If you are a wine geek, you are probably familiar with the 2012 documentary, Somm. The film follows four individuals as they prepped for the Master Sommelier exam. You were likely awed by the candidates’ impeccable ability to blind taste a wine and guess correctly its vintage, variety, appellation, and sub-region. While you aspire to have that kind of palate, you secretly wonder if you could even tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, or even Diet Coke.
The good people behind the documentary have since produced sequels, started a streaming service, and even come up with a blind tasting game for the rest of us. The Somm Blinders is a fun card game that anyone who enjoys wine can play. You may even learn a few things along the way. I’m going to share a few tips on how to get the most out of the game.
How to Play
The Somm Blinders now consists of three decks - the original, the red, and the white. Each deck has a list of wines to be included in the blind tasting. Most of the cards in the deck are about that wine (such as its flavor profile, country of origin, and vintage). Each card is also assigned a number of points.
|Somm Blinders Original Deck|
For each bottle round, you will blind taste a wine on the list. But first, every player gets five cards. At each turn, you will pick a new card and then discard one so that you will always have five cards in your hand. As you taste the wine, your goal is to match the cards to the wine. The bottle round ends when someone calls the wine correctly. Each player then gets the total points of the cards that match the wine. For the player who calls the right wine, five extra points will be given.
Not All Rules Are Meant to be Broken
The game came with quite a bit of rules. Like many drinking games, part of the fun comes from breaking the rules. But to get the most out of the game, I’d suggest that you not break the following rules.
1. Include only wines that are on the list
Do not go rogue, and I don’t mean French red. Do not pick a bottle of wine that is not on the list. The cards are set up to describe the wines on the list and will not work as well if you decide to pick something else.
|Five wines from the original deck|
2. Use only “typical” wines
Here’s a wine term for you - typicity or typicality. According to Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, this refers to the wine’s quality of being typical of its type, geographical provenance, and even its vintage. An often sited example is Chardonnay from California versus one from Chablis.
|Oaked and unoaked Chardonnay|
First, the grapes may taste different based on the soil and climate from which they grow; in other words, different terroirs. The winemaking method also differs. Chablis is not typically oaked (with the exception of the Grand Cru) and tends to produce a lean and clean Chardonnay with high acidity. California Chardonnay is often oaked, which produces a richer, buttery wine with spice notes. Watch James Beard Award-winning author and wine communicator, Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly, blind taste both wines.
How do you pick a bottle that is “typical” of the grape variety and region? Ask your wine merchant or wine steward from where you purchase your wine. If there is none around, read the label and go for at least a mid price range bottle. I would avoid bottom shelf wine as they are highly unreliable in terms of typicity or typicality. (That is a blog post in itself for another day.)
3. Swirl, smell, sip, and spit
While spitting is optional, this is a friendly reminder to play the game responsibly. Depending on how many bottles you are blind tasting and how you are getting home after the game, spitting may be the smartest thing you do. Even if you don’t win the game this time (who is really keeping a straight score anyways), you will likely live to play another day.
My Verdict: I have played Somm Blinders with both serious wine nerds and social wine drinkers. Everyone had a great time! We even made up other rules just to keep things interesting. It presents a level playing field so no one has to worry about how much or how little wine knowledge they bring to the game. I currently own the original deck but will definitely be adding to that. Cheers, and let’s have some fun!