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Tasting Techniques: Conducting a Blind Tasting

James Suckling

Lesson time 22:03 min

James believes that blind tasting can tell you a lot about a wine. Learn how to refine your palate and utilize the 100-point scale to evaluate the quality of a wine.

James Suckling
Teaches Wine Appreciation
Flavor, aroma, and structure—Learn from wine master James Suckling as he teaches you to appreciate the stories in every bottle.
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Tasting is a real technique. The obvious things-- you go through a line of questions. What does the color look like? Is it dark because it's a young wine? Does it turn to amber because it's showing some age? And how does it change when it gets really old? Then aromas. You think of things like flowers, fruits, perfumes, soils. But even weird things like-- have you ever heard of wet dog in a phone booth or old baseball glove? Those are descriptors for a fault in a wine, normally from bacterial spoilage in the barrels. And then, of course, you get to the body of the wine-- the texture. How it feels in your mouth-- the mouth feel. And that's about the tannins in a red wine, how it relates to the alcohol, the fruit, the acidity. In white wines, it's about the flavors-- the fruit, the acidity, and even tannins, sometimes, in white wines. And, finally, the end. How does the whole wine finish with you? How do you feel about it? What's the overall quality? All these different factors, all these different evaluations of a wine brings out the total quality of the wine. And that's what I want you to understand, is the quality of the wine that you're drinking. And, sometimes, the bad quality. [PIANO MUSIC] I'm sure most of you know that I use the 100-point system. But what you may not know is that the point system, actually, came from school-- from elementary school, high school. Scores 90 to 100 meant A, 80 to 89 B, 70 to 79 C, and onwards down. It's an easy way for you to understand quality. 90 to 100-- that means an excellent wine. 90 to 94-- I want to drink that glass right away. 95 to 99-- I want to drink the bottle on my own. My wife's out, my friend's out. It's amazing. 100-- I fell in love with the bottle. I smelled the wine, I tasted it. It was emotional. It like touched my soul, my heart. It was something that I'd remember for the rest of my life. And I can remember so many of those 100-point wines. Not that I score a lot of them, maybe three or four, five a year-- young wines. Or I taste the old wines, like a 1978 La Tache from Domaine de la Romanee-Conti in Burgundy. That's always 100 points. But these are wines that just blow your mind. That's our poetry in the bottle. Using the 100-point scale is not a science. It's not impossible to learn. In fact, you can use it now. I give up to 15 points for color, up to 25 points for aroma, another 25 points for structure of the wine, and, finally, 35 points for the overall quality of the wine. In my tasting notes, I'll have the scores-- 13 plus 23 plus 23 plus 33-- and that tells me that it's an outstanding wine. And even easier, you could just say A, B, C, D. Basically, if it's under a B, I wouldn't even bother. Life's too short to drink bad wine. You know the saying. [CELLO MUSIC] It's really easy to set up a blind tasting. You just need a friend to organize the samples, put them in bags if you don't want to see them. You mark the glasses so you kno...

Discover the story in every bottle

Called one of the “world’s most powerful wine critics,” James Suckling has tasted more than 200,000 wines over the past 40 years. In his wine tasting MasterClass, James tours legendary Tuscan vineyards and teaches you to explore the stories, history, and people behind every bottle. Deepen your knowledge of the properties in each sip, cultivate your passion, and choose, order, and pair wines with confidence.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Absolutely life changing. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, stories, experiences, and love for what you do!

Great way to get me more open minded about wine and the making of it. Really excited to go to vineyards and taste all these different kinds of grapes.

Inspired to become a life-long student and appreciator of wine

James Suckling's Masterclass is probably the best I have done so far! Rich in new insights, vocabulary, knowledge and firing my desire to learn even more about wines. I can't wait to share my new knowledge and some glasses of wine in my first own wine tasting with my friends. Thank you!


Neil S.

I agree with a lot of the comments here that this class is poor. In fact this whole course is lacking and underwhelming. I expected to learn about wine but he just uses a lot of words that relate to wine without actually explaining anything. I've learnt more from online blogs than James. He doesn't explain how to pair wine, what to look for, how acidic or tannins affect wine, why they are good/bad etc. Other than watching him drink wine and throwing in the occasionaly adjective I didn't learn a lot

Anna F.

I didn't find this lesson valuable. I have taken previous wine courses and I don't feel as though he did a thoughtful job of explaining the tasting process. There wasn't a true why or how answered. The lesson was watching him taste instead of learning how to taste. If you were a true beginner this lesson may leave you more confused than when you started. Should have done a more thorough job of explaining the tasting process and rating scale.

A fellow student

This sort of tasting seems so counter to the way I like to taste and enjoy wines. Where is the food, the company, the time? Odd choice to begin a class on wine appreciation.

A fellow student

Didn't meet my expectations, I was hoping that he will delve deeper into identifying some of the main notes in a consistent way to get a better sense of what he was referring to.

Vinit P.

I'm curious how many total wines someone at Mr Suckling's level can identify by name

A fellow student

I was lost on some of the descriptors: linearity, lacking energy...etc. What do these mean?

Lori E.

I'm from Canada. It was never thought of as wine country until recently. Niagara Falls, 2 hours from my hometown, has made a name for itself. I went to Peller's Estates and was blown away by how fancy it was. Yet the people were ever so welcoming. I went on a wine tour, and the tour guide was brilliant. She was impressed by my knowledge, and I said, "I'm not knowledgeable, I'm just half Italian!" Anyways, if you want a wine from Canada, we're known to make ice wine. I like the ones that are kind of lychee pear flavoured

Lesia K.

Loving these lessons so far and thankful someone in the comments below shared you could hide the Masterclass prompts when paused so you can read the tasting notes chart. Will make this experience much better! Also, the tasting lessons paired with the Vivino app is great. I'll taste a wine and take notes, then my husband does, and then we look it up on vivino to see what other said.

Markus D.

One thing I keep wondering about when I see the wine tastings and discerning all of the different flavors that come from soil etc - why does nobody apply that to food? Say, tomatoes. Or peppers. Or any other vegetable. Why only go to lengths about one specific drink (wine) and for the rest of the food categories people buy generic things ("Orange Juice", "Tomato", ...) instead of buying, say, 2019 Sicily volcanic-grown oranges from a southern facing orchard?


I am glad my fellow students are enjoying learning the art of tasting. But on the definition of Super Tuscan wines, Mr. Suckling is incorrect. At 16:38 ff., Mr. Suckling states, "Here in Tuscany, we call wines like this Super-Tuscan, because they are outside of the more traditional appellations, like Brunello di Montalcino, or Chianti Classico, or Vino di Montepulciano, or even Bolgheri." The issue is which grape varietals are used, and in what proportions, not their place of origin. In the 1970's, a growing number of winemakers were producing stunning wines by experimenting with Bordeaux varietals, mainly Cabernet and Merlot. They bottled these wines as Bordeaux blends, or Sangiovese-Cabernet blends. But they were unable to market them as anything but ordinary table wines, because the Italian DOC laws required a strict blend of at least 70% Sangiovese, and 10% certain native white grapes. Even 100% Sangiovese wines did not meet with DOC approval. These wines became known as Super-Tuscan for their quality, even though they were non-traditional, and unauthorized.