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How to Host a Blind Wine Tasting Party

Blind Wine Tasting Party

Looking for an excuse to get together with your friends and taste a few different wines? Try hosting a Blind Wine Tasting Party.

We had a few friends over for a blind wine tasting recently. Nothing fancy at all, but we had a fantastic time sipping, snacking, laughing and learning about our individual wine preferences.

The whole process got me feeling pretty enthusiastic about the idea, so if you think a blind wine tasting sounds fun and you’ve got a group of like-minded friends, gather them ‘round and plan your next get together.

How to choose the wines

The goal here is for each friend or couple to bring a bottle of wine to include in the blind tasting. However, you’ll want to communicate the “rules” beforehand so you don’t end up comparing “Two Buck Chuck” to a $250 Napa Cab.

A few examples of wine buying guidelines are:

  • A specific varietal within a certain price range. For example, any Merlot between $20-$30 (or Cabernet, or Chardonnay, etc.). This is ideal for a group looking to find their favorite wine of that varietal within a certain price range.
  • A specific varietal that comes from the same general location. For example, any Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley. Or any Cabernet Sauvignon from California. This gives your guests the option of spending more or less, and it’s fun and interesting to put your palette (and the wines) to the test and compare cost vs. quality.
  • Any wine is fair game. If you’ve got a knowledgable group of wine lovers, you could simply instruct guests to bring any wine they choose, and everyone can try to guess what it is. While sommeliers may be able to pull off this type of blind tasting, I can’t say that I’ve ever guessed with much accuracy.

When considering how many wines to taste, I’d recommend no more than 5-6 wines in the lineup. Any more and you risk palette fatigue. Your mouth will burn from having too many wines too quickly and you’ll no longer be able to taste anything, let alone the subtleties of the wines.

*Ahem* I know this from experience.

The “Blind” part

As each guest arrives, send them to a private area to uncork their wine and place it into a brown paper bag.

Once all wines are uncorked and bagged, one person should then write a code on each bag, preferably out of sight from all participants. This will allow tasters to try each wine and eventually know which was which.


The Setup

You’ve pretty much got two options for setting up the tasting experience.

  1. You can give each guest one glass, and they taste each wine from that glass, OR
  2. provide each guest with a glass for every wine so they may taste them side by side, and in any order.

If feasible, the second option is ideal because it allows participants to compare the wines to one another rather than to only the previous wine.

That being said, if you go for option 2 you’ll need a lot of glasses. If you don’t have that many wine glasses on hand you could simply use small clear plastic cups. However, I feel that you get a truer taste from a wine glass (the glass shape helps with the aeration and aromatics, among other things). If that matters to you, I’d recommend picking up some GoVinos, which are stemless, thin-rimmed plastic wine “glasses” that are standard issue here in Napa — and in my household too, because we manage to smash our glassware like it’s a Jewish wedding ceremony. Mazeltov!

Back to the party…

The Tasting Part

Tastings poured, make sure each guest has a pencil and tasting sheet to take notes on the various wines (you could use this one from winefolly.com).

Try not to talk about the wines too much — you don’t want to influence each other.

If you’re feeling really pedantic, have each person taste in a different order to see if the tasting sequence makes a difference.

Some things to consider while tasting:

  • What color is it? (And do you care?)
  • What does it smell like? Anything familiar jump out? Does it smell like honey, band-aids, cinnamon, strawberries?
  • What does it taste like? Is it sweet, bitter, tart, jammy?
  • Do you like it?

Take notes as soon as you taste, and try to keep to your first impressions.

Do you like it?” is the most important question. Don’t get too caught up in the formality of color and smell if that’s not your thing.

I personally use variations of smiley faces to indicate my level of like/dislike because I tend to describe wines differently than others may. I often think wines taste like “Christmas” or “vacation”. Perhaps not the most common type of descriptor, but to each his own. Right?

Blind Tasting Grid

The Final Unveiling

Request that each person rank the wines 1 through [however many wines there are]. No ties.

Once everyone’s had a chance to taste and rank each wine, tally the rank scores. The wine with the lowest score is the overall winner.

Of course, there will always be variation in individual preferences — but you may just learn that the most expensive or exclusive wine isn’t necessarily the wine you favor.

And the winning wine? Perhaps the guest who brought the winning wine gets to take home any leftover wine (as if there’ll be any).

On second thought, winner gets to host the next tasting party.

Final Tips for Hosting

Offer food. You tend to taste quickly when blind tasting and it can go right to your head. Keep everyone in line with a little food to coat the stomach. Mild cheeses and crackers, things that won’t interfere with the wine. But really, anything will do.

Offer water. You need to balance all that drinking with hydration, else it may be a rough next day.

Offer a spittoon. Again, you tend to drink quite a bit of wine during tastings. And quickly. Spitting some of the tastings out may help keep everyone on the same level.

Plan your transportation. If you’re drinking, either be prepared to Uber or use a breathalyzer to make sure you’re safe to head home. I have this one, and it will not only help keep you safe too, but it’s also an informative way to test your drinking-self-awareness and understand your tolerance. And your friends will definitely want to try it for themselves.

Have fun! Enjoy the wine, and let me know how it goes!

Ice Cube Says:

Chickity-check yo’ self
before you wreck yo’ self.
With this.

1 Comment

  1. KDH says:

    Fun post! Now I want to have a tasting party!! Thanks for the great tips SNV!

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