So you've just started to enjoy wine and you want to learn more. How do you begin to learn the tastes of each wine, how do you differentiate between them, particularly when one has just been poured in front of you and you don't know what it is?
SOMM Blinders Game can be quite daunting to the novice wine drinker. When I played my first game I was incredibly nervous, playing alongside people who had been drinking wine for longer than I've been alive, not to mention the two that work in wine, one being my manager at work.
Despite the knowledge we think we know, the game can go in favor of anyone at the table; that of the novice, the professional or even the Master Sommelier. It's a normal card game of luck and chance, fueled by your initial guess of what the wine might be based on smell and taste. However, the cards aid in your guess by prompting you to taste more flavors that you wouldn't think of. With 48 descriptor cards you sit there trying to taste vanilla, hibiscus, violet, cherry or, shockingly, cat pee, hinting to your olfactory senses the flavors and aromas that could be present.
Around the table you discover what cards the others put down, and wonder if they know what they're talking about or if they're just full of themselves. "They threw away a Cabernet Sauvignon card, that's the wine I was banking on!". Every round and every turn has you second guessing your initial thoughts, but I think you have to go with your gut. Was the initial smell of Cab Sav or Pinot Noir? Was the taste strongly acidic, free of tannins... did it leave you with the burning alcohol sensation?
By the time round 5 comes along you've changed your mind between all the wines it could possibly be, even questioning the Riesling when the bottle is clearly a red... but you have no faith anymore! Those that seemed confident from the beginning take a guess and fall short, leaving you feeling a little better than when the game started. The wine is finally revealed but now you actually realize why; and so you smell again, taste again and pick up the flavors that the cards reveal to be present, leaving yourself with more knowledge of a Bordeaux from France and how it should taste on the palate, giving yourself another wine you can pick next time you're standing at a loss in front of the red wines section in the liquor store, looking for the $15 price range with a pretty label. Anyone else relating?
After a fun evening with friends, you walk away having learnt a little more about wine, giving yourself some more confidence for the next dinner you have with work friends or your in-laws, rather than the usual exclamation of "I like red wine".