“my own point of view is that those who ask in favor of open tastings are those who have not enough faith in their own quality os tasters and argue that the “historical or culture factors must be taken into account.” It is a clever way to ask the possibility to add some points to a wine simply because it is a famous one. This is what I am strongly against : why do they request this possibility of additional points for a Lafite or a Musigny while they will just do not care to have such behavior for a Sociando-Mallet or a Dominode of Pavelot ?”
Your points are very well-considered, and I apologize for the lenght of this post, but you have hit on some very interesting concepts. I would certainly agree with you that certain wines and regions are best tasted blind, if the possibility exists to taste the wines in that context. For example, A mature vintage of claret makes total sense to taste blind, as would the case for example of a tasting of 1991 Vosne-Romanee premier crus or 1990 Baroli and Barbaresco. With these wines one can presumably control the conditions of the room, cuisine, stemware and aeration time for the wines to allow them to show at their best, and tasting blind in such circumstances is certainly preferable and without a doubt will produce the most consistently correct assessments of the wines.
But when tasting young vintages on the road in places such as Burgundy or Germany, I think the benefits of tasting at the domaine with the vigneron outweighs the complications of knowing the identity of the wines themselves. Knowing the identity of the wine is not the overriding issue here, but rather tasting the wines “sur place” with the opportunity to share meaningful discussion with the vigneron about each wine (if need be) that is the more important variable in the equation. Take for example a visit to taste the new vintage with an estate in Germany such as Egon Muller- by allowing the wines to be selected and served in order by Herr Muller, one has the opportunity to understand the differences between three different bottlings of Spatlese from the Scharzhofberger, as Herr Muller will have selected to serve them in a particular order. One may be from older vines, one from a section of the vineyard which is not quite as well-situated and did not succeed quite as well in this particular vintage, and one could have been hit with a bit of botrytis and is hence a bigger, richer and more forward style of Spatlese. If samples are simply collected and tasted blind, all the wines have is an identifying AP number to distinguish them one from the other, but this does not tell us anything meaningful about the differences between the wines.
In theory, one could be able to distinguish between these nuances simply based on the style of the wine in the glass, but in reality, most often the wine with the bit of botrytis may come across as the finest of the the three, simply because the botrytis will amplify several characteristics in the young wine. One can easily imagine a blind flight of Spatlesen where the wines are simply shuffled and the botrytis wine ends up going early in the flight, therefore making the non-botrytized Spatlesen seem thin and modest in expression by comparison. I think that some of the aberrations of praise for over the top, high alcohol and dramatically oaky wines in some corners of the world of wine are directly a result of blind tastings where the wines are tasted out of context in large lineups- where so often the biggest and most forceful wine usually garners the most attention and the higher scores.
A perfect example of this phenomenon could be made if one were to taste a couple of diametrically opposed wines from the fine 1971 vintage in Bordeaux- perhaps Petrus and Lafite would be good counterpoints to each other. The opulent, pure and voluptuous Petrus served blind alongside the Lafite will make the Lafite seem thin, acidic and feeble in the mid-palate. But the Lafite on its own (the last time I tasted it I was served the wine double blind from magnum, by the way, and hence not swayed by the label or the wine’s reputation elsewhere) is a lovely, ethereal and wonderfully complex wine of impressive intensity of flavor and haunting perfume, despite its really fairly modest concentration. We have both participated in enough blind tastings where if both wines were served together, the vast, vast majority of tasters would dismiss the Lafite out of hand as thin, simply because of the juxtaposition of the Petrus alongside of it. And this would be the result of a prejudice that has nothing to do with labels, but rather the prejudice for power and opulence in a blind tasting setting.
In my experience (and I taste double blind a lot), human nature seems to gravitate towards contrast and comparison when presented with a lineup of wines in a blind tasting- one of the reasons I always prefer flights of only two wines when tasting in such circumstances, as larger flights tend to polarize tasters with the finest wine or two in the flight taking the most attention, and often other very worthy wines sliding into a more anonymous middle simply because of the contrast with the more extroverted and profound wines served alongside. Your experience may well differ from mine, but I have been tasting blind since my formative days in the wine trade, and it is the very rare blind taster who does not gravitate towards the bigger and more powerful wines in such contexts. While perhaps this is both understandable and useful in certain regions- a blind tasting of young Hermitage for example- I am not sure of its utility in a blind tasting of young reds from the Loire Valley- where a young wine made from Pinot d’Aunis will be washed out in color, autumnal and really quite modest in its expression of fresh fruit vis a vis its other aromatic and flavor components. In a lineup that might include a wine from the same vintage from Clos Rougeard in Saumur-Champigny, very few tasters would have the skill sets required to recognize the inherent qualities in both wines and be able to distinguish inherent stylistic differences from perceived notions of quality.
So I think that each type of tasting has its place and provides very real advantages depending on what is being tasted and where. As in so many other aspects of life, one has to guard against orthodoxy that may tend to ossify technique and compromise results by championing the method first and foremost. But please do not take my extended reflections to mean that I have anything against blind tasting, as I very much enjoy doing so when given the opportunity, and really have no concerns about “getting a wine wrong” based on how it happens to show when served blind. I am just as unlikely to add more points once the label is revealed as I am to take them away when the identity of the wine is known- tasted blind the wine is just the wine, and no correction of score is warranted or acceptable in my opinion. But we have to remember that tasted either revealed or blind, wine is a living and moving object that changes from day to day, just as we do as tasters. In the end, we should all try and keep in mind that tasting and judging wines is simply a snapshot of that wine on a particular day in its evolutionary cycle, and though we try our best based on our accumulated experience and judgement, in the end it is simply an attempt to quantify the unquantifiable.