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Murray Almond's "From the Left Island"

A Bluffer's Guide to Blind Tasting
Part 4 - Taking a WAG and getting to Carnegie Hall

© Murray Almond
25 September 2001

Being an expert bluffer requires many skills, as you've seen through this series, you need to Check the Bottle; Know Your Enemy, and employ various techniques, the best I've found being the Snotta Method.

In this last lesson, I'll be discussing a series of further refinements to your Bluffing technique that will aid other's perception of you as a blind wine tasting expert. This is important as, for we well know, perception is reality.

If All Else Fails, Take a WAG
The techniques I've set out in previous lessons should hold you in good stead for the vast majority of blind wine tastings, however there may be a time when you just don't have a clue. In this case the worst thing you can do is say nothing. Note that you can say nothing in the context of a long pause, however this must be matched with a studious reflective gaze while giving the appearance you're refining your pick of the wine.

Don't say nothing, but if you've got nothing to say, take a WAG. A WAG is a well known term to management consultants, accountants and quiz-show contestants. WAG stands for "Wild-Arsed-Guess". A WAG can be employed with great value when all else has failed. This is because having eliminated the stuff the wine isn't, especially using the Snotta Method, taking a WAG of the remaining alternatives just has a smidge of a chance of being right. If you are right, your legendary status is confirmed, if wrong, this can be dismissed with "Even Halliday/Campbell/Jancis/Parker (pick which one you prefer) gets it wrong sometimes.

A WAG has got me out of a sticky situation at a blind wine tasting many times.

Getting to Carnegie Hall
To finalise this course, there is an important lesson that's best highlighted by a very old joke; A man was wandering the streets of New York trying to get to a concert venue for an event there. At a street corner he approached an old man who was busking by playing smooth blues on the saxophone and asked "Excuse me; how do get to Carnegie Hall?" The man stopped playing, looked at him and said "Practice Baby, Practice".

It does take practice to become an expert bluffer, the more you practice checking the bottle, knowing your enemy, using the Snotta Method and taking the odd WAG, the better your technique, and your bluff, will be. So become a Blindee, and also a Blinder, as often as you can.

But it doesn't stop there; there are other things you can do as well:

  • Browse the liquor stores, checking the bottles, noting the shape, the labels, and the prices. It's vital to be up to date with this stuff.
  • While you're browsing, pick up a bottle or two to taste at home. This can help in tuning your tasting buds a touch.
  • If you want to get a bit of practise at home, get a good retailer and ask them to pick a couple of bottles within you price limit and ask them to wrap the bottles so you don't know what they are. Then you can taste them blind at home, employ the Check the Bottle principles and see how good your WAG's are in the comfort and privacy of your own home.
  • Check the papers; often a Blinder will pick the current 'hot' wine in the press to test you on. This may be a new release, a trophy winner, or a high-pointer. Knowing what's hot can improve your chances, especially with a bit of Snotta Method thrown in.

After doing all this you may surprise yourself, not only are you bluffing successfully, you may also find that you've actually got to a stage where you're not bluffing any more.

All of this is just a part of the overall enjoyment of all that is great about wine.

© Murray Almond
25 September 2001

Send comments to Murray at

Other Lessons in the Bluffer's Guide to Blind Tasting
Introduction and Part 1 - Check the Bottle
Part 2 - Know Your Enemy
Part 3 - The Snotta Method

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