Consumers prefer commentators to taste blind


Although our recent two-question poll took place over the holiday period, we were delighted that a total of 1,185 visitors to took the trouble to respond, and were amazed that so many respondents volunteered so many comments – a massive 485 in all. These ranged from one-liners to several paragraphs and are too voluminous to publish in full in this article. But you can download a document with all of them (the most recent at the top) here as a pdf. The only change we have made to the comments is to delete any email addresses and names. We are very grateful to everyone who took the trouble to respond as we really want to understand how wine consumers feel about the changes to how Bordeaux primeurs are tasted proposed recently by the Union des Grands Crus.

The main results are as follows:

Which of these statements best represents your views on tasting notes?

I prefer tasting notes based on blind tasting whenever possible 76.86%
I prefer tasters to know the identity of the wines they are tasting 9.15%
I don’t have strong views on whether wines are tasted blind or not 13.98%

Which of these statements better represents your views on the forthcoming Bordeaux primeurs campaign?

I would be interested to read tasting notes on the 2015 Bordeaux primeurs 63.92%
I am not particularly interested in the 2015 Bordeaux primeurs 36.08%

Below are a few select quotes from the hundreds we received, which ranged from pithy to paragraphic. These are some that made us smile or shudder, and sometimes both.

Blind tasting is like a first kiss! So much possible and impossible information...

Cutting the days available from four to two seems ridiculous. Quality of both tasting and notes will come under pressure. Not good news for lesser châteaux surely?

By having no info about the wine, I believe the tasters are able to purely assess the quality of the wine without any expectation that would affect their palates.

Considering your important role on the business, there is no way to give you any credibility if tasting is not blind.

En primeur tastings are becoming useless. Only for the investors.

I believe the best result would come from a blind initial assessment followed by a non blind re-assessment, just to make it complicated. Surely Jancis and a few other influential experts can persuade the Bordeaux trade to re-consider.

I strongly disagree with the message sent by President of the Union des Grands Crus Olivier Bernard of Domaine de Chevalier (article : Bordeaux primeurs tastings shrunk, 17 Dec 2015).

I'm a scientist and I know the power of confirmation bias. I only trust reviews from blind tastings.

It seems plain common sense that blind tasting allows the taster (such as the very informed, experienced and tested Purple Pages team) to make as objective and accurate assessment of the wines tasted. The decision against blind tasting for the 2015 Bordeaux seems designed not for such a tasting team or the eventual wine drinking customer but for the self-serving and self-promoting Bordelais elite. Their letter with its apparent rationale for the new arrangements is nothing less than that of an undisguised protection racket.

If tasting from a finished wine in bottle, blind tasting removes any prejudice, good or bad. My wine groups taste 90% of our wines masked. Tasting unfinished wines however requires judgments that can only be made when you know the producer's style and the vineyard the wine comes from. So for example, if tasting a DRC bottle in a masked lineup of Vosne Romanée wines, masking removes your positive prejudice for the maker, and your likelihood to bump up the score knowing who it is. On the the other hand, tasting an unfinished cask sample from DRC allows you to factor in their aims and style with that wine. A blind score seems a bit self defeating when the wine isn't finished.

The EP goose has been comprehensively slaughtered.

The grands Bordelais really live in a bubble. Their arrogance is astonishing. There is no need for la place. The market will teach them a lesson.

There seems to be an anti Bordeaux bias in your article.

This is one of the highlights of the year for me!

So the good news for the Bordelais is that there is considerable interest in the 2015 vintage, to be shown officially in the first week of April. (They may not be quite so pleased by the news that when we analysed the way this site is used – results to be published soon – Bordeaux came a distinct second to Burgundy as a search term.)

The bad news is that blind tasting by commentators such as us is seen as so important by such an overwhelming majority of respondents and, one would assume, by potential buyers of Bordeaux primeurs in general. I do hope that these results will be thoroughly digested by the Union des Grands Crus.

Like my French colleagues Michel Bettane and Thierry Desseauve, I am having to jump through some very unaccustomed hoops in my efforts to taste the 2015 Bordeaux primeurs blind on your behalf, and I'd love to know how many of you want tasting notes on the first and top second growths.