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How to host a fun and simple blind wine tasting

A lot of people often complain that they can’t remember the wines they like or have trouble distinguishing varieties and styles. Fair enough too – usually when you’re drinking wine it’s with dinner, at a bar or at a party. Social occasions have plenty of other fun things going on to worry too much about details of what’s in your glass. There is a way to mix that social aspect of wine with a little bit of the scholarly. If you’re looking to bump your knowledge up to the next level, a slightly formalised tasting is a great and fun way to do it. Tasting the wines blind, i.e. without knowing what has been poured into the glass, brings a bit of fun and intrigue to the proceedings

Why blind tasting?

  • Comparative tasting

There’s nothing more instructive than tasting two different wines next to each other. Even two similar wines will show some differences and the features of each wine are highlighted by tasting back and forth

  • No preconceptions.

People’s experience of wine can be good and bad, which can lead to dislikes of varieties such as ‘anything but chardonnay’. Masking the wine means you can tasted it without bias and judge the wine solely on its merits, without labelling or prejudgements.

What do I need?

  • Wine – Seems pretty obvious, but get enough of each wine to serve your guests. A standard bottle will provide a 50ml taste each for 15 people. Aim for between two and four wines for your first time. Not sure what wine? We’ve got suggestions further down.
  • Glassware – You’ll need enough glassware for each wine and each person. So ten people and 2 wines means you’ll need 20 glasses.
  • Something to hide the wine –  You can use the paper bags from the store, aluminium foil, fancy cloth bags or decant the wines into a decanter or jug. Just make sure you number the wines so you know which is which!

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What’s the process?

  1. The wines should be masked before you’re ready to go
  2. Make sure everyone gets a good pour of each wine
  3. Refer to the wines by number and keep the same order for everyone to avoid confusion
  4. Introduce or give some clues about the theme or comparison if you like
  5. You can discuss and taste the wines together or take turns putting tasters in the hot seat
  6. Do people like them? Do they have a preference?
  7. Take some guesses as to what you’ve been tasting
  8. Do the big reveal – show the labels

Revealed – three whites and three reds from the Yarra Valley.

Tasting Suggestions

  • Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay – a good way to show the differences between these two major white grapes
  • Merlot and Cabernet – looking at different tannins and fruit flavours
  • Different vintages – how does the harvest year and age affect wine?
  • Different regions – Try a Pinot Noir from Australia against one from France

Extra tips

  • Wine store staff can be really good and help choose the wines so that the experience is masked for you as well.
  • If you have a local store that makes good recommendations, let them know what you’re doing and they can work wonders
  • You can play a bit of a game with the reveal by asking questions to narrow down. E.g., is it northern or southern hemisphere?
  • A blind tasting can make a nice Sunday session or a bit of an aperitivo before dinner.
  • It’s always impressive to pull out some cheese or charcuterie to eat with the remainder of the wine after the reveal
  • If you’ve got more wines than glasses per person, split the tasting up into brackets. E.g. two whites then two reds

Check out some more articles for help choosing the wines for your blind tasting:

What’s the difference between Shiraz and Syrah?

What is the difference between White Wine and Red Wine?

Adam also recently joined The Wine Gallery which recommends and sends out new and interesting wines based on a palate quiz.

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Kieran Clarkin

Kieran Clarkin

Digital Marketing and Tour Host at Wine Compass
Kieran is a WSET Diploma student, Chin Chin sommelier and host for Wine Compass. He loves chatting about wine, hosting tastings and getting people interested in wine generally. He's big into Victorian wine, the Loire Valley and the very under-rated wines of Greece.
Kieran Clarkin

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Vivian Black
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After being asked to host a party for a recent work event, my husband mentioned to me that he wanted to throw a wine-tasting contest. I appreciate that you mentioned how not having any preconceptions can help guests to judge the wine based solely on its merits, without labeling or prejudging. Thank you for the ideas about how to host a wine tasting party.