Contextual concerns in blind tasting

29 August 2014

By Panos Kakaviatos for

Blind tasting at an international contest as comprehensive as Mundus Vini can be a daunting task. For five days in a row, judges fly to Germany from all over the world. They get up at 6:30 am in order to taste wines from 8 am until about 1 pm. Fortunately, the organization is excellent and so are the scores of professional judges with whom I had the honor to taste.

Over 4,400 wines from some 40 countries around the globe are being evaluated over a five-day period (27-31 August 2014) under impeccable conditions: all the needed space to taste comfortably, fine glassware, attentive service, strategically placed and discrete spitting buckets de rigueur, proper temperature for both wines evaluated and in the expansive tasting room of the elegant Saalbau Neustadt an der Weinstrasse building, and excellent pacing with well-timed breaks between flights. Organizers took the somewhat controversial decision to remove WIFI so that we could better concentrate, but that did not prevent people from clicking on their 3Gs… A minor detail.


Blind tasting pitfalls

More important for this blog entry: no matter how well organized the event, blind tastings can have “issues”. Take for example (1) understanding context and (2) knowing the prices of the wines.

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Place over grape: making wine waves in Southern Styria (p. 2)

Blind proof 

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles 

After discovering the general lay of the land thanks to Tamara Kögl in part 1 of this blog, a blind tasting organized the day of the World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina by Michael Gross of Weingut Gross revealed to me a thing or two about wine – and preconceived notions.

Nestled among the hills of the Southern Styrian wine country, the Gross Winery is situated on the Ratscher Nussberg, one of the top vineyards in the region – and one can understand a progression towards terroir emphasis by just looking at how Michael and his family have changed the labels of the wines, to the point where next year, for example, the name of the grape – Sauvignon Blanc – will only appear on the back label, with Nussberg being the way to identify the wine.


As a member of the Steirische Terroir- und Klassik Weingüter group “STK” the winery sets great value upon the vinification of regionally typical Styrian wines. The “STK wineries” date back only to the 1980s, an indication that such attention to terroir and quality is a recent phenomenon.

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Place over grape: making wine waves in Southern Styria (p. 1)

By Panos Kakaviatos for

Take a walk along the sinuous and sumptuous Southern Styrian wine region in Ratsch today and it is hard to believe that but 40 years ago, it was a very poor area with few if any winemakers and many more farmers. Taxes were paid to local officials with oxen or farm produce. “There was no money,” remarked Tamara Kögl of the domain that bears her family nameI met Tamara in May 2014 at the 8th Symposium of the Institute of Wine Masters in Florence where she poured some of her wines and invited me to come visit.

Welcome to Weingut Kögl

Although just a weekend in July 2014, the visit was packed with walks, tastings and great meals. Heartfelt thanks to Tamara for showing me the fine terroirs of Ratsch and explaining more generally trends in Southern Styria while hosting me at her gorgeous family estate. In addition to tasting her wines, she introduced me to many other wines of the region including those from Weingut Gross and  Weingut Tement, which will be discussed in more detail in parts 2 and 3 of this blog. 

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The ”unhidden gem” of Italy: Lugana DOC (3)

By Rita Tóth, for 

(This three-part blog also has appeared in Jens De Maere’s Belgian Wino blog with full permission of the author)


After having tasted some lovely wines in part one and part two of this blog, what really impressed me during our trip was the quality of classic method sparkling wines, especially from wineries detailed below.

The style is different from the ‘Champagne style’, as even the longest ageing on lees (60 months for Ca’Maiol) shows hardly any toastiness or yeastiness, but rather amazingly fresh floral and fruity notes, reminiscent of yellow apple, pear and blossom combined with a hint of minerality. This difference could be explained by the grape variety, which has high and enduring natural acidity, its aromatic profile and that the best producers do not use reserve wine for blending. ‘Millesimato’ means ‘vintage’ and in most cases contains wine 100% from the given year.

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The ”unhidden gem” of Italy: Lugana DOC (2)

By Rita Tóth, for 

(This three-part blog also has appeared in Jens De Maere’s Belgian Wino blog with full permission of the author)

Part 1 was a short overview of the Lugana region, but now we examine the surprising aging potential of some of its best wines.


Although 90% of the regions’ production is the ’basic Lugana’ style – as Italian consumers tend to drink the wine within one year – the average aging potential of the best Lugana wines ranges between 10-15 years, based on my tasting experiences.


They show their best at this age, although I encountered others that could age longer, due to the high tartaric acid and dry extract content of the grape variety itself. The mineral quality of the wines develops by aging. The early stages are about fruit and freshness, but – trust me – it’s worth waiting a bit more.

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