Blind tasting red wine glasses
Think of it as the "9 1/2 Weeks" approach to wine tasting. The aim is much the same as in the movie - the heightening of the senses - except instead of Mickey Rourke blindfolding Kim Basinger, you blindfold the wine.

Blind tasting, as it is called, is a way to eliminate your own prejudices and evaluate the wine in a controlled, fairly clinical situation. You will like what you like, regardless of the wine's price or reputation - because you won't know the wine's price or reputation. You can withhold other information as well: varietal, locale, ratings, you name it. Naturally, we suggest undermining the so-serious aspects of blind tasting by turning it into a party. If you are going to humiliate yourself in public ("I loved that stuff? But it's swill!"), you might as well invite your friends and loved ones to debase themselves similarly.

Here's a primer on having a blind tasting in which you will be able to both educate your palate and also snigger and point at close friends.

Think thematic. You might have a tasting of five pinot noirs (a great all-around wine for just about any meal this season). Or Washington Merlots. Or New World chardonnays. Or $12 reds.

Cheat. To further provoke your guests, throw in a ringer. The variation can be subtle (throw a Napa merlot, say Duckhorn, in with the Washingtons) or sizable - add a pricey Bordeaux (got a better reason to open one of those 2005s?) to the mix.


Pour short. You will be tasting from five to seven glasses. You will most certainly not want to drink five to seven full glasses. The point is to remember the evening.

No fancy food. You don't want any accompanying appetizers to mask the flavors of the wine. And as a courtesy, some of you will want to tone down the perfume and aftershave.

Disguise the wine. You can spring for those fancy velvet bottle covers devised especially for blind tastings, but the long, slim brown paper bags the grocery stores use to separate bottles work just as well. Just loop a hefty rubber band around the bagged neck a few times.

Identify the bottles. Use a grease pencil to number the bottles (on the bag) and the glass that wine goes in (on the base). You want to be able to discuss how the No. 3 wine has nice legs, but the No. 7 makes you weak in the knees. In another variation on blind tastings, some folks like to hand out stat sheets on every single one of the wines (but, heaven forfend, not the ringer), giving not just the usual info but even Wine Spectator or Robert Parker ratings.

Don't slip up. Remember that some bottles telegraph their contents. Burgundian and Alsatian wines have distinctive shapes that even velvet bags can't obscure. You can't play mix and match with these.

Don't take it too seriously. While blind tastings do force you to analyze and evaluate, try to relax. Don't be a cork dork. Don't act like a wine weenie. After all, after an evening of sipping too-pricey-for-you Burgundies, it can be a comfort to find that your palate much prefers the ringer - that $12 pinot from the grocery store.