There’s nothing on the nose about wine-tasting — not any more, ...

Lifestyle

There’s nothing on the nose about wine-tasting — not any more, anyway

Most stories about supertasters who can identify everything from the vineyard to the vintage are myths

Michael Fridjhon

The wine world is replete with stories about supertasters who can identify, with one sniff of a glass of wine, the vineyard, variety, vintage and name of the winemaker. Mostly this is the stuff of legend. There was a time when such performances were possible, but this was ages ago and mainly in the UK, where the focus of the carriage trade was fewer than 70 different wines from France’s Médoc region.

The challenge for competitors in blind-tasting competitions is now vastly more complex. There are many hundreds of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Rhone wines worthy of consideration, and thousands of wines of comparable stature from Australia, New Zealand, SA, Argentina, Chile, the US and Canada. Then add to these numbers the Super-Tuscans, wines made by bordeaux producers in China and burgundy producers in Oregon.

To make things even tougher for contestants, the taste of a grape variety is never a constant. It’s easier to talk about the flavour profile of a cultivar in the context of a region. It’s certainly possible to talk about how a particular winemaker handles a variety...

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