Food, Home & Lifestyle

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.

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Topics include: Understanding the 100-Point Rating System • Setting Up a Blind Tasting • Blind Tasting: Wine #1 • Blind Tasting: Wine #2 • Blind Tasting: Wine #3 • Blind Tasting: Wine #4 • Blind Tasting: Wine #5 • Blind Tasting: Wine #6 • Blind Tasting: Wine #7 • Inside a Rating Session With the Critics


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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James Suckling

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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