Making blind tasting accessible to everyone, the app opens the doors for novices and pros alike.
I’ve worked in the wine industry for five years and there are two things that make me want to walk the other direction: competitive blind tasting and wine games. So naturally, when I caught wind of a new wine app that combines the two—in what I was promised would be a “fun” way—I was skeptical, to say the least.
The app, called WineGame, launched last month and was inspired by a game that founder Rob Wilder of ThinkFoodGroup used to play with José Andres, his ‘partner-in-wine,' after late-night restaurant shifts.
Blind tasting—identifying a wine’s grape(s), region, vintage, and producer, just by sight, smell, and taste—isn't always as fun as one might hope. Pressure-inducing, incredulously frustrating, and at times, insanely ego-driven—yes. Fun? Debatable. So why would anyone want to subject themselves to this at home with their friends?
As it turns out, the WineGame app makes the process a lot more fun than you're stereotypical, needlessly competitive blind tasting.
WineGame challenges players to identify the grape, country, region, and vintage/label of any given wine. All the information is stored in an all-encompassing database that incorporates nearly every bottle of wine produced worldwide. Players download the free WineGame app, create an account, then select ‘Create a Game.’ There’s no limit to how many people can play at a time, so it’s great for parties.
Here's how it works: First, the app prompts you to take a photo of your bottle. Then, you cover the bottle with a paper bag, tinfoil, or whatever else you choose so that its identity will be obscured. (Usually, each player brings one wine, so that everyone has the same advantage of knowing one of the blind wines in the mix). After all wines are loaded, the blind tasting begins!
When I went to a press even to try WineGame out, the set up was simple: Four glasses of unknown wine were laid out in a set. After seeing, sniffing, and sipping the first wine, a white, I clicked the app to and five choices appeared: Pinot Grigio, Malagouzia, Sauvignon Blanc, Assyrtiko, and Trebbiano. I’d already decided I thought it was Sauvignon, so I selected that and was greeted with a pleasant green check mark, followed by prompts to choose the country, region, and vintage/label. After I had finished guessing, I was awarded a certain number of points based on what I got right. (Wouldn't you like to know! I got 38 out of 48 and an average score of 9.5, beat out only by a 39 and 41 point score.)
Because it’s multiple choice, even if you’re not a wine expert, you have a reasonable chance of getting the right answer some of the time; you’re choosing from five grape varieties, for instance, rather than a thousand.
The biggest takeaway for me, however, was that the pressure of blind tasting suddenly became fun. Players are able to assess, guess, and ration their ability at their own speed, in the company of friends (drinking all the while, of course). Even as a semi-jaded wine professional, it really is a thrill when the game tells you that you nailed a wine and got everything right. Or even one thing right, for that matter.
According to Wilder, WineGame is also looking to partner with retail stores around the country, making it possible for consumers to have their favorite shop curate a selection of wines to bring home and have ready to play. (WineGamePRO is also available for hospitality companies.)
As Wilder says, “WineGame’s mission is to replace intimidating stigmas about wine education with a fun experience where everyone can experiment, engage with wine and learn. Think about it—this might be the only legitimate time you can enjoy wine, hang out with friends, and lay with your phone without attracting disdain for being anti-social.”