Behind the label

I was talking yesterday about judging a book by its cover and it reminded my of something from the recent trip to my father’s house.

We were having a wine tasting and it wasn’t blind. This led naturally to the subject of what advantage a blind tasting has. The most important thing you’re guarding from in a blind tasting is probably reputation. If you know what Robert Parker thinks about the wine then you might let it influence you unduly.

But a second aspect is one of design – the design of the label, the weight of the bottle and any directly printed onto the bottle. This last was considered by some around the table to be a key indicator. A very poor indicator, by the by, is fastening (although plastic corks are a big no-no). Between screw tops and corks there is not much useful information to deduce the quality of the wine.*

All in all though, the only trend observed is that heavier bottles tend to be nicer. Not a guarantee of course and I can hear all of the objections coming. I’m not saying heavy bottles of wine will be nice but that wines of a better quality will often have thicker bottles.

As a side note we all knew what we liked about some labels but found it difficult to articulate what it was. Garish labels are usually bad, as are pun titles but not always (try drinking some Nine Popes if you don’t believe me). But as to what a good label looks like, it’s something you have to learn.

If all of this sounds wishy-washy then that’s because it is. What we clearly need to do is a double-blind test. Look at the bottles and score the wine without tasting it, and then score the wine. If we split the bottle scores into weight and label then we might be able to prove the better indicator.

Sounds like something to try over Christmas. The only problem is that if you’ve seen the label then you know what wine it is. Bringing previous experience and Parker back in to play. This might take some planning.

*Although everyone agrees that the screw top is far preferable. Because there isn’t consensus out in the industry there isn’t a trend in the wine.

6 thoughts on “Behind the label

  1. fourstar says:

    How about doing the blind tasting first and the labels second (whilst moving the bottles around in a Find-The-Lady kind of a way)I am going to try this – my parents are staying with us this Christmas so my Dad will, I’m sure, been keen to be part of such a noble psychological experiment 🙂

  2. Alex Andronov says:

    Excellent! That is exactly what I’ll do.

  3. Nick Ollivère says:

    It’s my general observation that the better a bottle of wine is the less it says about itself on the label. If a bottle doesn’t have a label on the back it’s even better, and if it has no barcode at all then it really is exceptional. Just an idea.

  4. igor says:

    Decant all the wines, either into… decanters or similar shaped, coloured and closured bottles. Number the decanters or bottles and keep a list of which is which.Have someone else who has not witnessed the decanting rearrange the bottles (this is why similar shapes colours and closures are important) into a different sequence replacing the numbers with letters, and keeping a note of which was which. This way no-one present will know what is in which bottle without the pourer and sorter revealing their lists to one another.Now taste the wines and score them. After scoring the wine reveal the original bottles and score them for shape, label, weight etc. Now try and match the bottles to the wines tasted… Reveal the true identity and see how wrong you can really be…

  5. Alex Andronov says:

    Well I think that is the best option. Really leaving no chance of contamination.The only downside is that as I don’t happen to have any decanters I’ll have to use flowerpots!

  6. Ellen says:

    Decanters on the list for Santa then…

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