Wine tasting is one of those social activities that just works better in groups. Perhaps that’s why so many wine enthusiasts enjoy hosting and attending wine tasting parties, complete with wine tasting party games and wine tasting party decorations. It’s exciting and fun to share differing opinions on the wines found on the wine tasting party menu, and it’s also a great opportunity to relax and catch up with old friends. Even if you’re not a seasoned hostess, here’s a look at how to throw a wine tasting p arty that won’t soon be forgotten.
Any good wine tasting party has to have a few common elements. You’re going to need wine, food, and friends. Take a look at your budget, and then start planning by looking at the basics.
To get your planning underway, start by brainstorming what type of wine tasting you’re most interested in hosting. Is this an event focusing on just red wines, just whites, or perhaps a celebration of all things bubbly? Or maybe you’re going a bit further down the rabbit hole and opting to focus on just one varietal. For example, perhaps you’re comparing only Chardonnays, but from different vineyards around the world? Whatever your style and tasting choice, the very first step to a successful party is to pick a theme for your wine.
From there, you’ll want to consider that foods that pair well with the wine you’ll be tasting. Are you planning to pair with cheese only, or would you like to incorporate hot hors devours? You’ll want to keep an eye on your budget here, and also be aware of your time commitment. If you don’t want to spend all day in the kitchen leading up to the party, or all evening washing dishes, perhaps simple foods are a better option. Food is generally saved until after the tasting event to avoid impacting the palate. Popular choices include fresh fruits, cheese, salads, and chocolate.
Finally, you’re going to need friends. The size of your event should be deliberately chosen. Too few people and it may be awkward to those who don’t know each other outside of the event. Too many people and the event loses that intimate vibe that leads to great conversation. Think about the size of your home and how many people can comfortably be seated before coming up with a guest list. In general, try to aim for 6-12 people total, and it’s ideal if they all have a similar knowledge base when it comes to wine.
You’ll want to make sure that you have all the supplies that are not consumable on hand well before your event. These include proper bottle openers, wine glasses, an ice bucket to chill white wines, and even a spittoon- in case a guest is really not fond of a certain offering. A few other things to consider:
Wine Glasses- No one expects a host to have a fresh, clean wine glass for each sample. Though, if you do, no one will fault you for it either! In general, plan on having one wine glass per guest. Typically a stemmed glass with a medium sized, oval bulb will work best. It’s generic enough to suit a variety of wine options. Consider purchasing or making stem charms to help your guests tell their glass apart from others.
Dress the Table- Table cloths aren’t just to make your event look fancy, turns out they have a practical use for wine tasting as well. The white backdrop of a nice table cloth will allow guests to get a better appreciation for the color and opacity of each wine. In addition, plan to set your table with ice water and crackers for each guest. These can help cleanse the palate between samples.
Score Cards- Each guest should have access to a pen and paper. The idea is that they can take notes on each wine and then discuss their thoughts with the group later. Since most people aren’t wine experts, you’ll want to give everyone a minute or two to gather their thoughts before they start writing. It can also be helpful if your note cards offer some guidance through prompts that encourage them to consider what they smell, see, and taste in each glass. There are no right or wrong answers.
When the big day finally arrives, you’ll want to plan ahead to make sure you have time to set up accordingly. Arrange wine bottles either directly on your dining table, or on a nearby buffet or countertop, keeping in mind that a table which is too cluttered can be distracting to the conversation. Also, you’ll want to avoid lighting incense, candles, or cooking highly aromatic foods. You want the air odors to be neutral so that your guests can enjoy the unique bouquet of each wine.
When it’s time to start tasting, a good rule of thumb is to taste the wines in their order of intensity. Most generally this means from lightest color to darkest. The one exception to this rule is if you plan to offer a dessert wine. Then, as the name suggests, that wine should be served last, no matter its color or intensity.
Finally, remember that you need to remain in control of the party. This means that you should plan on using the spittoon more often than not so that you don’t get intoxicated. If you don’t take the event seriously, your guests won’t either.