“Blind” tastings are a great way to focus on the taste and compare wines, since you are not aware of the price or vintage until after you have tasted. The real fun is when the wine label and price are revealed and you see whether you preferred the more or less expensive wine.
We have conducted many types of blind tastings; however, we find people love comparing wines with very different prices. We sniff out the values wines and often people end up preferring them to the pricier wines. Now they have discovered a wine they enjoy, that their friends will most likely enjoy, and it is affordable. What could be better!
If you are buying wines for the tasting, it is always a good idea to ask a local wine merchant for some recommendations. Ask your wine merchant to recommend two whites and two reds – one that is extremely “good value” (low price while still being very drinkable) and the other that is more expensive and perhaps a big name. That makes the blind tasting a comparison of similar wines with different price points.
The wine merchant often has the inside scoop. For example, one time we asked the wine expert in one of our favorite stores for advice. He knew that a California winery had made too much of a certain sauvignon blanc and was selling it under a new label for a significant discount. That was our white value wine!
It was the winner at the tasting and when we revealed the price and “the story” behind it, people were excited to stock up for themselves. The secret was out and fortunately, there was plenty of this wine to go around.
We like to pit two wines against each other. Typically, we choose wines that are similar, meaning of the same grape varietal and from the same region. One costs under $10. The other is at the high end of our price range – around $20 and occasionally we will go higher. If we go higher than $30, the people we invite probably will never buy it, so why bother. We are trying to taste wines people will love and buy.
For the wines to be tasted “blind”, you’ll need some plain paper bags (put the wine bottles in the bags in so that the wine label and price are concealed) and mark each bag to indentify the wine – White 1 and White 2; and Red 1 and Red 2. Then, people can vote whether they prefer White 1 or 2, and Red 1 or red 2.
After tasting, ask your guests to mark their preference on a piece of paper and stick it in a container, like a little basket. Then, tally the votes and find out which wines were preferred.
You don’t have to do it this way. You can arrange the tasting any way you want. You could blind taste six whites against each other or six reds against each other, for example. We mix it up all the time. We even have a friend who makes his own wine and he loves to pit it against the competition to see how it does. So if he shows up with a wine to test, we brown bag it and enter it in the tasting.
You can blind taste any wine against another. Really, you are only limited by your imagination. If you want to pit an Italian Chardonnay against a California Chardonnay, why not? You can do old world wine versus new world wine, country against country, year against other years produced (called a vertical tasting meaning the same wine compared across several vintages), light-bodied versus full-bodied, decanted versus non-decanted.
Depending on how well you know the people who are tasting, and how knowledgeable they are about wine, you can structure the blind tasting to provide some wine education – but not too much education. Our friends come to our parties primarily to have fun. They are not likely to be able to tell what vintage a wine is or whether a wine is light or full-bodied. But, they like a challenge and learning new things in a non-threatening environment. Any kind of tasting will be successful as long as you don’t take yourself too seriously.
What’ s important is to have fun and figure out what wine tastes best to you irrespective of the price or the brand name.
Try many different types of blind tastings and be sure to do some around price points. So many times, after we reveal that the less expensive wine has gotten the most votes, people start cheering. Oh, the sweet taste of victory!