Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Numb Tongue - A Tasters Nightmare!

Brad Post:

Last fall our winemakers club, Eastern Iowa Wine Club, hosted a regional amateur wine competition at the Benton County Fair. Initially, we hoped for a modest turnout and crossed our fingers that we would have 25 entries. Since this was the first time we had ever planned, organized and executed such an important event -- it is to us, anyhow -- we secured two judges. One judge was a professional winemaker with several years of experience and his own winery/vineyard (Eagle City Winery) and the other a fellow enology student my instructor suggested.

Our competition was quite successful with 55 wines for our professional tasters to evaluate. We allotted two hours for our judges to taste a wide array of wines (from kit made wines to elderberry and from Cabernet to rhubarb). Our judges patiently and carefully tasted their way through the kaleidoscope of flavors and picked some real winners. Throughout the tasting they cleansed their pallet with water and crackers, took occasional breaks, and chatted quietly. While I watched them I couldn't help but wonder if their tongues were on fire (due to differences in pH and acidity and quality). But they kept on sipping and evaluating for nearly 4 hours!

Last weekend we were invited to a wine party (for non-winemakers) and enjoyed several varietals (from sweet whites, dry sparklers - both pink and white, to dry reds). Each of us had a card to evaluate the 20 wines which were hidden underneath a blue or red velvet covering. This was a great opportunity to "play" wine judge and quickly found my tongue was not the delicate instrument worthy of evaluation - rather my tongue was loosing the ability to distinguish one white from another or if it was a Zinfandel, Malbec or Cabernet I was tasting! Argh!!!!

By the end of the night, as I was curled up with my umpteenth glass of port on the cozy chair of my host, I reflected back on our wine judges and of the difficulty of thier task. As I philosophically contemplated the ability of all wine judges to replicate their findings (as we should expect of them) - of our wine judges, of me trying to discern a flavor constituent of god knows what I was tasting, I must conclude - not unlike Socrates, "all I know, is that I know nothing" -- or then again, was that Descartes?!? :)

Happy tastings!

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