Hone Your Blind Wine Tasting Skills

wine tasting

Hone Your Blind Wine Tasting Skills

Blind wine tasting is the skill of determining the varietal, region, vintage and producer by only using your senses. To be an expert blind wine taster you need to build keen senses.

Read the guide below on how to format your own blind wine tasting party. Becoming great at blind wine tasting takes experience, so we’re revealing the secrets of our best ‘tells’ to wine varietals.

Setting up a Wine Tasting Party

The best way to share the cost of the wine is to have each person bring a bottle. This way everyone involved will only know one of the wines.

What Are Ideal Wines for a Blind Tasting Party?

Even in Master Sommelier exams they have a list of wines you can and can’t use. Nowadays, there are many wines that will ‘trick’ even a seasoned sommelier. With that in mind, here is a great list of recommended wine varietals:

  • Pinot Noir
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Syrah
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Viognier

Blind Tasting Wine Party Format

An awesome party host will have an array of snacks, water, a spittoon and glassware. If you don’t have enough fancy glassware come on down to us and spoil yourself on some posh Riedel.

  • Complete the attached wine list with varieties you have for your game, and complete the names of your guest
  • Separate the whites from the reds.
  • Wrap the bottles in aluminum foil and mark each one with the number corresponding you your wine list like the one above.
  • Hand everyone a glass and start with white wine.
  • Pass the wines round-robin and deliberate results after each wine before moving onto the next
  • Use the spittoon as much as you want.

How to score

Wines and their characteristics

To help you get the edge over your friends, here is a handy list of grape varieties and how to distinguish between them.

Red Wine

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is one of the lightest of light red wines. If you have a wine that’s extremely transparent and the meniscus is more ruby than purple, you may have a glass of Pinot Noir in front of you. Pinot Noir smells like cranberries and pickles… and most of all…wine.


I love blind tasting Malbec because it’s usually very opaque. It also has one ‘tell’, a bright pink-magenta rim. Malbec commonly smells like blueberries and vanilla.


Merlot is very confusing because it often tastes and smells like young Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Merlot’s ‘tell’ is that it has a slightly orange rim at a young age whereas Cabernet Sauvignon does not.


Nebbiolo is one of the most high-tannin wines out there, yet it still is very translucent. Nebbiolo is a grippy wine while staining orange and being very light-colored. Nebbiolo is from Italy and tastes of bricks, roses and cherries. Yum.


Grenache is also known as Garnacha in Spain and is a bit of a chameleon. Grenache produces ruby-colored translucent light red wines. Grenache’s ‘tell’ is candied fruit. Spanish Garnacha smells of candied grapefruit.

Syrah / Shiraz

Syrah and Shiraz are more opaque than other wines. A Shiraz often tastes of black fruits whereas a French Syrah tastes of black olives. Either way, look for black fruits in a Syrah.

White Wine

 Sauvignon Blanc

 Sauvignon Blanc tastes like green bell pepper, grass, limes and gooseberries. Even when Sauvignon Blanc tastes more peachy and passion fruity such as many California Sauvignon Blanc’s do, it still tastes a little green.


Chardonnay is one of the most full-bodied white wines out there. It will fill your mouth with its flavour. An oaked Chardonnay has a smooth creamy taste and a much darker color than other wines. Try to get an oaked Chardonnay for a blind tasting, it will be the easiest to identify.


High acidity, honey and apricots are the main flavors of a Riesling. Most Rieslings are also slightly sweet. Watch out for Australian Rieslings, they are usually dry (with no residual sugar).


Moscato is usually delicate and sweet, tasting of peaches and perfume. The smell of Moscato is very strong, it will fly out of the glass at you.

Grüner Veltliner

An Austrian wine with high acidity and very green flavours. While some Grüner Veltliner are richer in style, most £10-15 wines have major lime zest and pepper flavours.

Pinot Grigio

When I’m blind tasting Pinot Grigio, it’s more a question of what it’s not versus what it is. It’s high acid and very pale in colour, but not as high as Grüner Veltliner. Pinot Grigio tastes like lemons and limes.


The lowest acid of most white wines it feels heavy on the middle of your tongue. Most Viognier are dry and smell like jasmine perfume and apples.

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