A blind wine tasting with Robert Parker  NOV 20 2009

Robert Parker, the world's foremost wine taster, tasted a bunch of bottles from Bordeaux 2005 (a great year for Bordeaux) and couldn't tell which one was which and ranked them differently than he had before.

Blind tasting removes preconceptions about wines while maintaining the ability to rate wines in a peer group setting. Wednesday night, Parker upended the order of his published ratings of the wines and, in the process, could not correctly identify any of these wines. In print, he awarded L'Eglise Clinet, a Pomerol, a score of 100 points. While he did call it his second favorite wine of the night, it is interesting to note that he could not pick out this wine in the lineup (he thought the actual L'Eglise to be Cos, a wine that is not only from across the river, but from St. Estephe, an appellation known for the extreme tannic structure of the wines). In that same vein, he mistook Lafite, a Paulliac, for Troplong-Mondot, a new wave St. Emilion. Blind tasting can be ruthless in its outcomes.

Jonah Lehrer elaborated on the outcome of the tasting.

When we take a sip of wine, we don't taste the wine first, and the cheapness or redness second. We taste everything all at once, in a single gulp of thiswineisred, or thiswineisexpensive. As a result, the wine "experts" sincerely believed that the white wine was red, or that Lafite was actually Troplong-Mondot. Such mistakes are inevitable: Our brain has been designed to believe itself, wired so that our prejudices feel like facts, our opinions indistinguishable from the actual sensation. If we think a wine is cheap, it will taste cheap. And if we think we are tasting a grand cru, then we will taste a grand cru.

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