Tasting wines blind — where you don’t know what you’re drinking — is an extremely helpful and informative way to learn about wine. And it’s not just a party trick for the professional sommelier crew. If you don’t know what you’re drinking when you taste it, you eliminate your preconceptions about what’s in the glass, allowing you to more fully appreciate the wine and better understand its aromas and flavors. Over time, tasting blind can improve your sensory experience with any wine you consume — helping you determine whether a wine is drinking in line with expectations, or if it’s somewhere off on its own.
But… tasting wines blind is hard. You have to find an accomplice to pour the wine — and perhaps even acquire the wine — and keep it all a secret from you. Bags over bottles can only mask so much, as the capsule and even the shape of the bottle can give away much too much information.
Enter Master the World, a product designed to streamline and enhance the blind tasting process — and make it possible to easily taste wines blind at home whether you’re an aspiring pro or a curious amateur. Master the World sells monthly kits for $90 each (cheaper if you subscribe), each containing six 187ml bottles of wine. These wines — three white, three red — are selected from Master Sommeliers from wines produced all over the world, and you shouldn’t expect oddballs in the mix. They’re “benchmark varieties” that you’d likely encounter as part of a wine professional certification test.
The bottles are simply numbered and, outside of being able to tell the color, there’s no information provided about them. You follow along on the MtW website (recorded video webinars are also available, if you’re interested), provide your sensory notes, make your deductions about what they are, and then submit your guesses for instant grading.
I tried a recent kit and found it a lot of fun, though it’s daunting to walk through a checklist of literally hundreds of flavors and aromas to pick out those that you encountered. I definitely had some different opinions than the “panel evaluation” on certain wines — I definitely didn’t catch any arugula or celery in the pinot grigio, for example — but tasting can become awfully subjective when you get this far into the weeds. I tasted these along with live discussion from three of the master sommeliers behind MtW, which was even more daunting, because the pace moved so quickly. And for the record, I did terribly with my deductions about what was what.
My recommendation: taste the wines at a more measured pace; maybe one a day rather than all at once. Your palate and your brain will both thank you, and I think you’ll learn more that way.
MtW is a new startup, and I’m sure that things are going to evolve in the months ahead, but it’s already off to a great and compelling start. The cost seems a tad high for the amount of wine you’re getting, but really, can you put a price on a good education?