Culinary Arts

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.

Not a lot of new knowledge from this one, too basic for me

I enhanced my knowledge of wine, especially how you can relate the flavors of the wine to the region it was grown. I also enjoyed the variety of wines presented from places other than California, which is the wine I'm most familiar with.

Loved James' masterclass. Tasted wines while watching, and had visited Tuscany this summer, so it all resonated with us. Learned a ton, and would love to see the next edition. - Tom and Karen, Burlington, Vermont.

That there kinda aren't any rules with wine and food. Just make sure it's quality.


A fellow student

I really liked the lesson on tasting and the 100 pt system. My wife and I are doing independent scoring and comparing notes, very fun. However, there is a mistake in the class notes regarding the scoring system. Only 15 points are given to aroma and I believe it should be 25. The points do not add up to 100 as described in the video.

Mirka G.

I tracked down the Vie di Romans Piere Sauvignon Blanc 2016 and maybe I lack the pallet, but at 14.5% alcohol it is almost undrinkable. How is this an 100 point wine? Learning a lot but also wary of the 100 point system as most wines that are very high alcoholic content tend to score the highest.

A fellow student

I really enjoed, hope to learn much more in order to understand words such as "funkier" and others.. Really fun to watch

Kenneth O.

Very interesting, you can taste the enviroment through the wine that in which the wine grew in.

Pachy O.

Since several wines are being tasted one after the other. Doesn’t the flavor of one interferes with the flavor of the nexts ones?

Eduardo B.

I enjoyed the class, is a nice overview of the wine making process. The quality of the filming is also remarkable. Looking forward for the next one.

Estefania C.

My favourite parts of this lesson were, learning more about how specific varietals are great in specific regions and also the impact of weather when thinking about the year. I'm excited to go wine shopping with a more trained "eye" when looking at how those four factors play together: year, weather, varietal and region.

Mark Z.

I am already changing the way I drink and think about wine. And it’s only the second lesion.

Srivathsa M.

I do not even drink wine. But I am deeply interested in the process of excellent winemaking and to appreciate this beautiful culture of winemaking. This masterclass is exactly as expected and more. It is wonderful how he explains each element that factors the quality of the wine. This is exactly what I signed up to learn.

Jennifer P.

I am seeing some really negative comments in here. " wine nerds....I can’t believe people get this into wine...." "class about nothing" If you don't like it, don't watch it. Does the autonomy from being behind your keyboard leave you feeling empowered to leave bad comments? For those who wonder why Mr. Suckling concentrates on Bordeaux varietals, he is considered a Bordeaux expert, stick with what you know. If this class is too basic for you- go over to the Guild of the Master Somm. website, pay the yearly fee and podcast, video, and study guide away. Is this class going to be a be all-end all study guide to sit your sommelier exam, no. It is a wonderful overview for those finding the passion in the wine world.