Blind-Tasting Tips from Thomas Pastuszak

The Nomad wine director puts his blind-tasting superpowers to the test

In the SevenFifty Daily Supertasters video series, we choose the wines, then challenge some of the industry’s best palates to blind tastings in an effort to glean their extraordinary techniques.

“When you smell a wine, it’ll immediately remind you of something you’ve had before,” says Thomas Pastuszak, the wine director for The Nomad in New York City and the founder of Empire Estate. The natural instinct, he explains, is to want to identify it or identify with it because you want to know what it is. “With blind-tasting,” he says, “you just can’t do that right away.”

You need to be completely objective about the wine. “By that,” says Pastuszak, “I mean you’re gathering all the facts before you make the conclusion.” For example, you might see a wine that looks really light and delicate, or one that’s fading, and then when you smell it and taste it, you realize it’s actually quite powerful. “Gathering all the information,” he says, “and making a decision at the very end of your data gathering is really important.”

For Pastuszak, the whole process is always deductive. “It’s about process of elimination,” he says. “It can’t be this because it doesn’t have this, or because it smells of this, it’s leading you to a few potential varieties. For instance, it’s pepper in a red, and you’re thinking Syrah, maybe Cabernet Franc. It leads you in that direction. Because you don’t smell new oak, and because the color of the wine is not purple, you’re not going to go to Cabernet Sauvignon. So the deductive reasoning is the guiding force and that should be what takes you through to the very end.”

And then when you make your conclusion, you must have conviction. But it’s not a matter of affirming your own personal mastery of that category, says Pastuszak. “You have conviction in the conclusion you made based on data.”

We gave Pastuszak a glass of white wine to blind-taste. Watch the video to find out if he guessed right—and to see if you have what it takes to be a SevenFifty Daily Supertaster.

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Jen Laskey is the former executive editor of SevenFifty Daily. She is also an award-winning wine, spirits, and lifestyle writer and editor based in New York City, an associate judge for the IWSC, and a WSET-certified advanced somm and Diploma candidate. 

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