3 Ways To Host a Blind Wine Tasting Event
Wine tasting is always a fun event. For my wedding we wanted to select the wines we wanted to serve to our guests. My fiance and I both knew the wines we liked but with a larger sample size, we would get a better idea of what the majority of guests would prefer to drink. That being said, we wanted to make sure our taste testers were not influenced by personal bias towards certain brands so we did a double blind competition to find the wine people liked best! It ended up being a really fun process that broke up some of the tedious parts of wedding planning.
Hosting a blind tasting may seem like something only the pros can do, but actually can be easy - it is a great way to select wine for an event, test your wine tasting skills, or just to have fun with friends and family. In this post we'll teach you 3 ways to host a wine tasting:
Single Blind Tasting
The single blind tasting is the easiest way to hold a tasting event. In the single blind tasting one person will know what the wines are but all other participants will not. The organizer can either participate or not, but they will know which wine is which.
To start, have all the participants leave the room. Bring out your wines. We of course were most recent tasting chardonnays. Place them in random order so you don't bias the tasting by putting them from least expensive to most expensive or some other logical order. Just so you don't get confused it is best to write the order down on a piece of paper in case the bottles get mixed up down the road.
Next, take tinfoil (or a brown bag) and wrap the wines so people won't know which wine is which. Two tips here: 1. take the cover off the top of the wine bottle. Even it it is just a solid color sometimes people may know what it is. I could always identify Rombauer blue for example ;-). 2. make sure to take the corks out before inviting people back in. The corks often have the winery name on them. Now label the bottles 1 through 4 so if your tasters move the bottles around you won't mix up the order.
Invite your tasters back in and start your tasting! Everyone will have a great time as they try to identify flavors in the wine and decide on the factors you choose to rate on. I typically have people write down what they taste in the wine, their guess on price, and ranking favorite to least favorite. But mostly I just want people to have fun and feel like wine experts. It is up to you, but I am a fan of letting people taste, repour and retaste again so they have a good chance to decide which wines they like. Everyone has a good time as you reveal which wine was the favorite and who got closest to the actual price. Note: When scoring the favorites I add up each person's rating and the wine with the lowest rating wins (see below with Wine 3 winning).
Double Blind Tasting
The double blind tasting is a little more difficult logistically but it is still easy to do. With this method the organizer gets to participate with the other tasters as he/she will not know which wine is which. Just like in the single blind tasting the organizer will need to take the top off the wine and remove the cork before wrapping the wines in tinfoil. Write down the order of the wines on a sheet of paper but do not write the numbers on the wine. (see below for step 1)
Take the piece of paper with the wines and their order and hide it from the group. Now it is time for one of your participants to complete the second part of setting up the double blind tasting. Without moving the bottles, have them write numbers 1 - 4 in any order they like on the bottles. In the example below my second organizer chose to label them 2, 4, 1, 3. She then writes down the order I placed them in as 1, 2, 3, 4 and associates her order with each wine so 1 = 2, 2 = 4, 3 = 1 and 4 = 3. Have your second organizer hide their piece of paper which is the key for which wine is which. Now they can place the wines in order according to the number on the tinfoil (1,2,3,4). The first organizer now will not know which wine is which and can taste with the rest of the group on even playing ground.
After you are done you can reverse engineer which wine was which by putting the two hidden cards back together. i.e. After tasting, the wine labeled #3 was the wine that was #4 when the wines were left out for marking on so it was the David Bruce chardonnay (see picture above). You can also just reveal the wines by taking off the tinfoil, but where is the nerdy fun in that!?
Double Blind Advanced
This type of tasting is the most expensive to put together but it is also the most fun. When I put these tasting on I usually have people get into teams of two so they can discuss the flavors. It's also fun to watch the team dynamics between couples and friends as they try to work together to win the game. I find it is more challenging to do this wine tasting with similar reds (i.e. Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cab) but you can also do it with white wines (Sav Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay). The added fun to this tasting is that you bring in the age of the wine as a component of the game. For this blind tasting you will need a newer vintage and an older vintage of 3 different brands. So maybe a 2005 Robert Mondavi Merlot and a 2014 Robert Mondavi Merlot then the same for the two other wine varietals (but choose different wineries for each type of grape).
Not everyone knows what older wines taste like, so to make things a little easier this event starts out with a pre-tasting. You choose some combination of 3 wines with a mix of new and old vintages like in the photo to the left. You will be best off if you have 9 bottles of wine total in this example (although 6 will do):
The next round is where the blind tasting comes in. In this round the organizer follows the steps for the regular blind tasting but with 6 wines. The organizer should not put the wines in any noticable order before they put the tinfoil on (i.e. don't put new pinot, old pinot, new merlot, old merlot, new cab, old cab) even though organizer 2 wouldn't know). Make sure to write down the order and which wines they are before putting the tin foil on. Then organizer 2 numbers the bottles at random 1 - 6 writing down the associated position and noting the number on the tin foil. Then organizer 2 puts the bottles in order by the number on the tin foil 1 to 6. The wines now wrapped in tinfoil should match the types (but not the order) of wine below.
Organizer 1 and the rest of the party can come in to taste the wines now! In addition to price and the order of favorite to least favorite you now can add "which brand do you think the wine is?" and "is this an old vintage or a newer vintage?" When I put on one of these tastings we score 1 point for old v. new and 2 points for guessing the brand/grape varietal. I usually have a prize for the taster(s) with the best score.
However you decide to host your tasting you'll have a great time enjoying wine with friends and family. I always learn a little something about the way I compare wines when I participate in these tastings. Enjoy and please leave any comments on your experiences!