HOME > Chowhound > Wine >


Help me win Wine tasting party game, please.

This Saturday, a friend has asked everyone who wants to play to bring a bottle of wine to her party. She'll set it up like a tasting, and people will score the wines. Highest average score wins. She gave no $ limit, but since I usually don't spent more than $20 on wine, I've set that as my own limit.

Demographics: Couples, wide age range, but the average age late 30's. Probably more of the men will ignore the game. Mostly Southerners, all atheletes, lots of acedemics, fairly high income range, but many are not particularly sophisticated when it comes to food and wine. Guests will be munching on hot smoked salmon and various cheeses.

So, what kind of wine will most please an assortment of average janes? I have a Borsao Tres Picos garnacha in the basement, I also considered just a Coppola diamond series Claret, maybe a Monestrell? My wine store friend says Pinot, but I think most people would be more impressed by a big, bold fruit-bomb. I thought of Caymus Condundrum , but I'm thinking red will win this time of year.

Your thoughts? Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Among impressive reds at or around $20, I've often found that a well-fruited zinfandel is very competitive in these type "events"... It's probably the luscious silky texture and lip-smacking "cherry-ness" that gets them initially :)

    Find the best bottle you can from the best vintage year (in the source region) within your budget.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Chicago Mike

      I like this idea and the Folie A Deux Amador Zinfandel is sophisticated without all the alcohol that some of Zin's are showing these days. And it most likely is $15-20.

    2. I think you're on the right path with the garnacha. The bright, ripe, sweet raspberry flavor you get from grenache is a crowd-pleaser, and the Tres Picos is a nice example.

      I'm part of a group that often does unthemed blind tastings, and can tell you that more subtle wines like pinots often get lost in the shuffle.

      The Conundrum would probably work best w/ the munchies you've described but it doesn't sound like that's the primary goal.

      1. I have a friend who throws these every year, and the winner is always a different Australian Shiraz. Expensive is not necessarily better in these sort of events.

        And as a general rule, stay away from most things French. Rhones, Burgandies, and Bourdeauxs never do well (nor do Pinots from any part of the world).

        1. red wine will win, however it might not be the best choice. i would stay away from the caymus conundrum because of the R.S. a pinot noir would be great with the salmon, but it will be overwhelmed by what most other people will bring.
          to go with cheeses and to still show up the showy wines, i would maybe go for a cab franc from ny state or sw france. languedoc and sw france have some great deals and still have some fruit bomb qualities with great structure. maybe a tannat from uruguay or madiran. big, bold, juicy, and tannic. good with the food and big enough to stand up to the austrailian swill.

          btw, are the wines tasted blind? or are the bottles left out with their labels showing?

          17 Replies
          1. re: wagatron

            Good question. I think the lables will show, because there is also a "best lable" competition as well as a "worst bottle" , all three will have prizes.

            I had considered that something with a very traditional-looking French lable might sway people's perceptions, but I tend to agree with Megiac that French wines are often more austere than popular taste prefers.

            I had also considered bringing "the Stump Jump" an Aussie shiraz because that's the name of a local bike race (cycling team party) so I could go for the best lable consolation prize.

            1. re: danna

              I found the stump jump to be unbalanced and more like a cheap not very good rhone FWIW. If labels count, all the more reason to go with the boxer. Mollydooker has great labels.

              1. re: chrisinroch

                I'm listening!! Went to the wine store at lunch (when I was supposed to be running) They only have Mollydooker merlot , and a $55 Shiraz.

              2. re: danna


                Slightly tangential, but the “competition” would benefit from being blind in the tasting, and only after phase 1 of the event has been completed, THEN the labels and bottles can be judged in phases 2 & 3. Otherwise, the “best” wine, might just be the one with the most recognized, or prestigious label. I know that it is not your event, but the host/hostess should take the prestige aspect into consideration. Even with strong attempts to be objective, if folk are tasting a $150 bottle vs. a $20 bottle, it’s tough to give the gold medal to the cheaper one.

                Just an aside to keep the competition on the up & up.


                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  I totally agree...IF we were talking about YOUR friends, Bill, but I'm predicting here and now that if I brought a $30 bottle of wine, it would be the most expensive one there. I'm not sure more than a handful would KNOW a prestige name...unless somebody brings Cristal.

                  Hope that didn't sound bad...I really DO appreciate getting help from the serious wine people on this board.

                  1. re: danna

                    Actually the Mollydooker might do well in the label contest too.

                    1. re: dinwiddie

                      I need to get out more - and pick up the Mollydocker Boxer (right?). I'm not familiar with this wine, but have seen it so many times on CH, that I must be missing something here. I'm not normally a big fan of maninsteam OZ Shiraz, but do enjoy some, though usually not ones getting a lot of press.

                      Hunt, heading off to AJ's for his Mollydocker Boxer introduction...

                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        its a fruitbomb, but its really well balanced imo. If you dont like fruit forward wines, you might be disappointed. Its worth trying anyway but don't expect it to be the most complex thing youve ever tasted. I think it great tho. Pan fry or grill a steak or grill some lamb chops and dig in.

                        1. re: chrisinroch

                          I like big wines but have not been a big fan of the Boxer. To me it is so fat and thick it's like drinking a red wine milkshake.

                          This is not intended as a dig at anyone who likes it (notwithstanding my own personal preference, which is just that) but I find that people that are not "serious" wine drinkers tend to love the stuff.

                          1. re: Frodnesor

                            No offense taken. To make musical analogy; I like Saliva and I like Sarah McLaughlin. I appreciate an "in your face" cali cab as much as a delicate pinot noir. Maybe my favorite varietal is riesling which has been derided by many as a non-serious wine. I know that you are not making a pejoritive comment, I'm just making a personal comment about myself.

                            1. re: chrisinroch

                              Hey, anyone who derides Riesling deserves to be ridiculed! It's a great grape! Probably not "in your face" enough for this event, but a wonderful pairing with so many types of food, especially anything spicy like Thai or Indian...

                              1. re: tpn423

                                you tell 'em tpn...

                                we will ridicule every one of those riesling haters :)

                            2. re: Frodnesor

                              damn. I wish I could find the stuff. I'm pretty sure "red wine milshake" , loved by non-serious-wine-drinkers is exactly what I want!

                  2. re: danna

                    In an attempt to win both the best wine (with an Aussie Fruit Bomb) and best label competition, how about Barrel Monkeys Shiraz. Check out the label here: http://winelibrary.com/reviewwine.asp...

                    1. re: Megiac

                      That is a new one to me. I cannot help but laugh at chimps - whether on wine labels (a first), or in TV spots for whomever. Is it good wine? I'd probably pick up a bottle, though to stick into the bin with the "weird labels" like the buzzard from Helacious Acres Zin, The Adultress SB several Deep South wines with cuter labels, than good wine, etc.

                      Thanks for the laugh!


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        I have not tasted it, but heard very good things about it from a very wine savvy friend.

                      2. re: Megiac

                        THIS is a fabulous bottle. It was given to me as a gift. I shared it w/ a wino neighbor and we were both blown away. He called around to various wine boutiques and finally found it.

                        Very interesting history too: http://www.redheadswine.com/2.asp

                  3. If they don't drink wine, then avoid the claret. I'd go with an aussie fruit bomb or a sparkler.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: chrisinroch

                      Mollydooker the boxer, Rolf Binder Halliwell are in your price range and i think would be really good choices for your audience. BTW I just won a similar competition with Chat Ste. Michelle Brut last week.

                    2. My first choice would be a Santa Rita Hills PN, but that would be over your budget. Next, I'd think of a Barossa Shiraz, as you can probably find a well-made one, in that range. I also like the above idea of Zin, but most that I go for are a bit more per bottle. However, Rosenblum does some nice lower-priced ones.

                      The Conundrum has been a big crowd-pleaser (for me), especially when non-wine geeks are involved. I understand your trepidation on bringing a white.

                      Considering the demographic, I think I'd splurge a bit (about half again) and go with the SRHs PN. If you can find Brewer-Clifton, it might well win.

                      Now, what do you win? The chance to host the next party? Let us all know what you brought, and how it did, plus which wine won, and why you think it did.


                      1. Id go with a CA Zin or a Aussie Shiraz. My suggestions in the under $20 range would be:


                        2005 Buehler Zinfandel Napa Valley
                        2005 Seghesio Zinfandel Sonoma County


                        2005 Mollydooker The Boxer
                        2005 Thorn-Clarke Shiraz Barossa Shotfire

                        All of them are very good, fit the type of flavor profile that will please, and were made in enough quantity to be relatively easy to find.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: dinwiddie

                          That Shotfire shiraz is an excellent wine!!

                        2. Here's the "tasting" report..you're not going to believe it.

                          The winner was not only a white, but a homemade scuppernong wine. (scuppernong is the golden variety of the muscadine grape grown in the south) Now, I'm not sure this win meant that the crowd's tastes ran to the extremely sweet, of if it had more to do with the cute little pudgy guy who brought it and who was working the room pretty hard, making sure everyone tried his wine.

                          Best lable was a Red Bicycle bottle (bike team party, remember). I've forgotten what won "worst", but my best friend's husband filed a protest: he fully expected the Beringer white zinfandel he brought to win worst. No one even tasted it.

                          My entry was the Thorne-Clark Shotfire. Although it didn't wow me, i probably would have selected it to actually drink over everything else. It was the first bottle to empty. The most common entries were California Cabs, althought there was 1 Riesling, 1 South American Cab/Carmenere blend, a Nobilo Sauv. Blanc, and Acacia Pinot Noir. Somebody brought a Coppola Syrah which was surprising bad.

                          The most interesting thing to me was a friend wanted me to try the wine she brought. I did, and thought it was pretty good ..a California Cab, I cannot remember which. She paid $30...I'm assuming that was the most expensive wine brought. Shortly thereafter, another friend asked me to taste something, to see if it's corked. I had never tasted (well...ever noticed, obviously) a cored bottle. But since he pointed it out, yes, I can see where the "wet cardboard" description comes from. Then he tells me it's my friend's Cab. Hmmm....that's embarrassing. BTW, the guy who spotted the corked wine also voted for my Shotfire, so that pleased me.

                          Finally, another interesting wine was a Barbera that the bringer said came from her brother-in-law's vinyard in Italy. When I tasted it, I thought, "oh yeah, this is the winner"...but it had the strangest finish...like nail polish.

                          Thanks again for the advice....just wait 'til next year!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: danna

                            "But since he pointed it out, yes, I can see where the "wet cardboard" description comes from. Then he tells me it's my friend's Cab. Hmmm....that's embarrassing."
                            Happens to the best of us. Different people have different levels of sensitivity to TCA. Sometimes the taint will be right at the threshold of your ability to perceive it, so you don't notice it until someone points it out.

                            "it had the strangest finish...like nail polish."
                            That's a not uncommon wine-making defect, even in wines made by pros. The culprit is ethyl acetate, which "is formed by the reaction of the most common volatile organic acid in young wine, acetic acid, with the most common alcohol produced by fermentation, ethanol" (Oxford Companion to Wine).

                            1. re: carswell

                              Question: can a bottle of wine have a moldy cork and the wine not taste "affected". I had an inexpensive bottle of chablis and when I pulled the cork I was shocked. I had never had a tainted cork so visibly moldy. With hesitation I tasted the wine and I didn't pick up on anything "off". Is it possible? I mean the majority of the cork was greyish.

                            2. re: danna

                              I just learned the homemade wine won both "best" and "worst" in the voting, so an alternative "worst" was selected. Isn't that interesting? One man's trash is another man's treasure.

                              1. re: danna

                                that is interesting but I can see how a simple fruity wine with no tannins would appeal to novices but turn off wine drinkers at that same time.