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I must admit I like most of what Matt Kramer writes, whether I agree with it or, as is usually the case, I disagree with it. His column on tasting has confused me and I'm wonderin gif perhaps anyone else had the same thoughts.

He states that a good taster will know that a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap should taste like "x," and a Howell Mountain Cabernet should taste like "y." My question is, when one tastes wines blind and sipposedly has no idea whatsoever what a wine is - varietal, vintage, origin, winemaking, etc., how can one possibly apply his standard? I will grant that a very tiny fraction of people can taste a wine completely blind and state that, "This is a 1996 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon with a small percentage of Malbec blended in. It was aged 24 months in M+ Taransaud barrels and lightly egg white fined prior to bottling," but 99.9999% of people cannot, including professional critics, as Mr. Suckling humbly admitted when he thought wines he tasted blind were one thing and he was way off.

What the hell is Kramer really saying?
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All the man is saying is that a person that is familiar with a particular wine producing region should be able to identify wines from that region simply by their taste. Have you ever got up during the night to go to the bathroom and walked down the hall in the dark? Can you distinguish chili fron spagetti sauce? Same differemce with wine. Once you become familiar with the wines from a perticular region, you should be able to identify them to a point. It is not a test that you can pass or fail. There is no pressure. You begin to realize the differences between wine growing countries, then regions within that country, and eventually may be able to identify the exact producer and or vintage, simply from experience.
Some people are more sensitive to certain things. While some can distinguish the small percentage of Malbec, others can tell if it's Rutherford Dust or Howell Mtn bramble. It starts with tasting the difference between Cab & Pinot Noir, and refines it to Cab Franc & Merlot, etc. Haven't you ever declared a wine at a blind tasting?
Personally, I don't like Matt Kramer and he is one of the reasons I stopped renewing my subscription to WS after about 10 years. This is just one more of his inane statements. No most people cannot identify these wines blind. Many people cannot even be certain they are drinking Cabernet when tasting blind. Unless you are very familiar with the taste of a particular wine, it is nearly impossible. In a previous column a long time ago, Kramer said he didn't believe in blind tastings. Funny, that is what his magazine built its reputation on.
I'm pretty sure that the guys and girls at Spectator NEVER taste anything FULLY BLIND. I mean I'm pretty sure that they know going in that they will be tasting Cabernet Sauvignon that day and I would even go one further as to say that they probably know that they will be tasting California Cabernet that day or Australian Cabernet. If you know that you are tasting california Cabernet Sauvigon and you have tasted a fair share of California Cabernet I bet that you could pin down appelation and the the sub app.

Just my .02
I had a fun little experiement last spring with a blind wine tasting at home for some of my neighboorhood wine drinking buddies, some are very casual in their wine appreciation and others are more advanced. The line up was:

Pinot Grigio from Italy 2002 (Placido)
Pinot Noir from Napa Vally RRV 2002 (Castle Rock)
Shiraz from Australia 2002 (Lindemans Reserve)
Malbec from Argentina 2002 (Don Miguel Gascon)
Cabernet from Napa Valley California 2001 (Franciscan)
Zinfandel from California 2002 (Ridge Ponzo Vineyard)
Muscat from Australia NV (R.L. Buller & Sons)

All wines served blind and points were awarded:

1 pt for correct varietal
2 pts for guessing correct producer
2 pts for guessing correct country
2 pts for guessing correct STATE if USA
3 pts for guessing correct appelation
4 pts for correct vintage

Vintage didn't really matter as these were all current releases, however I was really AMAZED that some were able to correctly identify so much stuff. Example: I had one person correctly identify the variety, of all but 1 wine, same person was able to identify all but that same one country of origin, that person was also able to identify the Pinot as a RRV and the Cab from Napa Valley. Token prizes were passed out and it turned out to be a real fun night especially as each bottle was unveiled. The stumper wine was the Buller Muscat, most guessed it as a Port or Maderia.

Actually a small round of applause went up when the Malbec was unveiled because the correct guesser identified it as "this tastes like a Malbec from Australia." and when it turned out correct, it became the "line of the night" and the rest of the gang is now in awe of Bill and he is now known as our resident guru.

Of course this says nothing at all about my own abilities to define details because I had the quiz key, but hey, I just like to drink the stuff!

"I'm pretty sure that the guys and girls at Spectator NEVER taste anything FULLY BLIND. I mean I'm pretty sure that they know going in that they will be tasting Cabernet Sauvignon that day"

Cal Duck, they do and they make no bones or apologies for it. That is part of their method. I think if you have to guess a wine completely blind not knowing anything about it, there are many people who could guess the variety and and even the region most times, but only rarely the few wines they are very familiar with. One exception is probably RP who claims to remember over 100,000 by flavor and aroma profile. But if you look at tasting notes, even the same wine does not always taste or smell the same to a particular individual and therefore, it is unlikely that most people could consistantly guess most wines purely blind. Certainly five out of five not knowing anything about them in advance is not likely IMO.

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