... i would expect that one would have to have at least 6 bottles opened (and covered with bags, ... and everything removed from the neck to avoid recognition/lead foil/plastic/etc.)...

..... and i would surmise that one has to throw in a sh%& bottle along with other six bottles for the fun of it as well, (such as a visibly corked bottle, or some cheap thing)...

.... and one would have to put a prized bottle in the whole setup as well (one that you have just been saving in your cellar for a special day, sort of thing)...

...but what would the others be, ... in your ideal brown bag party,....?
Original Post
You've got the general idea, ogopogo. Generally a 'them' is chosen for everyone to contribute a bottle (Cab, Syrah, Pinot Noir, etc.). Your choice to throw in a 'ringer', or a bottle off theme that can fool everyone due to its' ability to not be guessed as the bottle out. This selection can be a challenge itself. No need to necessarily put in a 'special' bottle. Your call. Enjoy!
Well it depends on what your objective is.

If you're trying to assess wines objectively then the experts start with a non-blind wine that they have rated before, as a sort of calibration. They wouldn't throw in any odd ones, they would know that the wines all followed a general pattern.

If you're trying to develop your tasting skills then it's a good idea to throw in a wild card. But try not to make it too obvious.

You may want to double-decant the wines to give them an equal chance to open up. If one has a distinctive bottle (screw cap, taller/heavier) you may want to transfer it to a nondescript bottle.

One of the local tasting groups uses small lab-type Pyrex measuring jugs to ensure that everyone gets a roughly even pour.
I agree it depends on what your objective is. Also how sophisticated everyone is.

My ideal - have something you can learn from. In other words, a defined theme, say one vintage from one area (e.g. 1999 Walla Walla), or compare 2 vintages of the same wines (e.g. 96 and 97 barbarescos from the same producers), or compare 2 areas same vintage (Nahe vs Phalz) or wines from one winemaker; something of that nature.

Then if the bottles are of different shapes, I'd decant them all into bottles of the same shape. I keep 12 identical empties around for this purpose. Have someone else bag them and someone else put letters on the bags and then you can do the tasting. And I usually try to have a few different price points, because the best thing for your cellar is finding out your favorite wine is one of the cheapest.

And I wouldn't have food or anything until the wines were already tasted. Then you can taste them again with the food, but I'd keep the notes separate.

I pretty much hate the idea of everyone bringing a bottle - people don't like to mix prices, bottles end up at different temps and it's harder to keep a tight theme. Worst is when everyone brings something different, you have a full dinner, and people are trying to write and eat and talk. In those cases, I'd just as soon forget about the "tasting" and simply enjoy the wine and food and company.
What I have done with non-winegeeks, or guests who think all wines taste the same, is to pick 6 quite different wines, pour 2 ounces of each into six different glasses for each guest, number the glasses with a dry-erase marker or otherwise to match a given unmarked bottle, then set out all 6 bottles for all to see, with the WS or whoever's TNs, and let the guests try to guess which numbered wine goes with each bottle, based on their own tastes and the TNs.

This way they can learn typical descriptors for each varietal or style or appelation, try to tag it to an actual bottle of wine whose label they can read, and see if their tastebuds match the reviewer.

If nothing else, everyone gets a half bottle of wine to drink and a good time is had by all!
I really like Dave Tong's "calibration" idea with a non-blind wine to get everyone started. I'll definitely incorporate that idea (thanks, Dave).

If you have plenty of stemware or are willing to rent really nice stemware (which is, by the way, pretty cheap to do), I love having every guest have the same number of glasses to wines being tasted, and everyone has the wines pre-poured into the glasses in front of them. That way, you can do a much more effective side-by-side comparison between wines. You can evaluate color and subtle nuances between wines by sniffing one, then another, then back to the first one, etc. Just be sure tasters keep their wines in order.

I also like to have pen and paper for everyone for those who like to write notes. I also have had guests rate their wines using a 10 point scale (half points accepted). That way, you can total the scores and find the group's Wine of the Night, etc. It makes un-bagging the wines that much more exciting.

Some places sell these sets of wine bags - they're awesome. They have a velcro strap that secures the baggy bag around the neck of the bottle. That way, bottle shape doesn't matter. They're numbered, too.
quote:
Originally posted by bman:
What I have done with non-winegeeks, or guests who think all wines taste the same, is to pick 6 quite different wines, pour 2 ounces of each into six different glasses for each guest, number the glasses with a dry-erase marker or otherwise to match a given unmarked bottle, then set out all 6 bottles for all to see, with the WS or whoever's TNs, and let the guests try to guess which numbered wine goes with each bottle, based on their own tastes and the TNs.

This way they can learn typical descriptors for each varietal or style or appelation, try to tag it to an actual bottle of wine whose label they can read, and see if their tastebuds match the reviewer.

If nothing else, everyone gets a half bottle of wine to drink and a good time is had by all!


We did that a few years ago for a Zinfandel tasting. There were 8 wines from three appellations: Dry Creek, Amador and Lodi.
The bottles were bagged and we were given a tasting notes sheet. My wife took it very seriously and managed to match
almost all the wines to the notes; she wan't sure about two of the Dry Creek ones and had guessed wrong.

The lesson we took away was that the wine geeks preferred the Dry Creeks, though not surprisingly two of them (Rafanelli and Unti) were the most expensive ones in the lineup, whereas the non-geeks preferred whatever tasted sweetest/fruitiest.
Have some sort of rating sheet and a pencil for ppl to take notes. Make it a simple rating system and talk about it ahead of time. You can do a little research and talk a bit about the varietal--what to look for and what some of the flaws may be.

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