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Why We Taste Blind

At Wine NZ Magazine, this simple truth stands as the foundation of our wine ratings. We believe that evaluating wines blind ensures that our tasters remain impartial and that our reviews are unbiased, with all wines presented on a level playing field. You may be surprised to learn that not all wine writers share this approach. Some critics review wines non-blind, and even alongside the winemakers and at the wineries. They argue that honesty and independence can overcome the expectations that are inevitably triggered by knowing the identity of a wine, its reputation and its price. We respectfully disagree.

Avoiding bias simply put, in a blind tasting the taster is deprived of information that may bias his or her judgment of the wine in the glass. Now, you may think that a conscientious taster should be able to ignore the influence of extraneous factors. But research has shown that it’s not so easy. We are all very prone to a cognitive error called “confirmation bias,” which plays a large, but largely unacknowledged, role in everyday judgment. A tasting with or without labels does not produce the same representations. A real organoleptic appreciation of a wine should be carried out in the absence of all imaginary reference. These kinds of experiments have been carried out many times, in many settings, but always with the same results: “Imaginary references”— especially producer names and price tags—significantly influence sensory evaluations. The only way for a scrupulous critic to guarantee unbiased judgments is to review wines in blind tastings.

This is why Wine NZ Magazine employs a “singleblind” methodology. Our tasters know general aspects of the wine that provide context, which include vintage, appellation and grape variety where appropriate, but never the name of the producer or the wine’s price. The goal is to arrive at the appropriate balance: enough information to contextualize the wine, but not so much information that “imaginary references” begin to distort judgment. Blind tasting is difficult, imprecise and humbling. Evaluating a wine is not like weighing an object on a scale. The tasting note that accompanies each of our reviews describes the individual wine and attempts to put it in context.

The score our tasters assign, based on our 100-point scale, is a summary of their judgment about the wine’s quality. Wine NZ Magazine makes every effort to ensure that our tasters have the skill and experience to make good judgments on the wines they review. Then we make certain that those reviews take place under tasting conditions that eliminate bias and ensure fairness. We believe that this combination of expertise and methodology results in wine reviews that are not only independent but also, and most importantly, reliable. Above all, we hope the information and judgment we share with our readers can help you deepen your understanding and appreciation of wine, and develop an authentic taste of your own.

Editorial enquiries:
Colin Gestro:
Ph: 027 256 8014
E: colin@affinityads.com

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Jax Hancock
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