One evening, relatives, neighbors, and friends passed through the home of one of our Joy of Kosher editors to take part in our Guess the Grape challenge.
In this blind taste test, could they guess the wine varietal they were drinking?
Five bottles sat on the table with their labels covered. Instead, we called them “one,” “two,” “three,” “four,” and “five.”
Our participants tasted—and tasted. They thought for a few moments—then tasted again. And at the end, they discovered new wines they loved—but would have never thought to purchase had the label been revealed.
A Merlot lover discovered he likes Syrah/Shiraz. A White Zinfandel lover discovered he also liked the Red Zinfandel best out of all the reds he tasted. The Cabernet Franc was popular all around for being a lighter and easier to drink Cab. The surprise of the evening? The Malbec. Interestingly, it became a new favorite for many of our testers who usually prefer Cabs. It was the least favorite, though, for those who usually favor Zinfandel.
HOW DID OUR TASTE TESTERS DO?
“Nice color…very rich purple. The prettiest looking out of all of them…Whoa, strong smell…Wow, delicious wine, fabulous. Smooth and velvety.
Remember that one, I want to buy it.” —Avi on Malbec
“Oh wow—this is very different than all of them—very different. Nicer smell…delicious.” —Richie on Malbec
“This one is very good.” (She takes a few slow sips.) “Do you have a guess?” we asked. “Oh, I knew what it was right away. I was just enjoying it.”
–Margaret on Cabernet Franc
“This does not taste like Merlot. It tastes like Cabernet, but lighter…the same idea.” —Joseph on Cabernet Franc
“I’m a Merlot guy…I don’t like anything else. This is Merlot.” –Judah on Shiraz/Syrah
“This one tastes the most familiar to me.” –Merlene on Cabernet Sauvignon
“I’m gonna guess the Zinfandel for sure.” (He sips). “I never had this one. This is very good.” —Zac on Zinfandel
“This is thicker…very good to drink and very hard to drink…the kind that makes you fall asleep.” —Isaac on Cabernet Sauvignon
“This fifth one is good…this one is the best. I gotta guess the Zinfandel.” –Jackie on Zinfandel
The winner: Joseph M. correctly guessed 3/5 wines.
The Cheat Sheet
How do you recognize the flavor of a wine you’ve never tasted? With a cheat sheet, of course.
Taste testers were given the following information to be able to deduce which wine varietal they were tasting. Six choices for five bottles made the guessing a little trickier.
Typical taste: aromas and flavors of wild black fruit (such as blackcurrant), with overtones of black pepper spice and roasting meat.
Typical taste: typical scents include black cherry, plums and herbal flavors. The texture is round but a middle palate gap is common. The
Merlot type of wine is less tannic (rough) than Cabernet Sauvignon.
Typical taste: full-bodied, but firm and gripping when young. Rich currant and blackberry qualities.
Typical taste: bold, in-your-face fruit yet with a softer, less tannic experience. An easy-drinking style, well-colored wine that tastes of plums, berries, and spice.
Typical taste: often a zesty flavor with berry and pepper.
Typical taste: lighter than its disciple Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc shows aromas and flavors of raspberry, red cherry with violet floral and bell pepper herbaceous notes.