We’ve got a wine-focused activity that may just be your new go-to game at your next party. Best of all, it incorporates drinking. Enter blind tasting, one of the most fun (and educational) ways to hone your tasting skills. And while it may seem intimidating at first when surrounded by a group of friends, blind tasting can actually be a great way to pass the time around some great bottles of wine.
A quick note before we dive in. To ensure that everyone can participate, have each person bring a covered bottle of wine (a paper bag or aluminum foil works just fine). Should you decide to surprise your guests and host the tasting and choose all of the wines, you will be the designated pourer for the entire activity. We also recommend sticking to “testable” varieties and saving off-the-beaten-path choices for down the line!
Curious to know how to incorporate this wine-soaked activity into your home party/gathering routine? Follow the six simple steps below.
I — Print Out Tasting Materials
Tasting wine blind can feel like a shot in the dark for those not accustomed to doing so. To make the situation a bit more approachable, providing a few pieces of wine-tasting collateral can go a long way. Simply Google and print out some tasting charts (or buy the wheel above from Wine Folly)to help your guests understand the flavors, aromas, and other vocabulary used in describing wine. Don’t think of it as cheating, think of it as an introductory step.
As time goes on, the helpful hints can eventually be eliminated.
Prepare the Tasting Stations
Each tasting station should have a wine glass, a spit cup, a cup of water, a pen/pencil, and a blind tasting grid from the Court of Master Sommeliers (available for free right here). Should your table or tablecloth not be white, we also recommend placing a blank sheet of white paper at each station so that your guests can properly assess the color of the wine at hand.
Don’t Forget the Palate Cleansers
As much as we love enjoying cheese and charcuterie with wine, these snacks—and really anything besides bland crackers or bread—can mess with a wine’s innate taste, rendering them not ideal for blind-tasting situations. We recommend putting out plain salted crackers or chunks of bread as palate cleansers and saving the flavorful snacks for post-blind tasting enjoyment.
Designate the Pourer
It goes without saying that each person will obviously know the wine that they brought. To ensure that every person gets an unbiased turn to taste, have each person be the designated pourer of the wine that they brought (and therefore, not participate in the blind tasting round — or participate for practice without sharing their answers OR use matching bags and mix them all up!).
Should you care to host the entire situation — and therefore choose all of the wines — expect to be the designated pourer throughout the entire activity.
Ready, Set, Go!
Now it’s time to taste! After every guest has a tasting-size pour in their glass (about one ounce), set the timer for anywhere from three to five minutes. Use a shorter time for more advanced groups and a longer time for newer tasters. Have each person assess the wine at hand and go through the entire grid, then make their final conclusions. Once the timer stops, everyone must put their pens down.
The Grand Reveal
Before removing the wine from its covering, have everyone go around the table and share their final conclusions to see where everyone is at. For an even more in-depth discussion, feel free to go through the entire grid and have everyone share where their assessments were at for each category. After everyone shares their guesses, remove the covering from the bottle.
Repeat and Enjoy!
Although it can seem competitive, blind tasting is supposed to be fun, while ultimately building your palate and making you a better taster all at once. This is why the person who gets the closest guess doesn’t necessarily “win” that round; but if you’re with a group that loves to compete, by all means, incorporate some sort of prize aspect to the activity!
Repeat the activity until all wines are tasted, then enjoy the remaining bottle contents around the table. Discuss! Laugh! Debate!