For almost 50 years, Decanter has been an authority on wine – in print, and now in print and online – providing readers around the world with expert, trusted and independent recommendations of what to buy, drink and cellar.
Behind these recommendations is a team of wine critics chosen for their specific knowledge and expertise in the category of wines being assessed. Each one – whether a Master of Wine, Master Sommelier, Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) judge or regional chair, or a member of the Decanter team – has many years (often decades) of qualifications and experience, travelling to wine regions and tasting widely.
Blind tasting is a cornerstone of Decanter recommendations, not only through the 20 years of the DWWA – the world’s biggest wine competition – but also the Decanter panel tastings, one of the most loved sections of the magazine since its inception in 1975, and equally popular with our online Decanter Premium subscribers.
When producers and importers send in wines for panel tastings – always free to enter, and in response to requests that specify the criteria for eligibility – they are categorised, flighted (put in tasting order based on factors that include vintage, alcohol and oak), bagged and sealed. The bespoke design of the tasting suite at our London offices ensures a controlled neutral environment for judges to assess wines in a space free of noise and distraction and full of natural light.
Panel tastings are so named as they are conducted by a panel of three judges. All are experts in their field and are specifically chosen from a variety of wine backgrounds, such as buyers, sommeliers and journalists, lending diversity to the panel.
Flights of six to 12 wines are pre-poured in the prep room and delivered to judges in the tasting suite, so the wine identities remain unknown. On individual laptops, judges are given information on grape variety, alcohol, vintage and region, as well as details (if supplied by the submitter) on maturation vessel and residual sugar. This is key information to help judges form their tasting notes and give a score out of 100 and an optimal drinking window.
During the tasting, if any of the judges feel that a wine might not be showing its best, a new bottle is opened and all three judges retaste and rescore it.
Scoring the wines
Judges individually taste through a full flight, then briefly discuss the wines together before their final scores are locked in by the tastings coordinator and an average is calculated. If there is a significant score discrepancy, there is wider discussion, but ultimately judges stand by their own scores. For each wine rated Recommended or above (86+ points), readers have the benefit of both seeing the average score from all three judges or, if they feel more affinity with a particular judge’s palate, following their individual scores.
After all flights are completed, and scores and tasting notes locked, the wines are revealed. Despite the occasional surprise, with some wines perhaps not scoring as well as expected, and others punching well above their weight, we believe blind tastings are the fairest, most transparent format, giving each and every wine – regardless of price or prestige – the same chance to shine. If we had a different panel, or it was a Wednesday in July not a Monday in December, maybe the results would be different. It is impossible to say. But we trust in the tasting ability and expertise of all our professional judges, and the rigorous conditions under which every wine is assessed.
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Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/how-we-taste-wine-at-decanter-519579/