A popular parlor game among wine nerds is "blind tasting"; the identifying of a wine simply by observing and tasting it. And by "identifying", I mean not only the grape variety, but also the country and vintage of the wine.
As a sommelier in training (assuming I survived my first WSET test on August 2), I figured I should start practicing this, and Boka Restaurant on 1729 North Halsted is helping my untrained taste buds by hosting a free "Taste Your Palate" contest the first Tuesday of each month. The most accurate taster each month receives a $100 gift certificate to Boka; all players receive $10 off a $25 or more check if used the night of the contest.
Just before the August 4 tasting, I spoke with Matt Schneider, General Manager and Wine Director of Boka, to explain the game to me, and hopefully pick up some pointers.
There are four wines featured each month, and each player needs to identify the grape each wine is made from, and whether it comes from an Old World or New World country. Old World refers to countries such as France, Germany and Italy, i.e., they have made wine for hundreds, of years. Schneider identified some Old World wine characteristics which could include a rustic, "barnyard" aroma, and more of a mineral feel on the palate. Wine made in New World countries (such as Austrailia and the United States) generally play up the fruit and structure.
Schneider advises wine consumers to take notes, take the opportunity to try new wines, and if a wine particularly impresses you, to research it online.