By Lizzie Dixon
Wine-tasting parties are a fun way to get together with friends, try new wines and experiment with different vintages and food pairings. Not the pompous affairs sometimes portrayed in the media, low-key gatherings with close friends offer a unique opportunity to relax and have a great time while learning more about wine. With a little planning and preparation, you can host a wine party to remember.
Choose Your Theme
A successful wine party needs a theme. Experiencing and comparing flavors and combinations is what a wine party is all about. A theme can be as simple as comparing different vintages to more elaborate pairings of wine and cheese.
Popular wine party themes include:
Horizontal Tasting: In a horizontal tasting, you’ll compare a single wine variety from the same year but different producers.
Vertical Tasting: During a vertical tasting, you’ll compare different wine vintages from the same producer.
Wine and Cheese: Wine and cheese tasting lets you compare how different wines and cheeses taste when served together.
Price Point Tasting: For price point tasting, you’ll compare similarly priced wines.
Blind Tasting: For blind tasting, all labels are removed from the wine bottles before the tasting, and guests vote on their favorites.
Other ideas include wine and chocolate pairings, old wines versus new wines and different price pairings. If you have wine from wine clubs, look for a related theme. Be creative and have fun.
Choose up to six wines to offer your guests. People lose the ability to perceive subtle differences if given too many at once. Create tasting cards for your guests so that they can record their impressions. You can let them write whatever they want or use a rating system with space for comments. Design informational cards for each selection. Include the year (vintage), variety and the producing vineyard. Wine clubs provide a wealth of information with each delivery, so add any relevant or interesting information.
Decide on the number of guests you can accommodate. Do you plan to have your party at home? How many can you comfortably serve and seat? A wine party rule of thumb is one bottle of each wine type per 12 people. Obviously, more people means more wine, so consider your budget. Invite guests at least two weeks before your party date.
Creating the right ambiance for your setting makes the wine party experience all the more engaging. Luckily, that’s easy to do with a white tablecloth and soft candlelight. Displaying empty wine bottles or other wine-related items in different areas of the room adds a subtle charm.
Provide a large bowl wine glass for each guest and disposable cups for those who prefer not to swallow the sample. Furnish an ample amount of drinking water along with plain bread or crackers for cleansing palates between selections. Provide an unused wine disposal container.
Wine Tasting Party Tips and Tricks
Give each guest approximately 2 ounces of wine per taste.
Serve white wines first, then more full-bodied reds.
Serve sweet wines before dry.
White wines are best served chilled, but not cold.
Red wines are best served at cellar temperature.
Encourage guests to swirl, sniff and observe the color of each selection.
Wine clubs offer high quality selections that make wonderful wine-tasting choices.
A wine-tasting party is a great way to discover new wines and enjoy the company of friends and family. Parties also give you a chance to learn more about which wines you prefer. Wine parties take a little effort, but the result is a whole lot of fun.