How to Plan a Blind Wine Tasting Party

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I will drink Life to the lees
-Alfred Lord Tennyson

Last Friday, my good friend Christy had a blind wine tasting party. A blind wine tasting puts your palate to the test, and it turns out that it’s a lot of fun for wine drinkers with all levels of experience. For the person who’s new to wine, a blind tasting lets you learn what type of wine you really like, not just the wine you think you like. For the more advanced wine lover, the blind tasting lets you test your skills, which is a lot of fun (if not a little humbling).

The most important thing to consider when hosting a blind wine tasting party is whether or not you want to be included in the game. Some of the more structured tasting games -- which include comparing oaked and unoaked Chardonnay or comparing Alsatian Riesling and German Riesling -- require a person who knows the answers. I once led a blind wine tasting, and while it was well structured, I didn’t get a chance to test my knowledge because I had to prepare all of the wines. So be warned!

Either way, a blind wine tasting party rocks. Here are a few tips:

1) Tell everyone to bring a bottle of wine and give a price range in advance

2) To mix it up: Tell the ladies to bring white and rosé wines and the guys to bring red wines.

3) Have lots of finger foods on hand (note that some frozen hors d’oeuvres, such as mini spanikopita or goat-cheese blintz, are quite good and will keep you and your friends happy)

4) Use good wine glasses

5) Cloak and label the wines creatively

6) Suggest that people take notes to see if they’ve guessed correctly

7) Make sure to announce the results

Here are some structured wine tasting games:

1) Oaked vs. Unoaked: Grab two wines that feature the same grape (wines from the same winery are ideal but not necessary): one is aged in oak barrels and one is not. Chardonnay might be the easiest grape variety to compare. See if your guests can taste the difference.

2) The Terroir Game: Sometimes a wine and the region in which it is produced are inextricable. Burgundian reds are known for their terroir, but who's got that kind of money? Instead, pit a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand against a Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley in France, an Alsatian Riesling against a German Riesling, a Primitivo from Puglia against a Zinfandel from California (primitivo and zin grapes are genetically identical), etc. and see if you can guess which is which.

3) Guess the Grape Variety: When you have a bunch of mono-varietal red wines from all over the world it's difficult to guess which grape is which. However, if you narrow it down to five possible choices, the game is a lot more fun. Choose a few of your favorite mono-varietal wines and see if your friends can figure out which is which.

If you know how to throw a truly great wine party, you shouldn't keep all that knowledge to yourself. Comment!


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