Drinking in the Dark – Blind Tastings

Blind Tasting – Bottles placed in bags to hide idenity.

Blind Tastings…..wine people sometimes engage in elaborate rituals. We have even been known to place our bottles in bags, hiding their identities, in order to evaluate wines. Tasting Wine Blind: A popular party game? Serious wine rating technique? Or just goofy way to explore wines? GrapeRadio debates the ins and outs of this philosophy.

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Show #8
(19:23 min 9 MB)

17 Responses to “Drinking in the Dark – Blind Tastings”

  1. 1 Adam Vali Feb 17th, 2005 at 10:02 am

    Bravo Jay! I loved your take on blind tastings.
    This is one of your most entertaining shows. I really enjoyed hearing how your opinions differ and how you defend them.
    You may want to consider doing more shows without guests. You are all well spoken and the give and take between the three of you is very engaging.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. 2 Jay Selman Feb 17th, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    Adam, we did this show on a whim. We had some extra time on our hands and just started talking. Leigh, flicked a switch (I did not notice at first), and 20 minutes later, another show was born. More natrual, conversational, in nature. I got kind of excited as we were talking. I can not express in words how much it means to us to get feedback on the shows. It encourages us. Thanks!

    Jay Selman

  3. 3 Jed Feb 17th, 2005 at 10:43 pm

    Great stuff. As a wine neophyte, I am finding your podcasts to be painless way of getting my feet wet. One great thing about this media is that I am picking up the proper pronunciation of the field’s sometimes odd terminology- something a wine magazine can’t do. The show’s format is great- it is like being able to sit in with the wine geeks (great phrase by the way) hanging around the local wine shop. I especially enjoy it when “current events” get mentioned, like how the film “Sideways” was affecting merlot sales. I am guessing that there are some good deals on merlot for sampling right about now..

    I just found by going to your site that the earlier broadcasts are posted for download, so I will be checking those out.


    Brooklyn, NY

  4. 4 Jay Selman Feb 18th, 2005 at 7:01 am

    Jed, I have some bad news for you. If you want to learn about pronunciation, I am horrible at it. I am so bad, that when I buy a bottle of, lets say Italian, I just point to it as opposed to trying to say the name. I kid you not on this point. If you really want to learn (which I am too lazy to do) try this place http://www.stratsplace.com/winepronon_dict.html

    It was important to us to pass along information about wine and at the same time, make it easy to listen to, a somewhat delicate balance. Your comments struck a cord with me. Much thanks.

    Jay (pronounced “j”)

  5. 5 Joel Goldberg Feb 19th, 2005 at 10:05 am

    Great show, guys.

    Our tasting group — pretty experienced folks — frequently tastes blind. Mostly, it’s for one reason you mentioned — so that we don’t prejudge on the basis of what we know about specific producers or vintages, or what we remember from the last time we tasted a particular wine.

    But another educational reason for blind tasting is that it really helps you focus on the characteristics that distinguish one producer or region or vintage from another. If you know that you’re tasting 3 Bordeaux and 3 Calcabs — blind — you really hone in on trying to figure out what qualities differentiate the one from the other.

    Whatever the reason for doing it, when you do taste blind, you’d better be willing to check your ego at the door, because you’ll nearly always guess wrong on what’s from where, or decide that the $8 rotgut is your wine of the night.


  6. 6 Jay Selman Feb 19th, 2005 at 10:19 am

    Joel your point is well taken about the focus on the ‘characteristics that distinguish one producer or region or vintage from another’. Do I feel the same can be acomplished with the tasting being blind? Yes, I do. However, I love the fact that you use the method to focus rather than compare. That IMHO makes it cool and useful. I must confess, that more than once, I picked a wine as my favorite that , well, was more at home on the shelves of a Walmart then at a wine store. Big deal. I liked what I liked.


  7. 7 Evan L. Goldenberg Feb 19th, 2005 at 3:28 pm

    Dear Leigh, Brian & Jay,

    I am a member of a wine tasting group that meets every Thursday for lunch from 2 to 4. Each member must bring an interesting bottle of wine to the table to share. We typically do not taste blind, but on occasion we remind each other and bring our bottles wrapped in foil.

    The purpose of our blind tastings is to help educate each other. Scoring is only based on grape verietal, location of origin and year, the later being the most difficult without knowlege. Only about half of the group has wine cellars. The other half just loves wine and we all enjoy discussing the selections for that day.

    I believe that blind tastings, if taken in the right context can be extremely educational. After all, why are we tasting wine and talking about it? Because we love it!

    Evan G.

  8. 8 Brian Clark Feb 19th, 2005 at 5:02 pm


    I will use any excuse to drink wine. Blind or not. It’s all about having a lot of fun. The thing I enjoy most about blind tasting is that I might be surprised to find a wine that I might not have otherwise tried.

    The quality of wine around the world has increased at an incredible rate over the last few years. Wines from South America, South Africa and many other areas are great examples of this improvement. I learned about these changes via blind tasting. I might have no otherwise tried them and I would have been missing out. Not only are they good but they also tend to be great values since many don’t know the secret.

    Brian Clark

  9. 9 Jeffrey Howard Feb 20th, 2005 at 2:29 pm

    Damn wine snobs. You should be proud if you pick the Boon’s Farm as your favorite, especially at a double blind tasting. After all, about midnight what could be better than overpoweringly sweet, nondescript fruit mixed combined with too much alcohol, an easy to open screwcap and a Javier’s Liquor and Condoms brown paper bag decorated with cigarette burns, crimson lipstick and faux chanel parfume. Please don’t tell me you would prefer some over extracted Siduri Pisoni Pinot or maybe an even more over extracted alcoholic Spelletic BoDog Red. No wonder wine geeks are often treated as pariahs by the NASCAR nation.

  10. 10 Melissa C Feb 25th, 2005 at 1:39 pm

    I am thinking about hosting a blind tasting party. What advise can you give me. Should I specifiy a prices range for the wines people bring ($10-$20) and should I ask everyone to bring the same kind of wine (Cab, Pinot etc). Also I was thinking of giving away a prize for the winner (everybody can vote for top three), What gift do you recommend?

    Help Needed


  11. 11 Brian Clark Feb 26th, 2005 at 6:21 pm


    The party sounds like a lot of fun. I would specific a price range and ask everyone to bring the same varietal.

    As far as prizes go, if you want to keep the wine theme they have a great inexpensive rabbitt ear corkscrew at costco for about $20

    Good luck
    Brian Clark

  12. 12 Jonathan Margulies Mar 21st, 2005 at 11:14 pm

    Hey —

    Just listened to your show for the first time and heard you (I think) talking about the decline of 1997 cabs. I came across a few bottles of 1997 Gallo Of Sonoma Barelli Creek Cab in a retail store the other day (in Chicago) for about $25. I’ve had the 98 before and enjoyed it (along with the Frei Vineyard of the same year). Is this something I should snatch up before it’s gone, or assume it’s gone and pass?

    Thanks (and I enjoyed the show),

    — Jonathan Margulies

  13. 13 Brian Clark Mar 21st, 2005 at 11:15 pm


    I have found that many of the 97s have begun to age a little early and lose the their fruit before they should. However, the based on the typical structure of Gallo Barelli Creek it should still be in good shape. At $25 a bottle is a good pick. I think you will find it is drinking well right now, but I would not cellar it for a long time. It will not get any better than it is right now, so drink up.

    Let me know how it goes.

    Best Regards,

    Brian Clark
    Co Host
    Grape Radio – Sharing Passion for Wine

  14. 14 Dave Kim Jan 24th, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    I have been going through and listening through these older podcasts. I’ve listened to 30% of the podcasts and loved them. Especially your different opinions. The fact that you don’t agree is what makes the show. I celebrate the differences in the midst of the singular love of wine.

    In this episode, I would have to say that I came to understand Brian’s competitiveness and Jay’s.. “It’s not better, but different” emphasis. Jay, you came across so strong that it made me a bit upset with you because you acted contrary to what you were saying. I felt that you leaned on Brian pretty hard in that this competitiveness thing was a VERY wrong posture and that your perspective was right and better. In short Jay, you wanted to win. As much as Brian likes the game of winning, I think Jay is self-deceived that he too doesn’t have a desire to win, albeit.. it’s expressed differently.

    The concept of right or wrong was misrepresented for me in this episode. The real point that I think all three of you were trying to make was that you like finding wine that you like, but somehow it turned into the way you get to that point is just as important if not more so.

    Having said all this, the three of you have great chemistry and it would be so easy for the three of you to be at each other’s throats when discussing this topic of wine that is so personal to you all. Your maturity, overall, as you address conflict makes the show consistantly enjoyable and educational to listen to.

    This brings me to my last point. I wonder if personality type has clear influence in what wines one enjoys. (i.e. Strong personalities tending towards stronger flavors and people who like to have fun liking more sweet, champagne, lighter stuff.) I think it does.

    P.S. I live in Tustin, Ca and I’m headed over to Hi-Time this week because of you guys. Thanks so much.

  15. 15 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 24th, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    Dave, our office is in Tustin, so stop by and visit.
    I am competitive, to be sure.
    Brian and I have known and worked with each other for over 13 years. We tend to bust each others testicles. So maybe that was all that was going on?
    I do have a strong personality, so you have given me something to reflect upon.

    p.s Send me an email and I will add you to my wine tastings invite list.

  16. 16 Freddie May 28th, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    i thought it was amazing to touch on the “competition” point. it is definitely important to throw out the competition between wines and focus on appreciating wines for what they are and what they seek to express.

    i am a server at a wine bar w/ 200 different wines. often times, myself and people i work with focus on sales and pushing a higher dollar wine, while failing to appreciate that a lower dollar wine may be appreciated more by the guest. i am so glad that i had a chance to hear this point because it helps fuel my passion for wine and makes me want to instill it into my guests. thank you.

  17. 17 Pat H. Sep 18th, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Great point about blind tastings being a competition, Jay. I agree that as soon as someone says I prefer this to that the ego is on the line. We should appreciate each wine for what it brings that is unique or different hopefully. I have a different take on the blind tasting. I love them because I always learn something. I love to find out that something that I thought was pinot noir was in fact a traditional Rioja. Just when I thought I knew pinot I’m reminded that I don’t know! For this reason I love blind tastings with different varietals and vintages thrown together because it challenges my knowledge and moves away from the comparing thing. If everything is the same vintage, varietal and region then you can’t help but compare. If each wine is truly different then those differences can better be appreciated and reinvestigated (if that is a word). This is a tasting that will take me one a journey to the limits of my own limited understanding and with luck I might be changed a little bit for it and come away with new knowledge and appreciation for something I might have otherwise taken for granted.

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