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Test your blind wine tasting skills and win

The authors of a book designed to help wine lovers refine their blind tasting skills are offering db readers the chance to win a copy by taking part in a blind wine tasting quiz.

bookcover2The Concise Guide to Wine & Blind Tasting, written by psychiatrist Dr Neel Burton and Oxford biophysicist James Flewellen, gives readers a guide to the world’s key wine regions, supplemented by a series of crib sheets to help readers distinguish the typical traits of different grape varieties.

On the discipline of blind wine tasting, Dr Burton said: “Wine is one of the most complex of all beverages: the fruit of a soil, climate, and vintage, digested by a fungus through a process guided by the culture, vision, and skill of an individual man or woman. The thousand-plus different types of molecules in a wine are experienced as colour, aromas and flavours, structure or mouthfeel, and by their effects—either pleasant or unpleasant, depending on the amount consumed—on the mind and body. Parameters such as grape variety, soil, climate, winemaking, and ageing express themselves through the ever-changing makeup of the liquid in the glass, which can be analysed and interpreted by the attentive taster.

“Unfortunately, unconscious bias and suggestion are all too easily introduced into this process of identification and appreciation. Ideally, a wine ought to be evaluated objectively, with only an afterthought for such factors as price or prestige, the reputation of the region or producer, the shape of the bottle, the type of closure used, and the design on the label. The only way to control for these factors is for the evaluator to be blinded to everything but the liquid itself, which is served naked in a standard wine glass.”

By honing your blind tasting skills wine drinkers, Burton says, can “become much more conscious of the richness not only of wine but also of other potentially complex beverages such as tea, coffee, and spirits, and, by extension, the flavours in food, the scents in the air, and the play of light in the world.”

While the practical benefits of developing blind tasting skills are undoubtedly useful for those working in the drinks industry from winemakers and sommeliers to journalists, critics and consumers.

For a chance to win one of 10 hardback copies of the Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting by Neel Burton and James Flewellen, complete this quiz and email your answers, together with your name and mailing address, to by 11 July at the latest.

If you would like to organise a wine blind tasting, free resources, including a blind tasting guide and tasting sheets, are available on the Oxford Wine Academy website.

Wine Blind Tasting Quiz

1. On average, how many taste buds are there on the human tongue?

A. 500
B. 1,000
C. 5,000
D. 15,000
E. 25,000

2. The olfactory bulb is part of which area of the brain?

A. Limbic system
B. Frontal cortex
C. Thalamus
D. Hypothalamus
E. Pituitary gland

3. Which of these wines might be expected to be the most aromatic?

A. Riesling Kabinett from the Mosel
B. Alsatian Pinot Gris
C. Alsatian Gewurztraminer
D. Chablis
E. Savennières

4. Which of the following class of volatile compounds could be responsible for an aroma of soap?

A. Fusel oils
B. Short-chain esters
C. Long-chain esters
D. Aldehydes
E. Pyrazines

5. Which of these acids can make a wine smell of rancid butter or baby vomit?

A. Lactic acid
B. Butyric acid
C. Acetic acid
D. Malic acid
E. Succinic acid

6. Which of these beverages might be expected to contain the least amount of residual sugar?

A. Sauternes
B. Sweet (‘Doux’) Champagne
C. Coca Cola
D. Cream Sherry
E. Tokaj, 4 Puttonyos

7. Which of these wines is often aged in American oak?

A. Hermitage
B. Chianti
C. Taurasi
D. Priorat
E. Barossa Shiraz

8. Which of these descriptors is not associated with Brettanomyces?

A. Sweaty saddle
B. Nail varnish
C. Sticking plaster
D. Rancid cheese
E. A metallic note

9. All of these denominations sit in a natural south-facing amphitheatre except

A. Cornas
E. Piesporter Goldtröpfchen
C. Château-Grillet
B. Hermitage
D. Quarts-de-Chaume

10. Who said, ‘The limits of my language mean the limits of my world’?

A. Noam Chomsky
B. Cicero
C. Ludwig Wittgenstein
D. Sir Winston Churchill
E. Aunt Lily (Lily Bollinger)

11. Name one wine that fits the following tasting note. Suggest its age.

• Deep gold and intense in colour.
• Dense, concentrated nose with a complex bouquet of mushroom, leather, honey, butterscotch, confected pear, peach, nutmeg, and white 
• Intensely sweet on the palate with notes of peach, fig, date, and butterscotch.
• Full-bodied with moderate alcohol and moderate-to-low acidity.
• High residual sugar.
• Very long and tapered savoury finish that echoes the earlier aromas and flavours.
• A wonderfully complex sweet wine. The sweetness fades to a savoury,
dry finish. The one slight damper is that the moderate-to-low acidity does not quite stand up to the high residual sugar.

12. Name one wine that fits the following tasting note. Suggest its age.

• In colour, medium-deep purple in the centre and brick-red at the rim.
• Moderately aromatic with jammy blackcurrant and mulberry fruit,
meaty notes, and a hint of menthol, coconut, and sweet spice.
• Dry and full-bodied with high alcohol and low acidity.
• Intense jammy black fruit flavours with coconut and milk chocolate.
• Tannins moderate in quantity, with a soft and velvety quality.
• Moderate length with a finish dominated by fruit flavours and
• Overall, a complex wine with clear development, but let down by low 
acidity relative to full body and high alcohol.

13. Assuming they are typical, how might one distinguish a red wine from Ribera del Duero from one from Priorat? (Up to 100 words)

14. Do women make better blind tasters than men? Explain your reasoning. (Up to 100 words)

15. Wine is not about the objectivity of taste, but about the subjectivity of experience. By removing a wine from its context, blind tasting turns it into a mere commodity. What do you think? (Up to 200 words)

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