How to Taste Wine… blind
By Jeremy Maarschalk
Thursday - 6 April 2023
You will be surprised how much you taste wine with your eyes! I’m not talking about pouring the
glass over your face, I’m talking about tasting wine without the information given by the bottle.
We are all guilty of it, we eye up an expensive-looking label, or a heavy bottle or take a glance
at the bottle price and we have already made our mind up about the wine. I'm a culprit of this
too, but you will be amazed as to how a blind tasting can change your perception of some of
these “amazing” bottles of wine and how it can affect your taste of those sub-R200 bottles of
Get yourself some wine bottle bags with numbers on them and place the bottles inside the bag.
Don’t forget to remove the foiling on top of the bottle to hide any glimpse of potential
Set each table setting with the number of glasses needed for the blind tasting and place a
number on each glass, this removes any and all confusion about which glass is which. Then
simply pour the wine and get to tasting.
How to taste like a pro
My first piece of advice is to taste more wine, horrible homework I know, but by tasting wine
from all over the globe and tasting with the purpose of understanding and learning about the
wine you are already a set ahead of your tasting competition.
Next up is to follow the systematic approach to wine tasting, this is an internationally recognised
system to tasting wine, starting with the look of the wine and ending with the palette of the wine,
and with all the categories within the system, you will be able to ascertain the quality of the
This wine-tasting guide isn’t only essential in blind tastings it is essential in determining what it is
that makes wine great. So, a recommendation would be for you to work with this tasting guide in
tasting all wine, whether it is blind or not - working with the grid will improve your ability to pick
out key aromas, identifiable palate qualities, and accurately determine the quality of the wine.
The Tasting Grid System
1. Colour - This will tell you if it is a white wine or a red wine, you can take it a step further
and judge the clarity and brightness.
a. Clarity - Clear, hazy, presence of sediment and bubbles
b. Brightness - Dull, Bright, Star Bright, Brilliant
2. Intensity - The intensity can give you an idea of the age of the wine
a. Reds - over time they lose their colour and become more brickish brown
b. Whites - Over time they become richer in colour, eventually turning brown.
3. Viscosity - In wines with low levels of sugar, the viscosity indicates the alcohol level. In
wines with higher levels of sugar the viscosity indicates the sweetness and the alcohol
level in the wine.
a. The legs of a wine - after swirling your glass of wine most watch the legs run
down but aren’t sure what they mean, the legs correlate to the alcohol level in the
wine and can tell you if it is a higher or lower alcohol percentage. The stronger
the legs, the higher the alcohol. The thinner the legs, the lower the alcohol.
Nose & Palate
Aspects in the tasting guide that fall under impression includes:
● Citrus - Lime, Lemon, Grapefruit, Orange, Zest
● Apple/Pear - Green Apple, Yellow Apple
● Stone Fruit/Melon - Honey Dew Melon, Cantaloupe, White Peach, Apricot
● Tropical - Lychee, Pineapple, Mango, Guava, Passion Fruit
● Red Fruit - Strawberry, Cherry, Red Currant, Cranberry, Red Plum
● Black Fruit - Black Plum, Blackberry, Blueberry, Black Cherry
Style of Fruit
● Tart = Cooler climate
● Ripe = Moderate to hot climate
● Overripe = Hot climate or hot vintage
● Dried, Stewed fruit = Indication of ageing/oxidative winemaking
○ White Wine = Apple blossom, Orange blossom, Jassmine
○ Red Wine = Violets, Roses
○ White Wine = Gooseberry, bell pepper
○ Red Wine = Green pepper
○ White Wine = Mint, Basil, Savory
○ Red Wine = Mint, Eucalyptus, Sage, Oregano
○ Black pepper, White Pepper, Baking Spices, Star Anise
Evidence of Oxidation
Oxidation occurs when the wine has been exposed to oxygen for an extended period of time.
Oxygen is an important aspect in the wine's ageing process but be careful not to leave our
bottles ageing for too long as the oxidation can be responsible for the flat taste of wine that is
past its drinking window. If you age your bottle to the perfect point the oxidation can also be the
element that unlocks the array of flavours that wine grapes can offer.
● White Wine - Nuts, Applesauce
● Red Wine - Coffee, Mocha, Cocoa
Evidence of Lees
Lees is the term used to describe the leftover yeast particles from autolysis, which is the selfdestruction of yeast cells by enzymes created from fermentation. The autolysis of the yeast cells
released flavour and texture into the wine.
● Dough, Yeasty, Bready, Brioche
Evidence of Malolactic Fermentation
Malolactic fermentation is a process where tart malic acid in wine converts to softer, creamier
lactic acid (the same acid found in milk).
● Oily texture
● Buttery characteristics
Once you have gone through all of the sections within the tasting guide, including the structure
of the wine, you should have a decent idea as to the character of the wine, and the fruits of the
wine, and with a bit of practice, you should be calling out the wines as you are tasting them by
Give it a go at your next wine tasting - ask the Tasting Room Ambassador to pour the wine
without showing you the label, taste the wine and see how many out of the wine tasting you can
Hurry up! Sale ends once the timer hits zero