Partial Blind Wine Tasting
Such exercises tend to bring about an interesting mix of challenges, such as to test one’s ability to remember tastes or distinguish between them, and to analyse tastes, textures, colour and structure of the wines.

This month I organised a number of partial blind tasting sessions to enable participants to recognise six pre-identified wines and to score them in order of preference.

Women fared better than men
- Michael Tabone

Such exercises tend to bring about an interesting mix of challenges, such as to test one’s ability to remember tastes or distinguish between them, and to analyse tastes, textures, colour and structure of the wines.

The difference between a total blind tasting and a partial blind tasting is rather significant. With the former, the taster is given no information at all. Unless professionals are participating, it is extremely difficult to put the specific wine in context, and I personally find these occasions rather tedious.

On the other hand, partial blind tasting is, by nature, much more informative, primarily because the tasters have a reference point.

Being able to discuss the wines with other participants and recognising favourite wines is much more fun, as it introduces an element of competition, both among the tasters and between the wines.

The reference points can be various. Examples include grape varieties, vintages, specific or various regions and countries. In our case the main topic was ‘Wines from different regions and countries’.

The six wines were all typical oftheir origins and were served at random, one at a time. They hailed from theBekaa Valley in Lebanon (Chateau Musar 2004), Chianti Riserva 2005 from La Selvanella, Curico in Chile with Merlot from Concha y Toro, Shiraz 2007 from ClareValley in South Australia from Jim Barry, Abadia Retuerta Selection Especial 2008 from Duero in Spain and, from St Emilion, Chateau Laroze 2004.

These provide quite a spectrum of taste, colours and textures, which may suggest that distinguishing between them would be easy.

Interestingly, however, it was not quite so straightforward, even after I had given a brief description of each wine at the beginning of the session. Even more interesting were some of the conclusions reached.

In terms of recognising the wines correctly, the tasters who fared best were clearly the ones who came with a description. The less successful had relied on memory or perceived memory of particular wines, often based on wild claims on back labels or wine lists written by very imaginative writers. As has been proved time and time again, the women in the groups fared better than the men. Maybe they are not quite so gullible.

The Chateau Musar was the most recognisable wine. With its unique mix of high volatility, high alcohol, full body and light colour, it was clearly the easiest wine to identify.

In terms of the preferred wines, there were naturally various opinions, but the favourite was the Chianti and the least liked was the Chilean Merlot.

Surprisingly, a couple of participants who vow allegiance to European wines favoured the Australian Shiraz. Keep in mind, however, that on these occasions there is very little time and one’s opinions can vary considerably from a normal wine-drinking situation.

An even more interesting conclusion was the result of a similar tasting with the topic ‘Understanding fine wine’. Eight wines were served in four flights of two. The first flight was made up of Chablis and Chablis 1er Cru Montmain by Droin.

This was followed by Riesling and Riesling Grand Cru Hengst by Josmeyer. The first lot of reds were Generic Bourgogne and Gevrey Chambertin, followed by a Grand Cru Classe and a simple Grand Cru from Saint Emilion.

Most tasters preferred the less reputed wines. Evidently, a few consistently preferred the finer ones and were able to identify them as such. Once again most of these were women.

Written by Michael Tabone