Most people love blind tastings. It’s a ton of fun to explore the smells and tastes of unknown wines to decide if this one is a Cabernet or a Sangiovese and that one is a Sauvignon Blanc or a Semillon. But have you ever done a blind tasting where the goal is to figure out the age of the wine. We’re going to explore that possibility in this article.
Traditional Blind Tastings
Wine Folly has a wonderful blind tasting chart that I highly recommend. Unfortunately, I’m not able to share a picture of it here, but their categories include Visual, Nose/Palate, Structure, Initial Conclusion and Conclusion, with these details:
- Visual: clarity, brighness, intensity, color, secondary colors, meniscus (rim and color variations), viscosity (legs, loosely)
- Nose/Palate: condition (clean), intensity, aroma vs. bouquet, fruit, flower/herb/other, earth, oak
- Structure: sweetness, body, acidity, alcohol, tannin, complexity, length, balance
- Initial Conclusion: quality, climate, grape/blend, origin and region, possible age
- Conclusion: grape/blend, country/region, quality level, vintage
I have to say that I never think about the vintage when I’m doing a blind tasting. I’m focused entirely on what grape I’m tasting. I’d love to know whether you factor in the age of the wine when you do a blind tasting.
A Vintage-Focused Blind Tasting
For a vintage-focused blind tasting, I would choose one grape, perhaps Cabernet. I would have each person. bring a bottle or two from various years. We would brown bag all the bottles and then do our tasting. We would compare notes and sort the wine from youngest to oldest.
What to Look for When Testing the Age of the Wine
As a wine ages, its flavors, aromas and colors change:
- Flavors: A young tannic red wine is likely to taste bitterly astringent, whereas an older red wine will taste softer and less harsh. Younger wines tend to be fruitier. As wines age, the fruit notes decline and are usually replaced by notes of spice, vanilla, coffee, nuts and mushrooms.
- Aromas: A young red wine will smell like ripe berries, while an aged wine will have more leathery and earthy aromas.
- Colors: For red wines, purple red indicates youth. Ruby red indicates middle age. Garnet red is wine at the peak of its maturity. And red brown is older wine. For white wines, older wines get yellower followed by browner.
If you’ve done these kinds of tastings, I would love to hear about your experiences. Cheers!