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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I want to hold a blind wine tasting party. Any ideas or thoughts on how to make it a success? Anything out there besides brown paper bags? They just seem tacky to me.

—Judith, San Francisco

Dear Judith,

Brown paper bags might seem tacky, but they're effective, cheap, and easy to find. Some of my friends wrap bottles in aluminum foil, and there's a myriad of other wine bottle gift bags in the market that might better match your decor. And don't forget good old-fashioned paper and tape. You could also pour the wines into glass decanters if you feel the wines would benefit from this additional aeration. Decanters also mask distinguishing bottle shapes, and they don't tip people off to extra-heavy bottles that might indicate a higher price tag.

Make sure you provide plenty of supplies for people to take notes; that includes not only paper and pens, but also clipboards or other flat writing surfaces, in case your table ends up covered in wineglasses. Offer plenty of water and spittoons (opaque plastic cups work), as well as a dump bucket. Ask folks to rank their favorite wines in order, or ask everyone to score on the same numeric scale, and then you can average the scores or figure out the group's order of preference. I suggest unveiling the wines starting with the group's lowest-scoring bottle. Have fun!

—Dr. Vinny

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