Two glasses of wine; you’re told that they’re from the same region and the same blend of grapes but nothing else – except that one is from the bargain basement shelf (£4.50), the other more than twice as expensive (£11). How confident would you be of distinguishing which was which?
That’s the challenge I gave to a group recently during one of the day courses I was running at Bristol’s Stoke Lodge Centre. How did they do? All except 1 person got it right!
So, are ‘blind’ challenges easy? It depends on what you’re being asked to do. Those where you have to completely identify a wine are difficult – no, let’s be honest – they’re bordering on impossible unless you’re an expert in that particular type of wine. However, simply having to pick the better quality wine is much easier. In fact, as I told my group, you need to ignore what the wines taste like and just concentrate on two aspects:
Firstly, which of the wines has greater length in the mouth? By this, I mean, when you have tasted both and swallowed or spat them out, which has flavours that remain in your mouth for longer? Better wines usually have more staying power while cheaper ones, however attractive at first, disappear very quickly.
If that doesn’t answer the question, then see how many different flavours you can pick in each wine. Complexity is always a sign of a good wine and the more different flavours, the better.
By choosing a £4.50 wine as one of the players, I actually made the test much easier than if I had asked the group to compare, say, a £10 and a £20 wine. In the UK, the way we tax our wines means that, proportionally, a cheap wine bears a higher rate of duty than a more expensive one. Stripping out this and other non-wine costs (the bottle, transport, retailer’s profit, etc) meant that the wine alone in the dearer bottle was worth not twice the cheaper but closer to 10 times as much. A tip for us all!