Wined Faith

Blind Tasting – is there a less controversial subject in wine today?

Probably – but many just don’t see eye to eye this topic that often leaves a bad taste.

Just in case you have been out of the loop for say – forever – blind tasting means identifying a mystery wine without prior knowledge of the grape, region, producer, and even vintage. The pourer either decants the wine in advance or hides the bottle in a bag, and the taster, by assessing the color, aroma, texture, and body, tries to guess the wine’s “story.”

Blind tasting started as a drinking game between Druid sects. Some Druids were in favor of meditation, the study of the flight of birds, and interpreting the pattern of sticks thrown on the ground to determine if they were drinking a powerful Cabernet Sauvignon from Gaul or a crisp little Sauvignon Blanc from the area around Stonehenge. Other Druids felt that human sacrifice was a more reliable method of determining wine origin. Eventually the “meditation Druids” (MD’s) won out; however, they did adopt some “human sacrifice” Druid techniques (endless lecturing, test failing, and general verbal abuse) to perform on those who didn’t guess correctly.

On to today’s story:

I’ve spent the last few months studying (and passing the test) for my FWBAC certificate which accounts for the lack of GdV website updates and newsletters.

You are undoubtedly unfamiliar with the FWBACC – the Forensic Wine Bottle Analyst and Consultant Certification. Forensic Wine Bottle Analysis is a relatively new science developed by Walter Melon and Rita Booke of Cozad, Nebraska, where the two manage an organic falafel cart/dog wig outlet located near the exit of the Broken-Home Chimney Repair parking lot in nearby Kearney.

The idea of Forensic Wine Bottle Analysis first came to Walter while he and Rita were watching an episode of Rosemary and Thyme on BBC America. Intrigued by the notion of forensic horticulture and the scientific scrutiny that Rosemary’s character brought to the show each week, they began to explore the idea of combining their passions into a joint venture. Little did they know that they would stumble onto what many of today’s wine cognoscenti call the “Blind Tasting Rosetta Stone.”

Walter had a reputation as the town “go to” wine “geek” due a series of unfortunate encounters with MADD. However he never let the loss of driving privileges alter his belief in vino veritas or in his quest for more wine – more frequently. Rita, a board certified psychic from the Institute for Mediumship, Psychic, Astrological, and Reiki Training (IMPART), became a local celebrity after appearing on cable and revealing what appeared to be the face of Bing Crosby on the underside of a bear claw purchased from the local Food Pride Bakery-Deli. Mysteriously, “Going My Way” was playing on TMC the very morning of her discovery.

The two threw themselves into many months of late night research, attempting to unearth the secrets of blind tasting. Hours were long, money was short – falafel sales had been on a downward turn since 9/11. Only the sale of wigs to an occasional Argentinian Xoloitzcuintle breeder was keeping them afloat. Walter had even begun to doubt Rita’s psychic powers. The strain was wearing on their relationship.

Success struck when Walter woke one afternoon from an all-night session involving his favorite wine and food pairing of OMG!!! Chardonnay and a Burger King Big Fish Sandwich – no cheese. He often spent long hours alone doing research in the old bomb shelter his father had built back in the early 60’s, a place where he could drink undisturbed, tasting bottle after bottle – yet frustrated because he was unable to determine exactly what he was drinking or why. That afternoon, his eyes focused on an empty wine bottle lying on the floor next to a crumpled BK wrapper. There appeared to be a piece of paper glued to the bottle. He noticed writing on it! He remembered that Rita had once remarked that quite a few bottles had cork in the neck that had to be removed before you could actually taste the wine. And there was often writing on those as well.

Could there be a connection? Could the writing on the paper glued to the wine bottle be an indication of what type of wine it was? Was it possible that the writing could tell you where the wine was produced, who made it and even when it was made? Thanks to Walter and Rita, we are beginning to make progress on the blind tasting front through the study of Forensic Wine Bottle Analysis.

Today, though we can’t always be 100% sure that the writing on the outside paper or on the cork is accurate, there does seem to be a strong correlation between that writing and the contents of the bottle. Rita posits that even if the words on the outside paper (they use the scientific term “label”) are in a foreign language, those writings often accurately describe what is in the bottle – sometimes even better than the “labels” in English.

Walter has taken their research to the Court of Master Sommeliers and also to the Masters of Wine. Unfortunately, MW’s dismissed their work immediately. Giving up blind tasting would leave the MW program and their members without a raison d’être. A morose, suicidal bunch already, it was thought that an end to blind tasting could push many “over the edge” toward an early demise. Some segments of the wine industry, however, continue to urge MW’s to take the leap anyway.

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The Court of Master Sommeliers, however, instantly recognized an additional quick revenue stream through the development of yet another endless series of classes and testing – along with the interminable and incessant babble of the students that take them.

Where are Walter and Rita now? Both are back in Cozad. They have shut down the falafel cart to focus more on the dog wig operation, but they are not done with wine yet. Currently, Walter is investigating if it is necessary to swirl biodynamic wine for a specific time period and a specific direction before tasting wine. Is it enough to swirl the glass itself, or does one’s entire body need to spin until it all resembles the vortex of a well-stirred horn manure preparation. Rita is attempting to determine if one of Rudolf Steiner’s “invisible nature beings” can be coaxed to swirl her wine for her instead.

Stay tuned for follow-up.

In the meantime, here are some delicious wines you might be interested in purchasing:

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