What is the limit...?

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Professional wine tasting

Dr Mark Rickets, London, asks: How many wines can a professional taster taste accurately in a day?

Christelle Guibert, Decanter’s international tastings director, replies: Tasting stamina depends on a number of factors: a mix of ability, practice, mood and the style and variety of wines being sampled.

For the Decanter World Wine Awards, we try to ensure that our judges taste no more than of 85 wines a day on average, and we have a similar limit for panel tastings. In practice, some panels at the DWWA will taste slightly more than this, depending on entry numbers. But we stick to it as closely as possible.

We make sure our judges can take their time, spending an average of about eight minutes with each wine, to taste and write a note.

It’s well known in the wine industry that tasting and spitting about 20 samples is the equivalent to drinking a 125ml glass of wine.

Palate fatigue is also exacerbated by certain styles of wine – very tannic reds such as young Bordeaux will be tougher going than a flight of fruity Beaujolais.



In any tasting of heavy reds, we give our judges more time than usual.

Fatigue can be offset to some extent by providing the palate with variety and by considering the order in which you taste certain wines.

For example, I find at big tastings where there is a mix of colours and styles, a better option is to taste the whites after the reds as the acidity helps to keep my tastebuds awake – and my teeth aren’t quite so purple by the end of the day!

 

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