On Thursday 3rd November, RLSB hosted a blindfolded wine tasting evening at the Wembley Hilton to raise awareness of the charity’s work with blind children and young people and their families. While there, guests were able to find out how being blindfolded affected the way they smelled and tasted different wines.
The evening was opened by Jude Thompson, Education and Quality Director at RLSB after the guests got to know each other over an opening glass of wine and a large cheese board. Jude gave a brief history of RLSB and spoke of the charity’s goal to support families and give blind young people the skills and confidence to live life without limits.
Our Online Communities Assistant Kevin gave guests a glimpse into his RLSB journey. He spoke about going to RLSB summer schools when he was a child, where he made life-long friends and tried activities he never thought he could do. He spoke of the vital work that RLSB does giving blind young people the chance to meet other vision impaired friends who understand one another, as well as providing activities that boost job skills and education.
Sommelier for the evening, Akos Hervai, founder of Clusters to Wine, kicked off the tasting by asking everyone to don their blindfolds with his catchphrase “Blindfolds down!”
Serving the wine
Experienced with serving blind customers in restaurants, Akos and his staff walked behind each blindfolded person, tapped them on the shoulder, whispered “I’m behind you” then directed their hand to the glass in front of them. At first, people were very cautious of taking the glass and dropping it, but once they had the glass firmly in their hand, their confidence grew.
‘Taste with your nose’
When each glass was served Akos instructed everyone to “taste the wine with your nose.” Without sight, their senses focused in on the smells of the wine making them more intense.
Akos took everyone on a tour of the scents in the wine. He asked guest what they could smell. The audience responded with a wide range of suggestions – some said it smelled citrusy and others suggested rubber bands. With each comment, the smell of the wine transformed itself into vastly different aromas. Akos explained that the smells can be so varied within one glass of wine as there are many aroma compounds created in the fermenting process. Each aroma compound can suggest multiple smells to our noses.
Once they had plumbed the depths of the aromas, only then was it time to taste the wine. There were four different wines served throughout the night, a sparkling Prosecco, a crisp, white Chablis, a red buttery Rioja, finishing with a sweet and complex dessert wine to round things off.
As with the aromas, Akos guided everyone around the tastes in the wine. Flavour suggestions were gathered from the guests – honey, peach and black forest gateau. Once again with the blindfold on, the guests’ minds were focused on the aromas combining with the taste. Each new suggestion allowed them to find taste they might not have found on their own. With every sip, the wine transformed into a new delicious flavour. Then guest could take the blindfolds off to finish the glass of wine – if there was any left.
The crowd was a mixed bunch, from wine novices to connoisseurs, yet everyone was equal in sharing the experience of tasting blind. Akos peppered the evening with fascinating facts from how the shape of the glass affects the taste of the wine and why to alerting everyone to the impending rise in Chablis prices after a harvest-damaging hailstorm in the growing region this year.
The experience certainly allowed people to engage with RLSB’s cause whilst having a great time. Everyone left with a smile, a new favourite wine and a better understanding of vision impairment and how RLSB believe in a better life for blind children..
Update: In January 2017, RSBC merged with the Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB). Although we are now called RSBC, there may be some references to RLSB in this blog.
Would your family and friends be game for trying out different wines and using their senses to guess what they are? If you’ve been inspired to host your own wine tasting at home or would like to know about our upcoming events fill in your details below and we’ll be in touch.