Blunders, Mistakes and Tasting Wines Blind

Over the course of the last three days, I have had many occasions to try wines and have to guess something about them. I have been hopelessly wrong in over 60% of my guesses and it has been a humbling experience.

Back to the drawing board as I study for my Certified Wine Educator’s (CWE) degree from the Society of Wine Educators. I along with a number of other friends and acquaintances will take the test in Sacramento, California as part of the Society of Wine Educator’s annual conference. I am excited for the conference, less so for the exam.

Part of the CWE is guessing wine faults. While there are methodologies to studying and eliminating possible guesses, at the end of the day, practice makes perfect.

Another portion of the test is tasting wines blind and guessing what they are from a list of wines on a sheet. This is much harder to do than it appears. I was given a good tip this weekend though by Rodolphe from Wine Messenger, write a tasting note first and then look at the list of wines.

In my bi-monthly podcast with Terence Hughes from Domenico Selections, Mondosapore and Muddyboots, we also tasted a wine that I was supposed to guess.

While this has all been somewhat depressing, what has come back into the picture for me is that you need to study the wine you have in front of you and compare it with the other wine profiles you have in your head.

You need to examine the wine in three ways: visually, on the nose and on the palate. Armed with this information, you can then begin to make educated guesses, using your knowledge of varietals, vinification and aging techniques, color and aspect, flavor profile. Generally I try to do the old/new world division as well but even that can be confusing as old world countries make wines in the new world style and vice versa. This all takes a lot of practice.

There are worse things I’ll admit.

It can be very hard to stay on top of all the available information and no one can try every wine out there but we can certainly try. The other key issue these tasting have brought home to me is the need to be more systematic. Methodology is very important and using the same tasting method each time is fundamental.

I am always interested in the ways that different people rate wine and what standards they use. Often we aren’t told what components go into rating but whatever the components are, serious wine raters and tasters have a methodology.

Mine is a work in progress, just like me.


  1. I’ve been thinking about the blind tastings on the week-end and wonder if it’s worth creating a quick little checklist for each wine.
    Old World vs New World?
    Aromatic vs non-Aromatic (whites)
    Tannic vs not Tannic (reds)
    Fruity vs Earthy/Herbal

    You could almost create a decision tree that would lead you to the correct answer…

  2. the Court of Master Sommeliers have a great little checklist like that. email me and I’ll send it to you. works great and someone has already dreamt it up.

  3. SG: Great to see that you are hot and heavy on the wine trail! Just back from two weeks in Spain, studying Spanish through immersion (school) and two weeks in Italy, for pleasure and food/wine….Miss you and would like to catch up. How did the CWE go?

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