Can a blind wine tasting reduce the power of suggestion?


Wine tasting can be part art, science and subjectivity. But can blind wine tasting really reduce impartiality?

From the casual wine drinking to the master sommelier, wine tasting can be an enjoyable experience. Wine tastings don’t have to be a huge, in depth experiences. An expensive trip to Napa or to an elaborate dinner isn’t the only way to enjoy a wine tasting A group of friends can enjoy tasting a couple of bottles of wine. But, can blind wine tasting eliminate any potential partiality in the tasting setting.

A blind wine tasting is where the person tasting the wine doesn’t see the label or bottle of the wine that she is drinking. Some people may also use an opaque or dark glass to hide the wine’s color. Personally, I don’t like the dark glass idea. It becomes way too muddled a process as well as the glass itself can alter the wine’s taste and/or appearance.

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Eliminating the partiality in wine tasting

The idea behind the “blind” process is to eliminate people’s perceptions on the wine itself. For example, a person drinks a $100 bottle of cabernet. She might be able to distinguish several chocolate, cherry and other subtle flavors. But, maybe those flavors aren’t real at all. The bottle’s price has influenced her perceived tastes.

Another example would be bottle versus box. Some people are adamantly opposed to boxed wine. Some boxed wine can be good. But, some people might turn their glass away from the wine just because it came from a box.

In a blind scenario, the tasters would get two same glasses of Shiraz, one from a box and one from a bottle. She wouldn’t know which wine was which. Without seeing the box, the taster might prefer the box because it tasted better to her. This type of tasting takes away the predisposed partiality.

By eliminating the power of suggestion, wine drinkers can learn the flavors that they prefer. Labels, prices and other influences are stripped away. Tasting blind can help any wine drinker rediscover wine that she likes, not what she is told to like by some outside influence.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Don’t always look at the price

Over the years, I have drank many types of wine. Can there be a huge difference between a $7 bottle of wine and a $200 bottle of wine. Yes, there can be a difference. But, the reality is that I’m not drinking $200 bottles of wine often.

Like most people, my wine budget is in the $7-25 range. While not a direct blind tasting experiment, I have seen price influence my wine drinking friends. For example, I brought one of my favorite, every day wines to a friend. She opened it, loved the wine and commented about all the amazing flavor. She thought that it was an expensive bottle from my wine fridge. After I told her that the bottle was around $10 a bottle, she didn’t seem as impressed. Did anything change to the wine after my price disclosure? No, nothing changed except her perception. If she loved the wine when she thought it cost $40 she should still love the wine at $10.

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Blind wine tasting doesn’t have to be a huge, elaborate event. Perhaps a simple encounter like the situation that I described could change how others see and taste wine. Truthfully, all that matters in wine is that you enjoy what you are drinking. Red, white or rose, you should drink what you like. Don’t let someone or something influence your perception.