Showing posts with label blind tasting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label blind tasting. Show all posts

Friday, September 30, 2022

Somm Blinders - Blind Tasting for the Rest of Us

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.

Blind tasting
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!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Here Comes the Sun, It's All White!

My wine club loves blind tasting, no matter how terrible we are at it. We would take turn to pick a theme and host the tasting. Like pros, we would hold our glasses up to sniff, swirl, and sip. Unlike pros, we almost never spit.

White wine blind tasting panel
It was our turn to host the past tasting. Our theme was "Here Comes the Sun, It's All White"--a terrible Beatles wordplay.

Well, the sun was barely out in Seattle that fateful weekend. But like all good Seattleites, we grabbed our jackets and sat out in the patio.

We were blind tasting white wines. Everyone named the wine they brought after a famous white person whose description might fit the wine, and that is the only clue as to the appellations, grape varietals, and maybe vintages of the wines. That was harder than you might imagine even for the ones who had taken all kinds of wine classes to refine their taste buds. And as the evening went on (remember we didn't spit), our judgement became at best comedic! Did I mention that we also had a bottle of bubbly and a couple bottles of white with dinner?

If you are curious, here's the line-up of what we had that night, with a few hints as to why the names were chosen:

NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence

With Dinner (Thai)
2009 Pichler-Krutzler Riesling Loibenberg
2014 Domaine de la Tour du Bon Bandol Blanc

Blind Tasting
Penelope Cruz (Spanish varietal) - 2013 Adamant Cellars Gateshead Vineyard Albariño
Lolita (too young) - 2015 Duckhorn Vineyards Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Amy Schumer (American, full-bodied, funky) - 2010 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay
Grace Kelly (American, elegant) - 2013 Clos Pierre White Salmon Vineyard Chardonnay
Maria von Trapp (Austrian varietal) - 2015 W.T. Vintners Underwood Mountain Vineyard Grüner Veltliner

Experimental (for those who dared)
1975 Bolla Valpolicella

Palate Cleanser 
2003 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Le Vigne

2007 Pieropan Recioto di Soave Classico Le Colombare

Wonderful line-up
My Verdict: Blind tasting is a lot of fun and rather humbling. However, don't let that stop you from having a grand time! Cheers!

Here's the score sheet