Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I’m organizing a tasting comparing white Burgundy and California Chardonnay. Could you give me some suggestions for how to organize the tasting? We are using eight bottles, and thinking of four per region.
—Mustafa, Istanbul, Turkey
That sounds like a great idea for a tasting. I recommend doing this as a blind tasting. Wrap the bottles in paper bags, foil, wrapping paper or gift bags. Give them numbers or letters to identify them. Provide a flat surface and a way for people to write tasting notes. At the very least, ask people to identify their favorite wines in order—it’s always fun to see which was the group favorite (and least favorite). Provide water, plain crackers and spit buckets.
The purpose of the blind tasting isn’t to try to guess what the wines are, though you certainly can. Rather, blind tastings let you focus on how a wine tastes without expectations. If you think you like Burgundies better than California Chardonnays going into a tasting, you might try to prove those biases in your results if you know the identities of the wines. Blind tasting also eliminates prejudices against price tags and producers. Wine Spectator tastes wines blind in our official evaluations: Here's how we do it, and why.
Outside of that, you might want to try to find wines from the same vintage. That way the nuances you are tasting are not about vintage variation. Or you can try to find different wines made from the same vineyard or different wines made from the same winemaker or château—those can also be fun comparisons.