Blind Ambition

The sommelier at Henri teaches you how to taste

Never again will we buy a bottle of wine solely because we liked the cute label.

While we admit that we've judged bottles by their cover–or label–in the past, we vow: never again. That's thanks is part to Henri sommelier Jon McDaniel, who has started a series at Henri focused on blind tasting.

The first, "Jon McDaniel vs. The World," will serve French and American varietals side by side with each course. These aren't wine-snobbery competitions; instead, the series is meant to help experts and novices alike figure out which wines they actually enjoy.

"Blind tasting is about getting rid of what you think you like," explains McDaniel, "and figuring out what you actually like. It gets you out of your comfort zone."

Even if you don't attend his events, here are his tips for blind wine tasting at home.

1) Have a theme. "Taste five different Pinots or five different Italian wines," McDaniel recommends. Otherwise, you won't learn much, because you aren't comparing similar things.

2) Ditch the fancy language. "I can tell you something tastes like gooseberries, but if you've never had a gooseberry, how can you taste it in a wine?" insists McDaniel. When you sip, immediately say out loud what you actually taste in the wine (McDaniel unappetizingly calls it a "taste vomit"), not what you think it's supposed to taste like.

3) Start with Sauvignon Blanc. McDaniel thinks this wine is the best starting point for blind tasting because it's approachable and regional variations in taste are obvious. Pick varieties from California, France and New Zealand. He promises you will be able to tell the difference.