It was supposed to be a fun meal with a couple of friends at a trattoria in the hills of Alba, Italy. But the waiter also turned out to be the owner, and when he heard us arguing about different styles of local Piedmontese reds, he surmised, correctly, that we were “in the business”—the wine business. Instead of bringing us what we’d asked for—in fact, before we’d even had a chance to ask for anything—he presented us with two carafes of red wine and challenged us to tell him which was the local rosso and which was from Tuscany. Suddenly, he’d turned our friendly meal into a blind-tasting Game of Thrones, with everyone at the table vying to be king.
For the uninitiated, blind tasting means identifying a mystery wine without looking at the label—grape, region, producer and even vintage. The pourer either decants the wine in advance or hides the bottle in a bag, and the taster, by assessing the color, aroma, texture and body, tries to guess the wine’s “story.” It’s somewhere between a parlor game and a blood sport for collectors, sommeliers and other wine obsessives.
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- A Wine Tasting Glossary
- How to Host a Wine Tasting
- White-Wine Tasting Party
- Wine Tasting: Basic Training
- Wine-Tasting Workout: Train Yourself to be a Better Wine Taster
I have conducted, as well as participated in, dozens of blind tastings. When I studied to be a sommelier 20 years ago, under the terrifying tutelage of the legendary Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn, I had to blind-identify wines to get my diploma. But there’s a big difference between blind tasting for professional reasons and doing it to show off, which lately seems to happen at every dinner party I go to.