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May 10, 2007 03:49 PM

Deductive tasting?

I've been working hard to improve my tasting abilities over the past several months. Talking to a local bartender who just passed the second sommelier exam, e mentioned that I could download the CMS deductive tasting method from their website, but I have been unable to find it. Does anyone know where I can find information regarding the deductive tasting method?

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  1. Dear Six,

    Sorry to sound a little brutal, but the only way to improve your tasting abilities is by ... tasting.

    I mean: uncork, swirl, smell, taste, count, repeat . As much variety as you can put your hands (and pockets) on.

    When count gets to 1000, you'll be on your way.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RicRios

      "The more you taste, the more you taste."

    2. As RicRios & Carswell state - it is in the doing, not the reading. However, if you would like a guide, a good starting point would be Andrea Immer's "Great Wine Made Simple." It's a "tasting course," in a book. Normally, I have a copy handy, but I am away from my wine library.

      I realize that this is not what you have asked for. I wish that I had a URL for your request, but do not.

      One recommendation that I can make is to find some friends, who would also like to learn about wines, and do the tastings with them. This will help with the "extra" wine, so you do not have save it for later, and can do several at one sitting. Even if THEY do not get as much out of the exercise, as you, it will be more fun with a group. Besides, when learning about the taste-aspects of wine, it is good to have a few additional paletes for reference. Besides, wine goes best with good company.


      1. I think what your bartender friend might be referring to is the Tasting Grid at the Court of Master Sommeliers website at

        The grid is for tasting wines blind. It asks you to evaluate a wine from many standpoints -- aromas, flavors, minerality, use of oak, acidity, alcohol percentage – and with that information, *deduce* the wine’s varietal, where it is from (country, region, sometimes even vineyard/winery/chateau), and the year it was made. It might be slightly useful to learn how to taste and identify aromas – but not much.

        Same old song: Nothing beats tasting – and lots of it – as Hunt, Ric and Carswell have all said. Your first exercise might be to identify the signature flavor/aroma profile for each major varietal. For example, Sauvignon Blanc. Learn its basic flavor/aroma profile, then the differences in aroma and flavor of SB grown in the US, New Zealand and France. Do the exact same thing for Pinot Noir, using the same places. And so on, for each varietal. Wine classes help, as do regular tastings with friends (especially those centered around a particular varietal) who can articulate wines’ aromas and flavors to help you learn the vocabulary. Good luck.

        9 Replies
        1. re: maria lorraine

          Thanks for the URL. I've downloaded the PDFs, and am likely to incorporate some of these elements into the next IW&F tasting, that I host.

          Greatly appreciated,

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            dear bill can you send me the pdf? the link is no longer available

            1. re: cmessina

              Go here, and scroll down to the bottom of the page for the pdf links:

              1. re: maria lorraine


                Thank you. I had the PDF, but rather than host it, your link is just perfect.



                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    ML, tomorrow is Malbecs World Day!!! Celebrate

              2. re: maria lorraine

                Tasting widely is important, but even more important is to study wines that are good examples of type to develop a mental idea and taste memory of those styles/varieties/region. I'd also add that Americans (vs. Europeans) have a hard time focusing on the basic structure of a wine and get too caught up in fanciful descriptors for flavors and aromas that often lend little evidence for the deductive process, as that's the way our wine critics write. To be disciplined about this, you really need to learn to judge alcohol, acid, and tannin levels and how they play off each other in the balance of the wine. Then it becomes simple pattern recognition and winnowing through an elimination process to lead you to grape variety and region. The following is an incomplete answer, but provides an example of a similar type of deductive process for tasting these four wines blind when they were newly released.

                1. Sancerre 2001, Andre Dezat, France
                2. Chateau Le Sartre 2001, Pessac-Leognan, France
                3. Hunters Winemaker's Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2001, Marlborough, New Zealand
                4. Waterford Sauvignon Blanc 2002, Stellenbosch, South Africa

                a) Identify the predominant grape variety, giving reasons:

                All four wines are moderately aromatic thus ruling out aromatic single-varieties such as Riesling or Viognier. More linear attack without the broader midpalate of more neutral varieties such Pinot Gris or Chardonnay. Medium to medium-high acidities, colors ranging from pale straw with green glints to light yellow, and grassy herbal tones for all point to Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon or Gruner Veltliner. Use of wood in #2 rules out GV. Moderate alcohols of #1 and #3 wines makes Semillon unlikely as predominant variety. Sauvignon blanc confirmed by cool climate expression of gooseberry and cut grass of #1, wood-aged style of #2 with citrus and tomato leaf, overt capsicum and tropical fruit of #3, and the warmer climate passion fruit and grapefruit of #4.

                Then for each wine:
                b) Identify the origin as closely as possible, giving reasons.
                c) Discuss the style of the wine with reference to the winemaking techniques employed.

                1. France, Loire Valley, Sancerre.
                b) Moderate alcohol and marked minerality lead to the Old World. Unoaked style, pale color and medium-high acidity suggest a cool growing region for this variety such as France's Loire Valley, Austria, or Northern Italy. High quality winemaking and well-integrated wet stone minerality point to the Loire Valley's higher quality AC's such as Sancerre or Pouilly Fume. Lacks smokey/flint and breadth of Pouilly Fume. Sancerre confirmed by delicacy, white flowers and gooseberry.
                c) Dry white, non-fortified wine emphasizing classic Old World terroir character without overt oak notes. Fruit expression more flattened on the nose than palate suggesting fermentation and maturation of some lots in older wood.

                2. France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Leognan
                b) Mineral notes and lack of forward fruit lead to the Old World. Some toastiness of oak aging, notable aroma of SO2, and fuller body and smooth texture indicating blending with Semillon point to France's Bordeaux region. Fruit concentration of higher quality growing region such as Graves over Entre Deux Mers, use of new oak point to higher aspirations of Pessac-Leognan region.
                c) Dry white, non-fortified vin de garde style from classic Old World terroir with high S02 levels, concentration of fruit, balance, and new oak to benefit from many years in the cellar. Strict selection of high quality fruit material, strong vanilla and toast notes of aging in French oak barriques (more than 1/3 new for more than 6 months.

                3. New Zealand, Marlborough
                b) Forward fruit and lack of minerality lead to the New World. Crisp acidity, moderate alcohol, and pale color suggest a cooler growing region such as New Zealand, Australia's Margaret River, Chile's Casablanca, South Africa, or some areas of the US. Lacks earth tones of South Africa. More concentration than Chile. Better integrated oak and lower char than typical for Australia or US. Asparagus, capsicum, great focus, and residual sugar > 2 g/l confirm New Zealand's Marlborough.

                4. South Africa, Stellenbosch
                b) Ripe forward fruit and elevated alcohol of the New World. Tropical notes suggest warmer areas of New Zealand, Australia or South Africa over US or Chile. Lacks gooseberry and aggressiveness of New Zealand. Lacks lemon peel and bright yellow hue of Australia. Earthy undertone, iodine and rubbery notes, and passion fruit confirm South Africa.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Instructive and brillant. So nice to see you again on this board, Melanie.


                  Clear/ medium clear/slightly cloudy/cloudy
                  Dull/ bright/day bright/star bright/brilliant
                  Reds: purple/ruby (red)/garnet/yellow/brown
                  Whites: clear/green/straw/yellow/gold brown
                  Rim Variation
                  Gas Evidence
                  Evidence/no evidence

                  (corkiness, H2S, volatile acidity, brett, oxidation)
                  Clean/not clean
                  Weak vs. powerful
                  Age assessment
                  Youth vs. vinosity
                  Primary and/or secondary
                  Non-fruit aromas
                  Flowers/spices/herbs/botrytis/other aromas
                  Old vs. new – French vs. American – large vs. barrique

                  Bone dry/dry/off-dry/sweet/very sweet
                  Confirm nose
                  Non-fruit flavors
                  Confirm nose
                  Confirm nose
                  Confirm nose

                  INITIAL CONCLUSION
                  Old/New World
                  Grape Variety/Blend
                  Age Range
                  1-3 yrs./3-5 yrs./5-10 yrs./more than 10 yrs.

                  FINAL CONCLUSION
                  Grape Variety/blend
                  Quality level
                  November 2005