Scott Carney is a master sommelier who has been tasting wine for over 35 years and teaches the Intensive Sommelier Training class at International Culinary Center. As such, he is often asked how people new to wine should approach the experience. The first words out of Scott’s mouth are often that, “You have to trust your own palate and know that we are all on a personal learning curve.”
His basic assumption, like The Daily Sip®’s, is what you like is what’s right for you.
Scott also acknowledged that as a result of the success of the cult film, Somm, novices know the three parts of the “sight/smell/taste” tasting process.
Here are three tips from this master somm on how to identify wines “blindly” (without knowing the region of origin, grape varietal, vintage, or wine brand name), with an emphasis on what the “sight” of the wine teaches you.
1) Young white wines will have a variety of colors from pale straw to rich yellow and gold. Those colors deepen with aging.
2) Young red wine also starts out multi-colored: from faint, light and pink to an opaque, blackish ruby, sometime with purple hues. In contrast to whites, reds lose color as they age and the first evidence of this is discerned at the liquid’s rim in a glass that is turned horizontally.
3) The number one key to identifying a wine by sight alone is to learn the visual characteristics (“color palette”) of each grape variety so you can pattern-match what color profiles are associated with each grape. For example, chardonnay is often golden yellow. Sauvignon blanc is often light pale straw yellow. And so forth. So you must hold the wine in front of a white backdrop, identify the color attributes, and start deductively reasoning through which grapes are associated with the colors that you are seeing.