Tired of hosting the same familiar backyard barbeque or conventional dinner party? Why not opt for a new soiree and entertain your friends with your very own evening of wine tasting? You will be quite surprised that a wine tasting is quite simple to plan and is more budget-friendly than elaborate dinners. So, sit back and get ready for all the tips and tricks you need to organize your next event.
First off, consider your guest list and narrow it down to no more than eight guests. Wine tastings are typically intimate affairs and a small number works well. Invite friends who are relaxing, fun, and share an appreciation of wine. The atmosphere of a wine tasting allows you, as the host, to spend more time in conversation with your guests than would a cocktail or dinner party.
Now comes the most exciting fun part, selecting a theme! There are several popular trends in themes for wine tastings.
- Regional: A wine tasting focused on a specific region would only serve wines from one particular locale. Common choices are Tuscany, Napa, or even your own state. It is perfectly fine to mix red and white wines at a tasting party and check out local wine shops for recommendations.
- Varietal: A varietal tasting would serve an assortment of wines made from the same grape, but produced in different regions. Select a notable variety to focus on such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, or Merlot. This type of wine tasting is great for beginners and illustrates how the same grape can taste differently depending on where it was cultivated.
- Blind: A blind tasting can be a lot of fun! You could pair the regional theme with a blind tasting or just select an array of wines. For a blind tasting you cover or remove the labels and mark each wine with a letter or number. Blind tastings offer up the opportunity to play a guessing game to identify the wines after tasting them. Consider having a prize for the winner.
When it comes to purchasing wines, do not go overboard. Four to eight wines is more than enough for a tasting party, in fact five is a good number of wines to serve. Too many different wines would only overwhelm the palette of the taster and lessen the experience. A good estimate for how much wine you would need is at least a half bottle of wine per guest (total, not for each wine) for tasting purposes or two bottles of each wine to be served if you want to be able to enjoy more after the tasting.
Each guest should be given one quality glass to use for the evening or one glass for red wine and one glass for white wine. Make coasters for each guest or use wine charms so that guests always know which glass is theirs. Unless you are going with a varietal theme, wines should be served from light to dark. The serving order is as follows: sparkling wine (Champagne), light white wine (Sauvignon Blanc), bold white wine (Chardonnay), light red wine (Pinot Noir), bold red wine (Cabernet), and lastly, sweet wine (dessert or Port). Make sure each wine is chilled to its appropriate temperature, neither too cold nor room temperature. There are guides available to direct you in knowing the best temperatures for different wine varieties.
Prepare tasting cards for your guests to use for taking notes or ranking the wines. This is a good place to record appearance, aroma, flavor, and more. For each tasting, pour approximately two ounces in every glass. Allow around five minutes between each taste, have water available, and offer other palate cleansers like water crackers or French bread. Do not have your guests rinse their glasses between servings because even the smallest amount of water could dilute the wine and alter its taste. Place a bucket in a central location for the disposing of extra wine that is not enjoyed by the taster. After all wines have been sampled, have the guests discuss which wines are their favorites.
Make sure your guests know what to expect with regards to food; typically appetizers would be served and not a full meal and you would not want your guests to show up hungry. Serve hors d’oeuvres before, during, or after the tasting. You could research pairings for snacks that would best complement specific wines or serve a variety of light nibbles. Vegetables, berries, cured meats, cheeses, almonds, and dark chocolate are great at a wine tasting party.
Other tips that could help make your tasting a more enjoyable experience, though not necessary, are invitations and décor that is inspired by your theme. Use music to enhance the atmosphere. If seated at a table, use a white tablecloth under good lighting so your guests can really see the colors of the wines. Another suggestion is to avoid candles, potpourri, and perfume; these scents will distract from the ability to truly taste the wine. Most importantly, just relax and have fun!