What Good is Deductive Tasting?
Deductive tasting, or the “grid,” is a method sommeliers use to assess the quality and identity of a glass of wine. Identifying the vintage, varietal, and region of an unlabeled glass of wine is a crucial element in the Court of Sommeliers exams. Such mastery is likely excessive for the casual wine drinker, or even the average wine nerd. Nevertheless, the basics of deductive tasting can greatly enrich your experience of wine, and your ability to explore the world of wine.
Deductive tasting breaks down into two parts: description of the wine and inferences about the wine’s identity. Description of the wine is formal, that is, you apply nearly the same concepts to each glass of wine you try. Inferences about the wine’s identity requires a fast repertoire of facts. Sure, the wine is deep gold, and smells of almonds, but which regions are likely to produce such a wine? What qualities separate such wines between, say, France and South Africa? Such facts are fascinating, and they are part of what makes wine intriguing. But it’s not where we need to start, or even end.
So why learn how to describe wine? For one, you get more out of the wine. Yes, wine intoxicates us, and yes, it tastes good. But just like noticing the different flavors in a well-made meal is inherently enjoyable, so is appreciating the different dimensions of a glass of wine.
And importantly, it empowers you as the consumer. No longer will you be tied to a brand or the ambivalent emotions a wine label inspires in you. You will be able to walk in a store and ask for exactly what you want without even knowing how to pronounce any varietals or regions. You can just describe what you want in your bottle of wine. Do you want an herbaceous red wine? Or a bottle of white that’s floral and round-bodied? The wine clerk can then pull together a few options for you, perhaps a few of their favorites, perhaps a new region or style that you have yet to try.
Feeling more confident and comfortable talking about wine will make exploring wine easier. So let’s break down the descriptive aspect of deductive tasting!