Whether you’re an experienced wine connoisseur or new to the world of wine, hosting a wine tasting party can be fun for you, your family, and friends. While having a wine tasting party can sound a bit pretentious, it’s actually a great way to spend some quality time with friends while learning about different wines. It’s also quite simple to prepare for, just as long as you understand the basic elements of what a wine tasting party consists of before you pop the corks.
First, you should decide whether you’re going to have a “blind” or “non-blind” wine tasting party. Blind tasting parties consist of concealing a wine’s identity as tasters compare and contrast their various qualities. Non-blind tasting parties do not hide the identities of the wines being tasted. While blind wine tasting parties can be a little more complicated than non-blind wine tasting parties, both are fun and educational. In this article, we will only discuss the aspects of non-blind tasting parties.
You’ll want to determine what varieties of wine to taste, as well as how many to try. You have a variety of options to choose from in determining what types of wine to pick. You can go from white to red to dessert; pick wines that come from the same grapes around the world; or taste wines that come from one specific region. It’s completely up to you to decide which direction you want your wine tasting journey to take.
How much wine you buy is going to be determined by how many people you invite. Remember, it’s a tasting party, not a gulp-fest, so each person will only need to consume about two ounces of each type of wine. A good rule of thumb is to buy one bottle for every ten people. Of course, if you’re inviting thirty people to your wine tasting, it can get expensive. So, you might want to consider asking each guest to bring a specific bottle of wine to save money. Just make sure all the guests are aware that they are responsible for providing a specific wine for a specific purpose or all your planning will fall apart.
Once you’ve decided on your wine varieties, determine what order you’ll be tasting each wine. You should generally serve your wines from white to red, light to full-bodied, sweet to dry, and/or young to old. A good place to start with your first wine tasting party would be to choose several white wines, several red wines, and one or two sparkling wines. This combination allows guests with varying palates a better opportunity to find a type of wine that they like.
Before setting up for your wine tasting party, make sure your wine varieties will be served at the proper temperatures. Your white wines should be chilled, but not too cold, and your red wines at cellar or room temperature. A good rule of thumb to follow is to remove your whites from the refrigerator and then place your reds into the refrigerator about 15 minutes before the tasting begins. This will help all your wine varieties taste their best at the proper temperatures.
Each guest will need to have a wine glass, preferably one with a large bowl for swirling and sniffing. Provide everyone with a disposable cup to use if they choose not to swallow their wine. Also provide one larger container for guests to pour their unused wine between varieties. You should also provide a pitcher of water for guests to rinse out their glasses between wines. You’ll want to prepare ahead of time a tasting card that lists each wine, a short description of the varieties, as well as a list of characteristics to rate each wine. This tasting card can be made into a grid with each wine listed on the left side and columns representing the color, aroma, flavor, finishing, and overall assessment. Finally, you’ll want to have bread, salt-free crackers, and bottled water available for cleansing the palate between wines.
Once your guests arrive, place the wines out in the order they’ll be tasted and pour two to three ounces into each glass. Ask your guests to hold the wine up and discuss the color and depth of each wine. Discussions throughout the tasting will make for a more complete and fulfilling experience for all. Next, swirl the wine in the glass to release the aromas, bring the glass to your nose, breathe deeply, and describe the strengths or varieties of smells. Now you can taste the wine, but hold it in your mouth and try to feel the flavors. Is it acidic or sweet; are the tannins high or low; is it light or full-bodied; and can you taste the alcohol content? Swallow the wine and think about its finish, or aftertaste. Does the flavor stay in your mouth or is it gone in an instant? Finally, everyone can discuss how they felt about the wine overall. Did they like it or hate it and why?
After all the wines have been tasted and the tasting cards tallied, you can reveal the final results. Which wines were the most and least popular? After it’s all said and done, your guests can enjoy more of their favorites wines that are leftover and everyone will have learned something new, interesting, and had some fun in the process. The final step will probably be choosing who will host the next wine tasting event…cheers to that!