Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thoughts on Blind Tasting

Blind tastings always reveal something that you weren't expecting. They provide the benefit of removing price and label bias, but I think the current view that blind tasting is the "great equalizer" is very much overstated.

While you have indeed taken one layer of prejudice out by tasting blind, you have added a different level of prejudice. The reason being, of course, that when you take out all the externalities you lose a lot of other context that we all use in judging a wine. So, while it may be an equalizer, it is essentially regression to the mean, equalizing all the wines on their particular showiness at this type of tasting as you've essentially eliminated the intellectual aspect of tasting wine. Knowing the age, varietal or other factors can change your view in a positive way in terms of viewing a wine within its proper context. For most tasters, who taste a wine over its entire life, this is very important.

Further, given the usual format, there is only a relatively short window to taste before making a judgment. This rewards showy wines and relies on each member of the group to treat the wine right in terms of decanting and serving temperature. The problem is accentuated by the lack of experience of most tasters in this type of setting. Personally, I can't say that I'm typically surprised how things show blind as I try to maintain enough discipline to realize the shiny object may be cubic zirconium. Patience is a virtue in not rushing to a view as wines change constantly in the glass.

Mind you, I'm not being critical about blind tastings or their value, I just believe we all need to be mindful that they don't show us as much as we think.

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