on 13/08/12 at 3:37 pma woman walks into a bar..., BoozeBlog
The LA Food and Wine Festival took over downtown this past weekend and it served up every celebrity chef you’ve ever seen on whatever foodie tv show you’re addicted to and enough wine seminars to satisfy your inner sommelier. Lucky chefs and presenters…champagne awaited in the lobby along with chefs personalized coats.
I went to a couple of terrific seminars. The first one was Secrets of a Sommelier: Blind Tasting White Wines – yes, at 10:30am. Check out the link to see the somm line-up that made up the panel.
Just to start things off, one of the big Secrets of a Sommelier is that they can be just as bad at guessing what wine we were drinking as a regular Joe Shmoe. When a sommelier is at your table, sniffing and swirling, he knows just what to say because he’s seen the label. That, right there, gives you a leg up on sounding like an ace nerd. So the intimidation factor is somewhat relieved by knowing you won’t make a fool of yourself by guessing wrong which wine comes from where or what grape gave its life for the deliciousness in your glass.
The session really was informative. Blind tasting, as it turns out, is an excellent way to taste wine as it strips away any preconceptions you might have about the wine and lets your little brain try and pin down that interesting taste with creative descriptive words like leather, gooseberries and tar. But as the somm also pointed out, the negative aspect of blind tasting – aside from the treachery of misidentifying – doesn’t let you enjoy the story behind the wine. The story that rounds out the emotional tie to the wine as you share the winemaker’s narrative and drink in his struggles, the weather, the glory of getting it into the bottle makes the wine taste that much more ‘personal’ shall we say. But no matter. You can enjoy the story after the label is revealed.
The idea that blind tasting is just a cheap parlor trick is easily dismissed. It’s valuable because it does teach the somm how to describe the wine to customers. Some say they have a system where they check off boxes in their heads when they are trying to identify the wine; and, aside from my earlier snarky remark about how somms get it wrong, they more often than not get it right…and that is from tasting and tasting and tasting, over and over and over. After one’s tasted a pinot 500 times, you better know what’s in your glass. Take it a step further, and the somms can tell you where it was made, and often the vintage.
We tasted eight distinctly different whites and with varying degrees of success, identified which wine was what, from where. We didn’t get a badge or a gold star but we did get a valuable lesson that will add pleasure to our sniffing and sipping. The session was totally enjoyable and informative.
Don’t forget to go to next year’s Los Angeles Food and Wine Festival! Awesome!