By Carl Hanson

The idea is simple. Gather together some close friends, pop open a few bottles, and enjoy an evening tasting wines...with a little mystery thrown into the mix.

102039528_Swirling the wine_Photo by Meredith
Don't try this blindfolded |Photo by Meredith

Tips for Hosting a Blind Tasting

Putting together a tasting is easy. Keep a few basic things in mind, and your blind tasting will go as smoothly as that Merlot you may or may not be sipping:

1) Choose a selection of single varietal wines from the same vintage but from different regions. For example, a 2012 Merlot from Sonoma, California; a 2012 Merlot from Walla Walla, Washington; a 2012 Merlot from Friuli, Italy. Also, keep the prices in the same ballpark.

By selecting single varietals (Syrah or Chardonnay, for example) from the same vintage instead of grape blends (like Bordeaux), you're getting close to an apples-to-apples comparison; choosing from a variety of regions, meanwhile, lets you explore the influence of place on the wine.

2) Make it a potluck of sorts. Hosting can be pricey. To offset the cost, choose a varietal and vintage and then ask each person to bring a bottle; assign a specific region for each guest.

3) Wrap the bottles in numbered paper bags.

4) Drink! If you're tasting both whites and reds, start with the whites, then move to the reds, moving from lighter-bodied to more full-bodied. Also, have water on hand.

5) Talk about what you're tasting. Have everyone write down what they're experiencing, and let them take a guess at the varietal. For extra credit, they can take a stab at vintage and region. Complete maniacs might even attempt to name the producer.

Tasting Wine While Blind

Of course, to taste truly blind, you could always drink wine from bagged bottles out of color-crushing black glasses. Or forget about all that, and just slip on a blindfold.

Sipping without seeing, you see, is a fun way to learn and discern. It concentrates other senses -- smell and taste -- and focuses the mind. You'd be surprised by how much visual cues can influence other perceptions.

Which brings us to the hidden danger of tasting wine while bundled up in a blindfold. Actually, there are a couple. You could swirl too vigorously over a non burgundy-colored carpet, for example. And, yes, you could say something embarrassing: mistake a Sauvignon Blanc for a Chardonnay -- or worse, you could conceivably mistake a Sauvignon Blanc for a Cabernet Sauvignon (sources say, sort of). But mistakes are kind of the point of the game.

No, the real danger is putting on a blindfold in front of your lunatic friends:

Our advice for blind tastings with friends: Don't wear the good suit. And for some real advice on tasting wine, there's this.