding the aromatic intensity, commonly rated from 1 to 5, where 1 means slightly aromas and 5 means pronounced aromas. Understanding how many levels of aromas the wine has are something you should also train. The more levels, the more complex wine is.

The wine's aromas have three levels, primary, secondary and tertiary.

- Primary aromas: these come from the grape variety and can be fruity, floral, vegetal and/or mineral. Each grape variety has its aromas. Have fun guessing them. With time you will be able to identify many wine aromas and understand the differences between each grape variety.

- Secondary aromas: these come from fermentation and may acquire creamy aromas that remind us of bread crumbs, biscuits, yeasts, milk, yoghurt, cheeses, toast, spicy aromas and even dried fruits.

- Tertiary aromas: these appear with bottle ageing. Aged red wines may develop aromas of game, leather, truffle, cigar box, tobacco, tar, smoke, cedar, resin and mushroom, among others. Aged white wines can develop aromas of nuts, and mushrooms among others.

Do not forget the faulty aromas. Some of the most common:

-TCA (corked wine) gives rise to odours reminiscent of mould or wet cardboard;
- Reduction, coming from the lack of oxygen, gives off rubber or sulphur odours;
- Oxidation, due to excessive contact with oxygen, gives off vinegar, acetone or nail varnish odours;
- Brett (Brettanomyces), caused by a type of yeast that settles in the barrels, giving off an odour of horse sweat and stall.

You will only know its olfactory sensation when you face one of these aromatic faults. If it happens, you will soon notice something is wrong with the wine.

And the nose of wine will also allow you to understand its evolution, i.e., in which stage of its life it is. If it is a young wine, in development, evolved or already "tired", i.e., if it has passed its peak.

TASTE (palate)

Blind Tasting

When tasting the wine, take a small sip and circulate the wine around the entire mouth. You should assess sweetness, acidity, alcohol, tannins, alcohol, body, flavour intensity, flavour characteristics, finish and balance.


Blind Tasting - Wine Sweetness

It is one of the first sensations and allows you to determine if the wine is dry, medium-dry, sweet, semi-sweet or sweet.


Blind Tasting - Wine Acidity

The perception of the degree of wine acidity comes according to salivation on the sides of the tongue. The higher the degree of acidity, the more we salivate.

Acidity gives clues about a wine's longevity even if grapes come from a warmer or colder climate; wines with more acidity have a higher ageing potential; grapes from a colder climat have a higher acidity level. Wines with low acidity levels tend to be smoother. Generally, wine acidity ranks 1 to 5, where one is a low acidity level, and 5 is high acidity.


Blind Tasting - Tannins

Tannins are an organic component found in grape skins and stems. Since the white and rosé wines have little contact with the skins, they are poor in tannins. Their presence is very subtle or even unnoticeable. In red wines, it is an important characteristic.

The tannins manifest themselves through a dry or astringent feeling. A wine has elegant or soft tannins when we feel its presence but pleasantly. Excessive tannins occur when we sense excessive dryness in the mouth.

With some practice, you will realise that some grape varieties have more tannins than others. The grape varieties with thicker skins have more tannins. Such is the case, for example, of Tinta Roriz, Baga, Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Castelão, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet, among others. Generally, the level of tannins ranks 1 to 5, where 1 is not very tannic and 5 means high tannins.


Blind Tasting - Alcohol

Evaluate the alcohol content in low, medium and high. The level of alcohol is indicative of the ripeness of the grapes. Wines from warm regions tend to have higher alcohol content. Explaining how to feel alcohol is tricky because the sensation depends on each person. A wine with high alcohol content may give a warm sense or a feeling of persistence or intensity. The best thing is to experience it.


Blind Tasting - Wine Body

The body of wine gives the sensation of weight and volume provided by the combination of the elements that make up its structure: alcohol, acidity, tannins, fruit concentration and residual sugar.

A light-bodied wine usually has an alcohol percentage below 12.5%. Usually, have high acidity content and delicate fruit like fresh white wines or reds from colder climates.

 A medium-bodied wine usually has an alcohol content between 12.5% and 13.5%, with balanced tannins and acidity.

A full-bodied wine usually has an alcohol content above 13.5%, medium acidity, intense fruit and, in reds, pronounced tannins. Most full-bodied wines are red, but some whites may have this profile.

Generally, the body of a wine ranks 1 to 5, where 1 is light-bodied and 5 means full-bodied.

Intensity of flavour

Blind Tasting - Wine Intensity

It is the degree of flavour concentration. Generally, a darker-coloured wine has a greater intensity of flavour. Flavour intensity ranks 1 to 5, where 1 is light, and 5 is pronounced. It may or may not be in line with the aromatic intensity.

Flavour characteristics

Blind Tasting - Wine Flavour

Just as you did when you assessed the aromas, here you will also want to understand if your flavour is primary (flavours coming from the grape), secondary (flavours coming from fermentation), or tertiary (flavours coming from ageing). If you have read this article carefully, you already know if the wine is young, it may have secondary aromas, but it will have neither tertiary aromas nor flavours.


Blind Tasting - Wine Finish

After swallowing or spitting, we will notice if the duration of the sensations of the wine in the mouth, i.e., the aftertaste, is short, medium-less, medium, medium-plus, or long.


Blind Tasting - Wine Balance

A balanced wine is one in which all the structural components: sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol and fruit are in harmony. All complement each other, and none overcome the other.

At the end of the tasting, share your impressions with the group and then reveal the label. We guarantee it will be hilarious, but enjoying good wines in good company and in a fun way is always the goal.

And, of course, don't limit yourself to the usual! Try different wines, experience different grape varieties and regions, old world wines and new world wines! Do not stick to the obvious.

Enjoy your tasting!

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