We’ve often heard that when people taste wine blind from a completely opaque (black) glass, they often can’t tell a red wine from a white wine. Is this just an urban legend, a myth? Or is it actually true? My husband and I decided to buy some black wine glasses and find out.
Not surprisingly, the 10KBottles household drinks our share of wine and we’re especially fond of red wine. Therefore, we assumed we’d have no problem telling a white from a red, (especially since my husband strongly dislikes most white wines) raising the bigger question in our mind – could we tell the varietals apart? Could we distinguish a Cabernet from a Zinfandel without any hint of its color? After all, in typical blind wine tastings (where the bottle is hidden), if you’ve had enough of a certain grape before, you know the varietal before you even smell the wine – the dark pink of a Pinot Noir is radically different than the dark purple of a Cabernet.
The black wine glasses arrived this past Saturday, so we promptly went to our local liquor store to buy the wines we’d taste blind. We figured we should stick to just one winery, and go with something that we generally like and that is around $20. So, we purchased the liquor store’s current line-up of Folie à Deux – 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012 Zinfandel, 2012 Merlot, and 2013 Chardonnay.
After marking the bottom of each glass with the varietal, pouring the wines, mixing up the glasses, and then numbering each glass (in the visible portion each glass) we tried each one blind. And . . .
Holy crap, this is far harder than we thought it would be!
After methodically going through all four wines on our first round of tasting my husband cursed (quite loudly) “I’ve been drinking wine for this many years, and I can’t f—ing tell a red from a white!” He continued his tirade, which only makes sense if you knew how much he claims to hate Chardonnay, as he angrily muttered: “it makes me think Chardonnay isn’t as bad as I thought… I’m not sure which one is the Chardonnay.”
After several rounds of tasting, lots of notes, and a lot of swearing, we made our calls (which were not the same). We picked up the glasses to un-blind the results. And . . .
Fortunately, we both correctly chose which one was the white wine. When the Chardonnay was uncovered, and we both called it right, we breathed a big sigh of relief that we weren’t complete wine idiots.
But other than correctly picking the white wine, let’s just say that neither of us called all three reds (Zin, Cab, and Merlot) correctly. We’ll just leave it at that, without going into further details to protect our embarrassed selves on not getting them all correct.
What a fun and quite humbling experience.
Want to try this at home? Here’s what you’ll need.
We purchased the Midnight Wine Glass set from Amazon. They were perfect. Since we already have each other’s cooties, we bought four glasses total and shared the tasting. If you’re doing this tasting with someone and you don’t necessarily want their cooties, I suggest buying more.
Wine glass pens:
It’s nearly impossible to keep your glasses straight in a tasting like this. The easiest way to keep track of each glass is to physically write on them. The Wine Enthusiast Wine Glass Writers from Amazon are perfect solution. As an added bonus, they easily replace wine charms at your next dinner party.
I personally like the idea of sticking with just one winery as it makes the process of putting your tasting together easier. Below are a few recommended flights from wineries I’m particularly fond of and should be easy to find at your local wine shop or liquor store.
Folie à Deux is a common every day wine for us so we thought it fitting to use it for our little tasting experiment (which makes it all the more sad that neither of us correctly identified all the reds). Here is a list of the four wines we used.
- Folie à Deux, Cabernet Sauvignon – $24
- Folie à Deux, Merot – $20
- Folie à Deux, Zinfandel – $20
- Folie à Deux, Chardonnay – $18
If you’d like to go a little fancier than Folie à Deux, you can pick up some bottles from Rombauer Vineyards. Rombauer produces a numbers of fantastic wines. Plus, I enjoy sprinkling Rombauer in to my tastings and recommendations from time to time since we first discovered it while wine tasting in Napa after getting engaged a number of years ago. You can’t go wrong with great wine and great memories.
- Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay – $36
- Rombauer Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc – $24
- Rombauer Carneros Merlot – $35
- Rombauer Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – $55
Anyone who’s followed my blog knows, I love recommending Grgich Hills. His Fume Blanc goes great with Chinese food (among many other things) and I’ve dubbed Miljenko (“Mike”) Grgich the Obi-Wan (“Ben”) Kenobi of wine. Like Rombauer, we also discovered Grgich on our post-engagement wine tasting afternoon and have a number of his bottles marked for future anniversaries.
- Grgich Hills Napa Valley Chardonnay – $42
- Grgich Hills Napa Valley Fume Blanc – $30
- Grgich Hills Napa Valley Zinfandel – $35
- Grgich Hills Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – $65
Happy tasting and good luck! When you do this at home, tag 10KBottles in your posts on Twitter and Instagram and please let us know your thoughts. And if you’re willing to share (admit) your score – let us know that too!
- Featured photo – More Wine?: Chris Isherwood