Michael Bray

Wine Columnist Michael Bray

Greetings and welcome to another edition of, “you ask and I’ll answer.” For those of you just tuning in, you can find me at Michael@passionvines.com. Email me with any wine-related questions, comments and or themes and I will use this monthly column to address them. While I will not be able to answer all of them, I do promise to always provide an answer via email.

The topic I would like to explore this month is “blind tasting” and how a simple twist on a traditional cocktail party can add suspense, curiosity and of course a lot of fun!

A blind tasting is anytime you taste wine without knowing what it is you’re drinking. But before you go looking for your blindfold, hold tight! For this exercise, since visual is such a big component of wine tasting, your eyes shall remain wide open. As you may already know, looking at wine in your glass can offer insightful clues such as clarity, brightness and color. For starters, our ultimate goal in a blind tasting challenge is to determine the grape variety and for those more advanced wine drinkers, the region.

Here are 5 simple steps to hosting a blind wine challenge:

1. Determine how many wines you would like to serve. If this is your first time hosting, I suggest keeping it simple with 3 reds and 3 whites.

2. Determine what varietals you would like to feature. You know your guests better than anyone. If they are beginners, keep it simple. I suggest you stick to the six noble grapes of the world: pinot noir, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling (or pinot grigio). By nature, these grapes are widely planted and most popular. If you go too esoteric you risk no one getting it right.

3. Determine a location in your home (or venue) where the wines will be on display that offers easy accessibility. If you have a bartender, great, but if not, don’t worry. Allow for space (approximately four feet) for wine glasses. One glass per guest is fine. A water pitcher would be great for rinsing.

4. Cover each wine with a brown paper bag (single serve from the liquor store) and cut the tops so the neck of the bottle sticks out for pouring. With a permanent marker # them 1, 2, 3 (whites) and 4, 5, 6 (reds).

5. You’re now ready! As guests arrive, let them know of the blind wine challenge and the goal of determining grape varietal (and region if they’re advanced). The guest who can guess the most correct wins. Begin by tasting the three whites and then do the reveal. This will keep everyone’s attention and avoid having to supply pen and paper to keep track. Then finish with the reds. Your choice if you wish to provide a prize.

I hope you’re inspired to host your first blind tasting. Aside from the fun, I promise that this exercise will change the way you think about wine (for the better). If you have any questions during planning, please feel free to reach out.

Lastly, we finish with me asking you a question. If you email me the correct answer, I’ll send you a prize. Question: What are the permissible grapes in Champagne, France?

Drink passionately,


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Associate Editor, At The Shore/ACWeekly

Freelance reporter for At The Shore/Atlantic City Insiders from 2011-2015; Editor in Chief, MainStreetMarlboro.com,2014-2015; Writer for Zagat, 2013

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