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Covenanter's picture
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On the radio this morning I

On the radio this morning I heard that blind tastings of lager showed that people could not tell the difference between the various brands, premium or otherwise.

As for wine, well I think I can tell most varieties apart and also regions and have done so at blind tastings.  That's the limit of my ability though.

Chris

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The question is, what are you

The question is, what are you tasting and recognising that makes the difference?

It is not heard to taste differences and express views as a layman, my local restaurant sustituded a better wine for my 'usual' which was sold out. It was immediately obvious without seeing the bottle or knowing of the change.

But tasting between different vintages or wineries is much more difficult, do the 'professionals' learn certain clues, perhaps in the same way that some folks listen for specific artifacts in mp3 recordings?

I have had these artifacts demonstrated to me, they are easy enough to hear if you are listening specifically for them but does it change your perception of the music? I wonder if something similar applys to wine tasting, the professional tasting and 'looking' for clues, the amateur thinking 'thats a nice drop', how about another glass.....!

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matt49 wrote:

matt49 wrote:

Yes, but see my post above, especially the bit where I talk about people being confused by "being fed deliberately misleading information". The test with the dye is an extreme situation and not a fair blind test. Wine tasters take blind tests in good faith and assume they're not being deliberately tricked. If they'd been told "we may have dyed one of the white wines so that you think it's red", the results would have been quite different.

 

on the contrary, if somebody is going to proclaim themselves an expert in something, such as wine tasting, yet can be fooled by something simple like a red dye, it calls in to question the creedence with which they consider themselves an expert.  Surely if it's about the taste, then the colour doesn't matter, but again, it just goes to show how interlinked our senses are, how easily they can be fooled and how subjective it all is.  Putting dye in a wine is a perfectly fair way to show up the inconsistancies of wine tasters and some of the rubbish they come out with.

matt49 wrote:

The "scientific" vs "subjective" thing in the Guardian article addresses a different point from the one I was making. My question was: can you improve your ability to identify wine correctly in blind tastings? The evidence is very clear: you can. (In fact, some of the comments in the article make precisely this point, e.g. where it says that trained experts were better than laymen at identifying expensive wines.)

to a certain degree, yes, but again, other tests pretty much blow that thoery out of the water.  Also, just because it's expensive, doesn't mean it's going to taste any good Smile

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn never say all wines taste the same etc, I just think that it's another one of those areas that's created it's own mythos, snobbery and self appionted experts, which when put the test, tend to fall at the first hurdle.

I've done a few wine tasting evening myself and suchlike and do enjoy a nice glass, but I'm not for one minute going to turn my nose up at 5 quid bottle of wine because it's not from x vinyard or y year etc, just as *some* (please note the word some there Smile ) wine people would do.

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I agree with cheesboy on this

I agree with cheesboy on this fork of the thread.

Not a drinker of wines, spirits, beers or ciders beyond every now and then and prefer a coke with my meals.

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Virtually all of the wine

Virtually all of the wine consumed nowadays gets transported around the world in 24,000 litre plastic bags (or 'bladders') that are also used for water, herbicides and paint.

It gets bottled at plants in the destination countries (a vast factory in Avonmouth in our case)  where they put on all the various labels evoking pretty, rustic vineyards or majestic chateaux to fool the punter into thinking their wine has some history or 'terroir' that they can bang on about. (Wrong, it came from an automated, computerised industrial complex resembling a chemical plant.)

 

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chebby wrote:

chebby wrote:

Virtually all of the wine consumed nowadays gets transported around the world in 24,000 litre plastic bags (or 'bladders') that are also used for water, herbicides and paint.

It gets bottled at plants in the destination countries (a vast factory in Avonmouth in our case)  where they put on all the various labels evoking pretty, rustic vineyards or majestic chateaux to fool the punter into thinking their wine has some history or 'terroir' that they can bang on about. (Wrong, it came from an automated, computerised industrial complex resembling a chemical plant.) 

Wow, that's sobering, chebby.  I used to drive past Avonmouth most days, but mostly noticed all the cars!  I also remember the 'mega-keggery' in Reading, detectable by the hops/beer/malt smell from the M4. I think it was Courage.  Not sure if it is still there or was replaced by Green Park where Microsoft and others reside.

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cheeseboy wrote:

cheeseboy wrote:

on the contrary, if somebody is going to proclaim themselves an expert in something, such as wine tasting, yet can be fooled by something simple like a red dye, it calls in to question the creedence with which they consider themselves an expert.  Surely if it's about the taste, then the colour doesn't matter, but again, it just goes to show how interlinked our senses are, how easily they can be fooled and how subjective it all is.  Putting dye in a wine is a perfectly fair way to show up the inconsistancies of wine tasters and some of the rubbish they come out with.

Th problem with the dye test is that it's not clear what it's testing: is it really testing people's ability to discriminate in blind tastings or is it testing how likely they are to believe what people in authority tell them? If it's designed to do the former, it's a spectacularly badly designed test.

cheeseboy wrote:

to a certain degree, yes, but again, other tests pretty much blow that thoery out of the water.  Also, just because it's expensive, doesn't mean it's going to taste any good Smile

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn never say all wines taste the same etc, I just think that it's another one of those areas that's created it's own mythos, snobbery and self appionted experts, which when put the test, tend to fall at the first hurdle.

I've done a few wine tasting evening myself and suchlike and do enjoy a nice glass, but I'm not for one minute going to turn my nose up at 5 quid bottle of wine because it's not from x vinyard or y year etc, just as *some* (please note the word some there Smile ) wine people would do.

You'll notice that I didn't say anything about the cost of wine, which I agree is a fraught subject, though rather less fraught, I think, than the cost of hi-fi equipment. Fine wine is a larger business by many orders of magnitude, and it operates more like a mature market. However, it's a market containing quite a lot of people who buy on reputation rather than quality.

What I was talking about is people's ability to, say, distinguish a Sauvignon blanc from a Riesling in a blind tasting. That can be learned very easily. I can do it with a pretty high degree of reliability, but then it is one of the easiest tests. 

davedotco wrote:

The question is, what are you tasting and recognising that makes the difference?

It is not heard to taste differences and express views as a layman, my local restaurant sustituded a better wine for my 'usual' which was sold out. It was immediately obvious without seeing the bottle or knowing of the change.

But tasting between different vintages or wineries is much more difficult, do the 'professionals' learn certain clues, perhaps in the same way that some folks listen for specific artifacts in mp3 recordings?

I have had these artifacts demonstrated to me, they are easy enough to hear if you are listening specifically for them but does it change your perception of the music? I wonder if something similar applys to wine tasting, the professional tasting and 'looking' for clues, the amateur thinking 'thats a nice drop', how about another glass.....!

Yes, that's it exactly. There are cues that you learn to pick up. For instance, Sauvignon blanc almost always has a grassy aroma that's a real giveaway. Aged Riesling can easily be identified by a petrolly aroma.

Different vintages can also have giveaway signatures: 1990 and 2003 were standout examples in Bordeaux. In the former you get lots of roast coffee aromas. The latter are super-ripe but often spikily tannic.

At this point of course someone will throw up their hands and say "all that talk of grass and petrol" is a sure sign of bullsh*t. Well, it's not. It's what the wines really smell/taste like.

If you take the MW blind tasting exam, you have to write an account of how you came to your decisions, a bit like showing your workings in a maths exam. You have to comment on things like acidity, sweetness, alcoholic strength, tannic structure etc -- and of course the colour of the wine, which can be a very helpful indicator of grape variety and vintage. (You should be able to tell which is which out of a Santenay and an Aussie Shiraz simply by the colour.)

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chebby wrote:

chebby wrote:

Virtually all of the wine consumed nowadays gets transported around the world in 24,000 litre plastic bags (or 'bladders') that are also used for water, herbicides and paint.

It gets bottled at plants in the destination countries (a vast factory in Avonmouth in our case)  where they put on all the various labels evoking pretty, rustic vineyards or majestic chateaux to fool the punter into thinking their wine has some history or 'terroir' that they can bang on about. (Wrong, it came from an automated, computerised industrial complex resembling a chemical plant.)

Would you care to put a number on that? 

It's certainly true that a lot of wine at the bottom end of the market is shipped in bulk and bottled at destination. It used to be the case at the top end of the market too. The UK wine merchants (Avery's, Berry Bros et al) would do their own bottlings of smart French addresses, and they had a good reputation. But these days I think you'd be hard pushed to find much wine over £10/bottle that isn't estate bottled.

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matt49 wrote:

matt49 wrote:

chebby wrote:

Virtually all of the wine consumed nowadays gets transported around the world in 24,000 litre plastic bags (or 'bladders') that are also used for water, herbicides and paint.

It gets bottled at plants in the destination countries (a vast factory in Avonmouth in our case)  where they put on all the various labels evoking pretty, rustic vineyards or majestic chateaux to fool the punter into thinking their wine has some history or 'terroir' that they can bang on about. (Wrong, it came from an automated, computerised industrial complex resembling a chemical plant.)

Would you care to put a number on that?

No, but don't worry, it'll catch up with the small percentage of posh stuff too Smile

They simply won't be able to ignore the economics of it. Imagine the cost of shipping the weight of 32,000 empty bottles (and the cases) compared to shipping the weight of a big plastic bag. There is also the space it all takes up.  Bottles have a lot of air around them - because they are round - and the volume of space they take up costs money too. Far better and cheaper to bottle it a few miles from a port (like Avonmouth) at the destination country.

(24,000 litres is about 32,000 bottles I think.)

It'll be like the creep of Chinese manufacture into high-end audio. Even the most 'snobby' manufacturers / brands can't hold out forever.

Besides, give it a few more years and all of the subtle, nuanced and quirky qualities of any wine (no matter how expensive or old) will be nailed by wine tasters working with chemists and a battery of taste additives. So the most elusive bouquets and flavours will be programmed precisely and scientifically for anyone to enjoy for a fiver.

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chebby wrote:

chebby wrote:

matt49 wrote:

chebby wrote:

Virtually all of the wine consumed nowadays gets transported around the world in 24,000 litre plastic bags (or 'bladders') that are also used for water, herbicides and paint.

It gets bottled at plants in the destination countries (a vast factory in Avonmouth in our case)  where they put on all the various labels evoking pretty, rustic vineyards or majestic chateaux to fool the punter into thinking their wine has some history or 'terroir' that they can bang on about. (Wrong, it came from an automated, computerised industrial complex resembling a chemical plant.)

Would you care to put a number on that?

No, but don't worry, it'll catch up with the small percentage of posh stuff too Smile

They simply won't be able to ignore the economics of it. Imagine the cost of shipping the weight of 32,000 empty bottles (and the cases) compared to shipping the weight of a big plastic bag.

(24,000 litres is about 32,000 bottles I think.)

It'll be like the creep of Chinese manufacture into high-end audio. Even the most 'snobby' manufacturers / brands can't hold out forever.

Besides, give it a few more years and all of the subtle, nuanced and quirky qualities of any wine (no matter how expensive or old) will be nailed by wine tasters working with chemists and a battery of taste additives. So the most elusive bouquets and flavours will be programmed precisely and scientifically for anyone to enjoy for a fiver.

Ah, gotcha. Sorry, I thought for a moment you were being serious.

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matt49 wrote:

matt49 wrote:

Sorry, I thought for a moment you were being serious.

A sentiment I had decades ago, the first time I ever watched a wine snob (sorry, oenophile) rhapsodising on the telly. (Probably Jilly Goolden.)

I soon realised it was all horse#### (in fact she might have listed that as one of the aromas).

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chebby wrote:

chebby wrote:

matt49 wrote:

Sorry, I thought for a moment you were being serious.

A sentiment I had decades ago, the first time I ever watched a wine snob (sorry, oenophile) rhapsodising on the telly. (Probably Jilly Goolden.)

I soon realised it was all horse#### (in fact she might have listed that as one of the aromas).

If you're basing your views on wine on Jilly Goolden, then yes, I can see where you're coming from. She was useless. A vapid talking head.

If you're actually open-minded about the subject, you should check out Jancis Robinson's website. The work she's done, e.g. her recent book on wine varieties, is of the very highest scientific standards: cutting-edge genetic analysis of vines etc etc.

But I suspect this is not something you're actually interested in, and that you're just sounding off.

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matt49 wrote:

matt49 wrote:

... you should check out Jancis Robinson's website.

I did ...

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/how-wine-travels-nowadays-in-bulk

... where did you think I got it from?

Ok there was also Bloomberg, Business Week and the FT (and a few others like 'trade' sites) but I don't make this stuff up just to needle you and I don't like being called a liar.

 

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chebby wrote:

chebby wrote:

matt49 wrote:

... you should check out Jancis Robinson's website.

I did ...

http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/how-wine-travels-nowadays-in-bulk

... where did you think I got it from?

Ok there was also Bloomberg, Business Week and the FT (and a few others like 'trade' sites) but I don't make this stuff up just to needle you and I don't like being called a liar.

Right.

You used the words "virtually all", which aren't justified by Jancis's article. That's why I asked you for a number.

Please tell me where I called you a liar. 

This train … carries saints and sinners / This train … carries losers and winners / This train … carries whores and gamblers / This train … carries lost souls.

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You need a good wine merchant

You need a good wine merchant.  I'm lucky to live within 200 yards of Connolly's, the best in Birmingham and I buy my wine from them.  The proprietor, Chris, goes and tastes and buys on that basis.  They have some of the finest Burgundy around.

However you can get good wine from even the least obvious of sources.  For example Tesco online have a really good selection of 2009 Bordeaux (a great year) and you can get really good wine from them.

Chris

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