How to Host a Blind Wine Tasting Party
If you're lucky, you have friends like these.
If you're reading this, you at least have a casual interest in wine and probably probably tasted many different wines, possibly even taken tasting notes on some wines. Even if you haven't taken notes, you probably can tell the difference between, say, a Pinot Noir and a Syrah.
If you're in the wine business, blind tasting is an occupational skill that you're supposed to develop, but if you're a wine enthusiast, blind tasting is just a fun way to throw a party.
See also: Stuff I'm Geekin' On: Dolcetto
We all have friends over with the precondition that they BYOB, which means you can end up with Bud Light, some white zin, or some grand crus Burgundy. If you have a few friends who are nominally into wine consider a blind tasting party. Invite them over and have them bring a wine wrapped in a brown paper bag. It's a great way to excuse heavy drinking in the guise of wine nerdiness.
A blind tasting party can be as formal or as casual as you want. On the formal side, you assign everybody with what wine they are supposed to bring, you set up a spit receptacle, (who needs that?) a note pad and pens, and you take it oh so seriously, even printing out The Court of Master Sommeliers tasting grid for each guest so they can objectively evaluate each wine. Or, on the casual side, you have everyone bring whatever wine they want, wrapped in a brown paper bag and you all taste them and try to guess what they are, maybe giving a prize to whomever gets the most right.
Either way you'll want to have snacks. Not necessarily a meal, when tasting several wines, you'll want to eat relatively neutral foods like cheese and crackers. When I say cheese and crackers, I mean good cheese (leave the pepper jack for the Super Bowl party). Pick some different cheeses -- soft, medium, and hard -- and good crackers or, even better, really great bread, like from Noble Bread in Phoenix. And maybe some veggies, or "crudité" as they say in Frawnce. What you don't want is the food to wrestle with the wine, so chips and salsa (or other spicy or pickled food) are out.
The main point is to have your friends bring wine that is known only by them. Taste through the wines and try to guess what they are. I find that it's best if you taste through all the wines before they are revealed, although you could reveal them as you go, but that allows a certain degree of process of elimination that defeats the purpose of blind tasting.
I find that four to six guests is optimal; more than that gets kinda boring, and fewer is not enough wine. Try to set a minimum price point, so the wines have some semblance of varietal purity -- nobody wants to blind-taste Yellowtail. The main point is to have fun with it -- with anonymous wines, prizes, and good munchies, you'll have an evening of really fun wine drinking.
When I'm not writing this column or reading vintage charts to my daughter, you can find me pouring wine at FnB.
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