My friend had a blind wine tasting for her birthday a few weeks ago – a few ladies, a few bottles of wine (we each brought a bottle $15-20), some cheese & crackers and a sheet telling how to tell the difference between the wines. Each bottle was put in a brown paper bag, and we got to sample it – to try and distinguish which type of wine it was.
Since this was such fun, I thought I’d try it out for my friend’s bachelorette party this weekend. I’ve complied some notes on the different types of wine (these are only frequent ones that my friends would know – for a more extensive list consult a wine tasting book) and tasting notes on each of them.
For this event, you each need to bring a bottle (we said $15-20) and there can’t be any blends (this makes it so much harder). Have someone in charge of the wine and sort them from lightest white to heaviest red (and drink them in that order). When you pull a bottle out, pour a tasting size amount in each glass so everyone gets some. Then smell, sip and discuss. See if you guys can guess what type of wine it is by the tasting notes or your own knowledge!
Here are the basic notes that I collected for this weekend from multiple sites (mainly WineFolly.Com – check out their article on how to host a wine tasting http://winefolly.com/update/blind-wine-tasting-party/). These don’t include rosé and obviously don’t include every wine, but its a starting point for people who don’t have an extensive knowledge of wine. If you’re interested in more detailed notes, reference a wine tasting book or the internet – you might just learn something (fun fact: there are 3 types of Pinot Noir – a red, a white and a rosé! The things you learn!).
Syrah or Shiraz
Aromas and flavors of wild black fruit (such as blackcurrant), with overtones of black pepper spice and roasting meat. The abundance of fruit sensations is often complemented by warm alcohol and gripping tannins. Toffee notes if present come not from the fruit but from the wine having rested in oak barrels. Sometimes licorice, cedar and mocha cream notes. Often described as meaty, leathery and juicy.
The shiraz variety gives hearty, spicy reds. While shiraz is used to produce many average wines it can produce some of the world’s finest, deepest, and darkest reds with intense flavors and excellent longevity.
Deliciously perfumed, supple, raspberry and blackcurrant-infused red wines in Bordeaux, while further north in the cooler regions of the Loire Valley and in northeastern Italy, it produces a wine which is more herbaceous in style. It is often described as having the aroma of pencil shavings or bell peppers.
Full-bodied, but firm and gripping when young. Vanilla notes if present come not from the fruit but from the oak treatment. Wide variation of flavors, but look for black cherry, currants, bell peppers, cedar, and possibly anise. May also find aromas of cassis, cigar box, leather, meat, or mint.
The main fruit flavors in a glass of Argentine Malbec are blackberry, plum and black cherry. The nuanced flavors offer milk chocolate, cocoa powder, violet flowers, leather and, depending on the amount of oak aging, a sweet tobacco finish.
Malbec’s from France tend to be leathery with flavors of tart currant, black plum and savory bitterness often described as green. French Malbecs, have higher acidity which attributes to flavors described as black pepper and spice. Very opaque and have a bright pink-magenta meniscus.
Typical scents include blackcherry, plums and herbal flavors. The Merlot type of wine is less tannic (rough) than Cabernet Sauvignon. Sandalwood, coffee, mint, chocolate, pepper, and vanilla, but also notes of black currant, cherry and possibly plum. Often has a slightly orange rim.
The structure is delicate and fresh. The tannins are very soft. The aromatics are very fruity (cherry, strawberry, plum), often with notes of tea-leaf, slight licorice and vanilla. Variety of scented aromas based on red berry characters closest to raspberry and strawberry, and often tinged with incense and cola-like spice. It can be a little minty and vegetal but when ripe usually tastes of raspberry or strawberry as well as cherry and, when exotic, loganberry, mulberry and fraise du bois. If overripe, it becomes jammy. As it matures in bottle, it often develops silky textures and alluring undertones of truffles, game and leather. Very lightly coloured, extremely transparent.
Crisp berry with slight cocoa, tar, pepper and leather. Jammy black-cherry, bramble, pepper, herbs, and spice. Powerfully constructed, brambly, reds with raspberry and blackberry-like flavours and plenty of tannins and spice. Robust tannins, well-rounded aromas and lush flavour.
Often wider-bodied (and more velvety) than other types of dry whites, with rich citrus (lemon, grapefruit) flavors. Fermenting in new oak barrels adds a buttery tone (vanilla, toast, coconut, toffee). A very ripe Chardonnay will have flavors more towards tropical fruits like pineapple, guava and mango. A barely ripe Chardonnay will have green apple and lemon flavors. Also look for butterscotch and caramel and occasional citrus flavors.
The primary fruit flavors of Sauvignon Blanc are lime, green apple, passion fruit and white peach. Depending on how ripe the grapes are when the wine is made, the flavor will range from zesty lime to flowery peach. What makes Sauvignon Blanc unique from other white wines are its other herbaceous flavors like bell pepper, jalapeño, gooseberry and grass. Quality unoaked Sauvignon Blancs will display smoky qualities; they require bright aromas and a strong acid finish.
Pinot Grigio or Pinot Gris
The primary fruit flavors in Pinot Grigio are lime, lemon, pear, white nectarine and apple. Depending on where the grapes are grown, Pinot Grigio can take on faint honeyed notes; floral aromas like honeysuckle; and a saline-like minerality. Pinot Grigio doesn’t have a strikingly unique flavor the way Moscato or Riesling do, but it does offer a refreshing twinkle of acidity and a weighty feeling on the middle of your tongue – like licking wax paper.
Can have flavors similar to Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, with a grassy or herbaceous note. Often will find melon, herb with ripe fig flavors. Semillon varies in character considerably according to its region of origin. In Bordeaux blends with sauvignon, it can be citrusy with a lanoline textured, waxy, honeyed richness, while Hunter Valley Semillon famously develops lime and buttered toast flavours with age, in contrast to the more pungently grass and asparagus-like characteristics associated with cooler climates. Made as a sweet wine, it makes some of the world’s most lusciously sweet, exotically marmaladey whites.
Usually sweet or semi-sweet. Tasting Riesling starts in your nose. It’s one of the most aromatic grape varieties in the world. The primary fruit aromas in Riesling are nectarine, apricot, honey-crisp apple and pear. Besides just fruit, you’ll often smell things like honeycomb or even to a chemical aroma similar to petrol/gas. Believe it or not, it’s these weird smells that wine enthusiasts go gaga over. Riesling is very high acid, almost to the level of a tart fruit juice like lemonade.
White Pinot Noir
White Pinot Noir is richer than many white wines because it’s made with red wine grapes. It has flavors of baked apple and pear, with zesty notes of honey, orange and ginger. Depending on how it’s made, the color can range from a pale white gold to a deep saffron yellow.
Gewürztraminer is like the grown-up version of Moscato. While Gewürztraminer wine has many similarities to Moscato it also has higher alcohol, more striking aromatics and lower acidity. All of these characteristics make Gewürztraminer more difficult to slurp down, thus making it more ‘adult’.
The first aroma you’ll come across in a glass of Gewürztraminer is its tell-tale lychee aroma. If you’ve never smelled lychee – canned or fresh – then this aroma will be more like ‘sweet rose.’ The lychee aroma is usually so intense, it’s one of Gewürztraminer’s ‘tells’ in a blind tasting. If you’re drinking high quality Gewürztraminer you’ll find a great many complex aromatics including Ruby Red grapefruit, rose petal, ginger and a smoky aroma similar to burnt incense.
Moscato or Muscat
In most cases Moscato wine is a sweet, slightly bubbly (aka frizzante) white wine. Always fruity, with a characteristic grapefruity and musky aroma. Fruity and easy to drink, this wine offers scents of peach blossoms, honeysuckle, vanilla, apricot, roasted almonds, and sweet butter. Though Moscato is often sweet, its low alcohol (5-7% ABV) and refreshing flavor profile makes Moscato more than just a dessert wine.