Would you like to organize a blind tasting for you and your friends? This is a really fun party idea and a theme that everyone will enjoy and learn from. Even if you don’t know much about wine and can’t distinguish Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon by their aroma, you can still have a fun and successful blind wine tasting.
I wouldn’t say it’s easy to recognize a wine in a blind tasting. That’s why there are so few master sommeliers in the world. And I’m certainly not one of them, but I like to dabble. It takes a lot of practice to get good. That’s why we like to organize blind tastings for our friends every year.
If you love wine and want to try something fun and entertaining, don’t wait for the opportunity to arise – grab it yourself! In this blind tasting you and your guests taste 6 wines blind and try to identify them correctly. At the end of the evening the winner will be announced.
You may also be interested in how to start your own supper club.
Why do a blind tasting
Almost 10 years ago I started organizing a blind tasting every year. My wine tasting skills needed to be honed on the spot, and I don’t think I can tell Zinfandel from Merlot, but I’d love to try it.
I haven’t invited anyone who is a master taster or even a great wine lover. It was just a group of friends, many of whom were weekend wine drinkers, and a few who had never really drunk wine before. The chances that any of us would correctly recognize the wines I had chosen for the tasting were pretty slim.
It was my first party, I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be and admittedly, I thought we’d do better than we did, but despite the difficulties it was one of the best parties I’ve ever thrown. None of us were good, but we all did our best, guessing and laughing out loud when we heard the results.
Since then, I have been doing an annual blind wine tasting, which has become a legend among my friends. This is really one of the best party ideas, and all guests can enjoy it even if they don’t drink wine regularly. It’s as much fun to guess and make mistakes as it is to win!
If you think it’s difficult to organize a blind tasting, or that you need to be a master of wine to choose your wines, let me destroy that idea right now. It’s actually quite simple and fun, even for the less knowledgeable wine drinker.
How to organise a wine tasting
Setting a date and inviting guests
The first step in organizing a party is of course to set a date and invite people. You can do this as formally or informally as you like.
- Choose your guest list – Make sure you don’t invite too many people. Guests take time to taste and muddle through each wine. If there are too many people at the wine table, it becomes difficult for guests to focus. Generally we expect 20-25 participants. One bottle of each wine is enough for a large number of guests. If you want to invite more people, you should buy two or more bottles of each wine.
- Pick a Date – Choosing a date to hold a Blind Wine Party depends on a number of factors. In the winter, weather issues aside, guests can’t just sip cold white wines. If it’s summer and you’re having an outdoor party, it may be too hot for guests to drink strong red wines. I’ve always held my party in April or May, because the weather is neutral then and people’s schedules are easier.
- Send Invitations – I invite guests through Facebook and word of mouth, so it’s easy and effortless. However, you can send formal invitations if you wish. Be sure to notify your guests at least three weeks in advance so they can block the date in their calendars.
Selection and preparation of wines
Choosing wines to dazzle the palate at your party is fun and exciting, but it can also be overwhelming, especially if you’re not a wine expert yourself. If you need help, I recommend going to your local liquor store and asking the salesperson to help you choose.
The ideal number of wines to taste is six: three white and three red. You should only choose wines of the same variety, not blends. For example, you can choose Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Sangiovese for red wines and Sauvignon Blanc, Voigner and Chardonnay for white wines.
The bottles you choose should be based on the skill level of your guests. You can make it more difficult if your guests are wine connoisseurs, otherwise keep it simple.
This is where the help of your local wine supplier comes in if you are not familiar with the grape varieties yourself.
Choose three bottles of red wine and three bottles of white wine of the same shape.
There are a few other considerations when choosing bottles. This is important to ensure that the guessing game is fair and that no clues are given.
1. Selecting classic options
- Choose classics that everyone knows, like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Syrah.
- Pinot Noir is often easy to recognize by its light body and color. The addition of two more saturated wines may be a red flag.
- Choose bottles of similar shape and color if you do not wish to use a carafe.
- Choose bottles with a screw cap or a fixed cap. Why? It can be difficult to know which wine is the right one. Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, is rarely bottled with a screw cap. The shiraz almost always have a screw cap.
- If you are going to participate in a blind tasting, you don’t want to cheat by having 3 different bottles that can be easily identified.
3. Consider your price level
You can get some good options as low as $10 a bottle. You don’t have to spend more than $20 a bottle. Generally, a $10 bottle of Merlot versus a $30 bottle will not stand out to your guests. It is more important to get a bottle of one variety than to spend a lot of money on it.
Bottles wrapped and labelled with numbers
Each bottle must be packaged so that you cannot see the label. If you buy bottles of the same shape and color, you can wrap them in foil like I did above and tape or write the number of the bottle on them. It’s a great way to get involved without knowing which bottle is right.
We also found a cheap way to put white bottles on ice without damaging the bag. Use aluminum foil to cover most of the bottle. Then I made a label template that you can use on the bottles. Just download and print.
If you don’t want to make the covers yourself, there are blind sample bags for sale on Amazon that contain everything you need to wrap your bottles.
These ice cubes can easily be placed in an ice bucket to keep white wines cold during tasting.
Also, don’t forget to remove the foil from the neck of the bottle, especially if you want to play with it. If you leave the foil on, you can easily remember which bottle it is. There shall be no marks on the cylinder.
How to pour wine
A very important aspect of a successful wine party is the way you serve the wine. You need a wine glass to properly smell, swirl and taste the wine. You can’t capture the nuances of the nose with a plastic glass, and you can’t twist to see the color or viscosity of plastic wine. It should really be made of glass.
If you don’t have enough wine glasses for everyone, you’ll have to try harder. Borrow a few from friends, go to the thrift store or buy a big pack of wine glasses on Amazon. You can mix and match shapes and sizes, so don’t worry about them all being the same unless you want a very high-end experience.
It’s also a matter of knowing whether the wine should be chilled or decanted. If you choose all big, powerful wines, consider decanting them in a wine decanter (find one we like here, if you don’t have one) and serving them that way.
The most powerful red wines benefit from being decanted for about an hour before serving.
For white wines, you’ll need a bucket of wine and ice to keep the bottles cool. Always keep extra ice on hand to replace it if it melts.
Place the wines on a table away from the crowd (not in the kitchen or near the dinner table). There should be enough space around the table to cover the wines, tasting glasses and entry forms. And also for guests to discuss and taste wines.
You can choose to display all the wines together on a table or spread them around the room. We keep the white wine in one place, in an ice bucket, and spread the bottles of red wine around the room. This encourages meetings and keeps the crowds away from the wine table.
Finally, make sure your guests have a way to distinguish the wine glasses. The guests always put the glass down and put it back.
Now that the wines have been chosen, you can move on to the details of the party preparations. You need to decide whether to serve the food or ask your guests to bring food to share. I always use our feast as an opportunity to try out new holiday recipes I’ve collected throughout the year. I suggest you keep it as classy as possible to get in the mood.
We serve appetizers, a selection of cheeses and fruits, a meat platter and light desserts. Here are some excellent appetizers that can be served with wine.
Feast meals for blind tasting
I also like to stick a label on each food so I don’t have to waste time answering questions about the food over and over again. Here is a template you can download and use to make food labels (this is a Microsoft Word document). Just type in the name of the dish, print it out, cut it out and fold it.
During the party, guests can mingle, eat and socialize with other guests. When they are ready, they can approach the wine table and taste the wines at their own pace.
The evening will focus on wine tasting and identification.
We ask that each guest bring a bottle of wine that they would like to share with the group, and use these wines to sip and mix. They are distinguishable from the blind tasting. Guests can sip and chat with these wines as they arrive, rather than drink them blind.
We have found that it is best to ask your guests for a glass of regular wine first and have a chat, until they start a real wine tasting.
Each guest will need a sample sheet to fill in their answers. You can download and use the sample form I created (it’s a Microsoft Word document, so you can replace the variety name with the name of your choice). The sheet lists the grape variety of all wines and provides space for notes. Next to each option is a box where you can indicate your opinion with a bottle number.
Wine tasting sheet
We collect the filled sheets in a bowl and when everyone is done, we privately remove the aluminum lids from the wine bottles and keep score. Then three winners will be chosen who may select a prize from the three items purchased for the party. Finally, we open the bottles so everyone can check the labels, taste again, and have a lively discussion about why they missed some bottles and got others.
In the end, the effort of organizing a blind tasting is well worth it when you see your guests having such a good time. Months after each blind tasting, we still get lots of compliments on how much fun we had and ask when the next one will be. Maybe we should party twice a year now!
If you decide to host your own blind wine tasting, you and your friends are sure to enjoy it. Good luck! If you have other tips and techniques for hosting a blind tasting, please share them below!
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Laura is the founder and editor of travel blogs and Savored Journeys. It is dedicated to sharing the best information about the drinks available in the world.
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