March Madness official rules

By Jesse on February 6, 2009

For six weeks, we’ll taste six of the world’s most recognizable varietals, one per week. After that, we’ll have two weeks of championship tasting, in which we go balls-out crazy with the blind tasting, drawing on what we’ve learned over the past six weeks in our effort to be crowned the official Young Winos blind tasting champion.

Each week, we bring bottles of the given varietal from all around the world. Before the tasting starts, two people volunteer to donate the two “mystery bottles,” and their wines are placed in brown bags. (For your wine to be granted this special honor, you must be sure that no one else knows what part of the world it’s from.)

We start things off with an open (non-blind) tasting of up to six bottles, representing the major regions where the particular wine is made. (For example, on Sauvignon Blanc week, we’ll taste one or two bottles each of French, American, and New Zealander.) When tasting, we pay special attention to what characteristics are typical of what regions.

Finally, we bring out the two mystery bottles in their brown bags. In complete silence, we sniff and taste wine #1, and then we make our region guesses on slips of paper, which are collected and put aside. Once everyone’s guess is in, we discuss the wine, and reveal the bottle. Then we repeat the process for #2, and we tally up the points. One point for each correct guess (incorrect guess results in no points, but points are not deducted). The donors each receive one-half point as compensation for not being able to participate in that round. Then we break for cheese time, and then we drink whatever bottles remain!

Following the six-week regular season, points are tallied, and seeds are assigned for the two-week playoff period. Seeds really mean nothing at all… but think of the bragging rights!! The most points any player can have after the six weeks is twelve points, and the player retains those points as they head into the playoffs.

The final two weeks are the championship blind tastings, which consist of the three whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay) one week, followed by the three reds (Syrah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon) the next week. Every bottle represents potential points in this round. One point is awarded for guessing the correct varietal; again, no points deducted for incorrect guess. Here’s the twist: players are allowed to guess the region in which the wine was made. Correct guess results in one extra point (i.e. a correct guess of “Syrah from California” gets two points). An incorrect region guess, however, results in the deduction of one-half point, if paired with a correct varietal guess (i.e. if it’s Syrah from California, and you guess Syrah from France, you receive only a half-point for your correct varietal guess). Guessing an incorrect region when the varietal was also incorrect results in no deduction — it’s just no points since you got the varietal wrong.