I was never much of a fan of blind wine tasting, I figured it was simply an easy way to make a complete fool out of myself. I just knew that at some point I would mistake a Malbec for a Riesling and anyway I want to enjoy a glass of wine, not turn it into a test. So when Francis Ford Coppola Winery came to Chicago with their “Tasting in the Dark” roadshow event, I wasn’t all that eager to attend.
Coppola has featured the “Tasting in the Dark” blind wine tasting at their winery in Geyserville, California since 2011. The event is hosted by Henry “Hobey” Wedler, a Chemistry Grad student who works in the wineries Lab facility. Hobey is uniquely qualified to lead a blind tasting, since Hobey has been blind since birth. That wine is Red, White, Pink or Purple is an abstract concept for Hobie, he knows wine thru the aroma and taste.
We were blindfolded and led into a room, so we couldn’t get any visual clues to what was to happen next. We then tasted five wines, mostly the usual suspects, no Carmenere or indigenous Italian grapes, only varietals that we were familiar with. Hobey would talk us thru the tasting, he wasn’t trying to trick us, when describing the wine that turned out to be Sauvignon Blanc, he mentioned a tropical fruit nose and a grassy flavor, if you were using your ears he was leading you to the right answer.
And that is when it hit me, everything you need to know about a wine can be decoded by your nose and your taste-buds. If you just take a moment and pay close attention and concentrate, your senses will give you a vast amount of information about the wine in your glass. The “Tasting in the Dark” wasn’t about “gotcha”, you thought a Red wine was a White wine or you don’t know the difference between Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. It was about savoring the wine, looking for the nuances, picking up on the hints and clues the wine was giving you. If you take a second or two and really try to decipher the aromas in the glass (Hobey showed us that when you swirl the glass to release the fragrance, don’t hold the wine glass by the stem. Hold it by putting your palm over the rim, this concentrates the scents and gives you a better chance of figuring things out), and take time to spritz the first sip into all regions of your mouth, give your taste-buds a good coating. Don’t over think it, let your first impressions guide you, after all it’s your nose and your taste-buds so how can you be wrong. The more wines that you take the time to really taste, the more knowledge you accumulate.
So, this was a Blind Leading the Blind Wine Tasting and as it turned out the ones who were blind to truly tasting wine wasn’t Hobey Wedler, it was us.