Sommeliers are professional wine guinea pigs. We taste the good, the bad, and the ugly, so hopefully all you taste is the good. More accurately, we train to understand what a person enjoys - in some respects better than they do themselves. This involves plenty of practice to develop a strong palate memory (a.k.a. "a Rolodex of aromas and tastes"). (Note: when I say practice, I do not mean lengthy wine-soaked dinners, or marathon rounds at the wine bar). I’m talking about formal deductive tasting, involving spitting, note-taking, and often executed ‘blind’.
Blind tasting - when no information about the wine is disclosed - is not only a test for one’s memory of grape flavor profiles, but also is a very enlightening study in the power of prejudice. Often customers will state their preferences by referring to producers rather than wines. For example, they may say they don’t like Rombauer [Chardonnay]. This information is helpful, as a savvy sommelier will know to avoid thick, butter-drenched chardonnays. In contrast, some customers will state they don’t like chardonnay, assuming that all chardonnay reflects the Rombauer style. This is what I refer to as a ‘wine bigot’. Wine bigots can be a challenge to serve, and require finesse . . . and perhaps a bit of guerrilla wine education. In this situation I simply offer them a taste of a crisp white, layered with citrus and pear - and not a hint of butter - without saying a word about it. If they love it, I pour it, and then happily inform them they are drinking a chardonnay, made in a style they had yet to encounter. This scenario illustrates how blind tasting is actually a beneficial experience for all wine drinkers, not just a sport for wine geeks!
In an effort to educate and entertain both the curious and the connoisseur, Savvy Cellar is kicking off Flying Blind! A blind tasting experience held on select Wednesday evenings. The inaugural flight is Wednesday, May 21st, and will feature two sessions of tasting: 5pm designed for more experienced tasters, and then the Amateur Hour at 7pm. Each session is $22, and will be hosted by yours truly, the Savvy Sommelier. Come for the education, come for the challenge, or come just to taste a few good wines.