I would like to think that I’ve flushed out all of the fallacious assumptions and the resulting prejudice that can go in to evaluating wine from my system. Some of the more dangerous assumptions are as follows:
- The more a wine costs, the better it is. WRONG!
- If there’s a screw-cap on the bottle, the wine isn’t any good. WRONG!
- The producer has a great reputation, so the wine has to be good. Not always.
Blind tastings are a great tool to reinforce that you are not still holding on to these assumptions at a subconscious level. I recently held what I will call a semi-blind tasting, as I knew the three wines to be tasted but did not know the order that they were to be poured. The wines in question were three California cabernet sauvignons, specifically the B.R. Cohn 2008 North Coast Silver Label, the Gnarly Head 2010 California, and the Rodney Strong 2009 Sonoma County.
The setup for this tasting was simple. I placed 3 glasses on the table, with a number (1-3) under each. I left the room and my lovely assistant (a/k/a my wife) randomly numbered the bottles (again 1-3) and poured the bottle into the glass with the corresponding number. Once this process was finished, I re-entered the room. Tasting time!!
The Eye Test
Wine 1 was lightest is color, just a shade lighter than Wine 2. Wine 3 was dense and deep in color, far darker than Wine 1 and Wine 2.
The Sniff Test
Wine 1 featured aromas of red cherries, followed by tar and tobacco. Wine 2 gushed toasted coconut, followed by ripe, dark berries and sweet spice. Wine 3 emitted a strong tea-like aroma, with little to no fruit detected.
The Taste Test
Wine 1 was a lighter-bodied cab, with generous acid. All of the aromas carried over into the mouth. Wine 2 had a heavier body than Wine 1 and the acid and slight sweetness were nicely balanced. Oak was abundant in the mouth, but did not overwhelm the fruit flavors. Wine 3 was by far the heaviest in the mouth, with flavors of bing cherry and freshly chopped wood. The flavors of Wine 3 were certainly an improvement over the aroma, but I was slightly afraid that I was going to get a splinter in my mouth!
Overall, I found Wine 1 and Wine 2 to be nearly identical in quality. Wine 1 was the lighter colored, lighter-bodied, and more acidic of the group and had some very interesting, distinctive aromas and flavors. Wine 2 was medium to full-bodied and presented a nice marriage of fruit and oak. Wine 3 was a step down from Wines 1 and 2. It was a little bit flabby and didn’t offer much as far as aroma, although it was decent to the taste.
Curious which wine was which? The identity of each wine will be revealed in $20 Below post. Stay tuned!