Our Los Angeles Panel Lays the Groundwork for – and Discovers the Pitfalls – of Blind Tasting
Story and Photos by Karen Moneymaker
With so much emphasis being placed on sommeliers today for testing and structured tasting, The Somm Journal decided to roll up our shirtsleeves and dive into the world of blind tasting, pairing two sommeliers from our team—Allyson Gorsuch, Deputy Editor and Advanced Sommelier, and Karen Moneymaker, Senior Editor and Certified Sommelier—with Master Sommelier Christopher Miller and Advanced Sommelier Eduardo Bolaños.
Guided and grilled by the erudite Christopher Miller, MS, here is what we unearthed in our first tasting.
Be careful about ambiguous terms: It is fun to get creative with descriptors when tasting, but be careful of terms that might mean one thing to you and something completely different to someone else. For example, the term “popcorn” was used in our tasting to describe a nutty quality to the wine. This is tricky, since popcorn carries the connotation of butter or diacetyl and therefore the presence of malolactic fermentation.
Pick a lane: When going through your tasting, be careful of falling into the “medium to medium-plus” trap. You won’t find a wine with “medium to medium-plus” acidity or “medium to medium-minus” alcohol. Pick one or the other; you might not be right, but that is better than being indecisive.
Don’t leave points on the table: If you are tasting a wine and you are calling all the markers for—say, a California Chardonnay—you would be remiss in not speaking to presence (or lack thereof) of oak usage and malolactic fermentation. Especially in a testing environment, these are points that should not be missed.