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Here Comes the Judge: You

When tasting wine "blind," make sure to obscure not just their labels but any other identifying information, such as the foil cork covering. (Dayna Smith for The Washington Post)

A blind tasting such as we conducted for our Judgment of Washington is a great way to learn about various wines. Set a category for your friends – Merlot between $10 and $30, say – and ask each to bring a bottle. Then put the bottles in brown lunch bags or wrap them in aluminum foil. (The bottles are blind, not the tasters...) Be sure to remove the foil coverings over the corks and any other markings that might help identify the wines. Have one person bag the wines and another number them, and then have fun. You can get all formal about it, asking people to assign scores and/or write comments, or you can just taste and talk.

There are many variations you can play on this theme. My favorite is to slip in an unexpected wine, like I did with local wines for our tasting at the Post. If your category is Burgundy, for example, include an Oregon pinot noir that seems “Burgundian” to see if your tasters can identify it as an outlier. Or slip your favorite $10 cabernet into a lineup of $40 cabs to see if anyone notices.

One drawback to this type of wine tasting: You really should try to focus on the wine. As counterintuitive as it may seem (especially if you're tasting something really good), provide spit buckets, and use them. But once you've tallied the scores and declared a winner, you can relax and have fun drinking the rest of the wines, no spitting required. Keep an eye out for which bottles are emptied first – no matter what the scores say, those are your friends' favorites.

For some of you, this is old hat: You've held wine tastings at home. If you're in that camp, how did you set it up, and how did it go?

-- Dave McIntyre

By The Food Section  |  August 20, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Wine  | Tags: Dave McIntyre  
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