Tasting wines is a great way to learn what you like, explore the world, and try new things you might not have otherwise purchased. Be the envy of your social circles and host a wine soirée with your friends – it’s even fun for family gatherings and holidays.
Here are 4 tips to help you with the wine tasting party planning.
- Choose a Theme
With over 10,000 wine grape varieties in the world, choosing what to taste might seem like a daunting task. But picking a common theme, like the suggestions below, will help keep your gathering on track.
- Varietal: Perhaps you have an affinity for big California cabernets, or love the delicate and floral qualities of Viognier. You could also compare wines from traditional growing areas, like Rieslings from Germany, France, Australia, and Washington State.
- Wine Region: Pick your favorite region you’ve been or always wanted to visit. You could also ask guests to bring random wines from a particular country, and serve foods representing that cuisine.
- Vintage: When tasting the same wine from different vintages, it’s called vertical tasting and shows how time impacts a wine’s flavor profile. This can get a bit pricey, so for a cost-effective alternative, stick with recent verticals, like three cabernets from different vintages after 2000.
- Random!: Have everyone bring their favorite wine, possibly accompanied by a food item. Your guests can present the wine with their food pairing to the group.
- Gather your supplies
You will need a few things, prepared in advance, to host a successful soirée.
- Glassware: Stemmed glassware is a must, with at least one glass per person. Supply 2 per person if you can, so that wines can be tasted side by side.
- Water: Always drink water with wine. If tasting bold reds, sparkling water, like Pellegrino, helps to clean and refresh the palate.
- Notes: Provide something to write on. This can be blank paper or a typed list if you know the wines in advance. Use white paper, so that guests can use this as a background when looking at the color of the wine.
- Palate cleansers and spittoons: If you’re not serving food with the wines, you’ll need some palate cleansers like water crackers and plain bread. Also provide spittoons or opaque paper cups for guests, in case they don’t want to consume all of the wine.
- Plan your Menu
Whether offering snacks, a full meal, or encouraging a pot-luck style event, tell guests how much food is being served so they aren’t drinking on an empty stomach. Do planned pairings with a little research or go with the ever-popular cheese and charcuterie platter.
- Set the Scene
On the big day, give yourself a couple of hours to prepare. You’ll need some time to chill the white and sparkling wines. Beware of scented flowers, candles, lotions and other room aromas, because they mask the aromas and flavors of the wine. Also, have some wine books available in case there are questions, or you would like to know more on a subject. Some favorites include “Windows on the World…” by Kevin Zraly and “Wine: A Tasting Course” by Marnie Old.
If it’s not a blind tasting, arrange the wine in the order you’re serving it. Serve sparkling wines first, followed by light whites such as Sauvignon Blanc, and then rich whites like Chardonnay. Rosé wines should lead the next set, with light reds like Pinot Noir paving the way for bold red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon.dessert wines should always be last.
Each guest should receive 1-2 ounces of each wine, and each bottle contains about 25 ounces. Use a measuring cup or jigger to measure 2 ounces of liquid into one wine glass before your guests arrive so you know how much to pour. Did you know that some wine glasses used in restaurants and wine bars can fit an entire bottle of wine?
Your wine tasting might not be as intense as our annual wine tasting, so be sure to keep it fun and light hearted. Most of all, have fun sharing and learning together, perhaps establishing a new monthly tradition!
– Kat Wojcik