This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006.

More on suggestion

After our talk on Monday about suggestibility during tastings and how easy it is to have your impressions hijacked by a published tasting note or someone blurting out a flavor or aroma description, I invited you to tell me you stories about similar situations and how you dealt with them.

I got some great replies, in E-mail and on our online forums, and thought I'd stick with the subject today to share a few of your comments.

First, a number of you pointed out that this topic is tied in with "blind" tasting - arranging to have one or several wines presented to you in plain, unmarked glasses, forcing you to evaluate the wine without the distractions of knowing whether it's cheap or expensive or whether it's from a grape variety or wine region that you think you like ... or don't. This is a point well-taken. I've often preached that there's no better way to keep a tasting honest than to pour it "blind." I've written on this topic often, most recently in the March 20, 2006 Wine Advisor.

A couple of Austrian wine experts also pointed out that "lentils" in Grüner Veltliner wasn't something that David Schildknecht invented but is a standard, if offbeat, descriptor for wines made from this Austrian grape. Maybe - I could see it as a variation on the frequently noted "green pea" in GV - but I still say David took it to a new level with "roasted lentils."

The response I enjoyed most of all was a well-written tale (and useful advice) submitted by Katherine, a reader from the Pacific Northwest, to whom I'll turn over the pulpit for the rest of today's sermon, with my thanks:

Just one suggestion on how we dealt with 'Fred,' a verbal spoiler, at our wine tasting sessions.

First, Fred was a heck of guy, always digging up some wine from some unheard-of territory in Australia, or Washington (this was 20 years ago, and he'd buy them from some great wine shop in [town deleted to protect the guilty]).

Because of the great wine he would bring, we couldn't kick him out ... but he'd often spoil his own secret entry by yelling out '... No. 4 has yellow bell peppers ... and cinnamon ... and ... hmmmmm ... dirt!' Of course, as you mentioned in your article, we would all inward whistle ourselves into a tasting dizzy trying to identify 'dirt and cinnamon' in the same wine.

Finally, we came up with the rating card. We often rate six wines at a time - say two Australian Merlots, two Chardonnays, etc. We made up a card to feature each set of two wines, and no one was allowed to say anything. But you could make notes on your card. Then after an allotted time period, the card was passed to the right. Then we could see what other people thought of the wines we just tasted, and compare notes.

This worked great! And at the end of the evening we had quite a collection of original descriptions used to describe the same wine. By then we were swallowing the stuff, so these discussions were quite loud, fun, and exciting.

Alas, poor Fred. No longer able to be the ringmaster of taste identification ... he moved on and formed his own group. Last I heard he was pouring at a small tasting room.

Anyway, it worked for us, and still does today!

Many thanks to Katherine for a tale well told. Now, if you haven't gotten yourself over to our Netscape/CompuServe WineLovers Community yet to "vote" in our poll on how suggestible you are in wine-tasting situations, I hope you'll do so today. It's fun to watch the numbers mount, and to see the emerging profile of the wine-tasting community through the instantly updated results. To vote, click
You shouldn't have to choose a user name or log in, as unregistered visitors are eligible to vote.