Blind Tasting at the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail Meeting

Every year, the Extension Enology program tries to organize 5 “regional” wine meetings throughout Pennsylvania. These regional meetings usually occur in Central, Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, and Southwestern, Pennsylvania. Future Regional Visits can be found on the “Wine Industry Events” tab on this blog, or through the “Upcoming Events” heading on the homepage of the Penn State Extension Enology website.

Additionally, a few of the Pennsylvania wine trails also reach out Penn State Extension Enology for educational opportunities that include specific wine trails. The Lehigh Valley Wine Trail has been actively engaged with the Extension Enology program for a few years, and this year they developed a tasting exercise for their wine trail members.

Denise Gardner, Extension Enologist, worked with the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail to set up a blind tasting event which contained wines from all of the associated wine trail wineries. Each winery submitted a red and white wine of their choice, which was blinded with a brown paper bag (to cover the labels) and identified with a numeric three-digit code. Wines were then poured, individually, to each attending wine trail member. In total, 15 people tasted each wine submitted.

Held at Pinnacle Ridge Winery for the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail Meeting

Blind Tasting Event Held at Pinnacle Ridge Winery for a Lehigh Valley Wine Trail Meeting

Each taster was given an evaluation sheet to analyze the wine for potential wine defects, the commercial acceptability of the wine as a whole, and completed with a subjective evaluation as to whether or not the taster enjoyed the wine. As we all know, wines can be of commercial quality but an individual’s taste preference may not prefer that wine, or vise versa.

Evaluation Sheets Associated with the Blind Tasting

Evaluation Sheets Associated with the Blind Tasting

Denise is currently in the process of compiling all of the data, and will provide a summary of each wine’s results to the appropriate winery.

What’s the benefit of educational programs like this?

  • Blind tasting is a humbling experience. Winemakers often learn that they cannot recognize their own wines in a blind tasting line up. Imagine the unnerving experience!
  • Tasting wines blind forces individuals to evaluate wines from a much different perspective. Not knowing a particular variety, focusing on particular attributes, and having little background on the wine can alter one’s sensory experience.
  • Helps winemakers understand commercial acceptability. Denise struggled with a good definition for this term! Commercial quality wines are not wines that can be sold; as we all know almost any wine of any quality level can probably be sold to an unknowing consumer. However, looking at the wine from the perspective of “is this a quality wine?” is a subjective challenge that requires years of tasting, experience, and knowledge of benchmark quality wines throughout the world.
  • Empowers team members to improve wine quality. The results of this exercise are focused on making wines better in a way that does not publicly harm any one producer. These exercises push the bar of making consistent quality wines, and the whole wine trail and/or region benefits from this adjustment. As the old saying goes, “Your wines are only as good as your neighbor’s.”
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