Improving blind tasting (part 3): (really) knowing your laterals

Knowing your laterals is another great way to improve on blind tasting ability. It helps you look at a wine more closely, make better decisions, and build stronger arguments. I’m dedicating a section of the blog to specific laterals.

Students of the MW programme will be familiar with the term laterals. Laterals are wines that can easily be confused in a blind tasting. Tim Wilman MW has a good video about laterals on his website that is worth a look.

wine-tutor-tvHe talks about universal laterals and personal laterals. Universal laterals being those wines that many people often get confused. Whereas personal ones are those personal to you.

Being aware of laterals is really important for blind tasting. Knowing and understanding similarities and differences between two easily confused wines will help you identify the wines correctly in a blind tasting.

To find out what your personal laterals are it’s important to frequent blind tastings from a broad range of wines. Anthony Moss MW said that before the MW program he didn’t realise he could confuse Right Bank Bordeaux with Northern Rhone or Barossa Riesling with Barossa Semillon.

guildsommPersonally, I was shocked with the number of times I confused Northern Italian Pinot grigio with Alsace Riesling. I thought this might be a personal lateral (I had always taken Riesling to be a ‘banker’!). However, on a GuildSomm podcast Anthony Moss MW calls an Alto Adige Pinot grigio an Alsace Riesling. I’m not alone! Geoff Kruth MS suggests the phenolic bitterness on the finish of the Pinot grigio could be an indicator for Pinot grigio rather than Riesling

Using what Tim Wildman calls the two glass technique is a great way to become familiar with your laterals and what makes them different. He recommends getting a glass each of the wines you confuse and then righting down a list of similarities and a list of differences between the wines.

I found this a great way to improve blind tasting. It helped with recognition. But it also helps you develop what Tim calls a vocabulary of difference.  I think having this vocabulary of difference is invaluable when it comes to blind tasting. It helps with both decision making and building stronger more convincing arguments.

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