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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Blind Leading the Blind

We used to attend an annual party when we lived in the Bay Area---it was a blind tasting and attendees were asked to guess the grape varietal and approximate cost per bottle.  I looked forward to this party all year long as I loved the challenge of attempting to dissect 10-12 bottles of wine.  Although the number of wines made it far too complicated for the average oenophile, the blind idea was a grand one.  I miss those parties.

In my opinion all wine should be consumed blindly.   I’m not suggesting this because I love games (which I do), but because we should not be swayed by the price or by the producer…or, for that matter, by the country of origin.   I can’t tell you the number of times that my husband and I have hosted blind tastings with a fairly sophisticated group of wine lovers and found that guests scored a $20 bottle the same (or higher than) a $70 wine.  Many times attendees were shocked at their choices.

If you really want to learn something about wine, drink it blindly.  You don’t have to have a party to do so----my husband often opens a bottle without telling me what it is.  If you want to have some great fun, however, I highly recommend at your next gathering you consider tasting all the wines blindly.  This can easily be achieved by placing all the wine bottles in paper bags.  If it’s a varietal tasting do not cover bottles with aluminum foil as this gives away the shape of the bottle--savvy consumers will know that cabs are in bottles with “shoulders,” while syrahs and pinots are in non-shoulder bottles.   If the group is not terribly sophisticated you may simply ask them to rate on a 1-10 scale how much they like the wine.  

Regardless of whether it’s a varietal blind tasting, or simply a rating of wine for likeability, I recommend that you limit the number of wines to three or four.  Beyond that it’s hard for most people to focus.   Last but not least, at the annual blind tasting varietal party I used to attend, everyone had to turn in their score cards, results were tabulated, and everyone’s marks were announced.  I saw many hang their head in shame, their nights undoubtedly ruined when it was announced they guessed very few of the varietals correctly.  Learning about wine should be fun and should not be intimidating.  Whatever type of blind tasting you conduct, set it up so responses are confidential and that people feel safe and comfortable to learn.   I like to always remind folks that “Whether you like a wine (or not), it’s the only time that you can be a 100% right!”

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