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Blind Tasting Blackjack

In years past, my April Fools Day pranks were a little more devious (e.g. putting a rubber band around the spray nozzle at the kitchen sink and waiting for unsuspecting coworkers to wash their hands). This year, however, I decided to grow up a little bit. I picked up a set of R. Croft Double Blind Black Tasting Glasses from Lot18 and tried to dupe my wine buddies with a game we call “Blind Tasting Blackjack.” Sure, this may be the wine geek equivalent of a Star Trek enthusiast learning Klingon, but it’s a ton of fun, so lay off.

In Blind Tasting Blackjack everyone brings a wine for the group to try. Everyone is given a black glass and something with which to bet (e.g. poker chips, beans, coins). The person whose wine is to be tasted next functions as the moderator for that round. The moderator brings the glasses into another room and fills them up with their wine out of sight of the rest of the tasters. Once poured, the moderator brings the glasses in, passes them out, and the game is on.

The moderator will lead the contestants through several rounds of betting that become more and more specific, until finally, the identity of the wines are revealed. Contestants bet on each round based on how confident they are with their answer. After the bets are placed, the moderator asks players for their answer, and they either lose their bet or double their bet based on whether or not they answer correctly.

The rounds are as follows:

Smelling Only

• Is the wine red, white, or rosé?

• Is the wine dry or off-dry?

• Is it from the Old World or the New World?

Tasting and Smelling

• What country is the wine from?

• Is it a single variety or a blend?

• What is the name of the grape or dominant variety?

• What region is the wine from?

• What appellation is it from?

• Is the wine 1-3 years old, 4-6, or 7+?

• For those that are really brave, who is the producer?

This looks intimidating, but don’t be discouraged, I’ve played with Master Sommeliers who have barely gotten past the red or white round. Yesterday, in particular, no one got anything right because I threw in a few curveballs as a nod to the holiday.

One was a Bastianich skin contact Pinot Grigio. Though the grape usually yields white wine, Pinot Grigio’s pinkish skin can impart a little color, or in the case of this extra-long, 15-day maceration, the skins can make it damn near red. Being a moderator for this wine was hilarious. One taster called out “It’s obviously red,” just before another said “I bet the farm on white.” My friends’ arguments reached reality-television proportions. It was like pouring gasoline on the fire when I revealed that it was actually a rosé; now no one could possibly guess it was Pinot Grigio. “Dance, my puppets,” I thought to myself as I summoned my most evil Mr. Burns laugh.

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisHallowell