Your Quick Guide to Hosting a Wine Tasting Party

Oct 8th 2014

The Waterfall Wine Collection Unlike music or art history, colleges tend not to offer coursework in wine tasting for those of us wanting to acquire a greater appreciation for wine. But with just a few tips, you can move beyond the cursory sniff and taste that determines whether or not you simply like a wine into the more sophisticated and nuanced practices of wine tasting.  One way to begin is to jump right in by hosting a wine tasting of your own. Why You Should Host a Wine Tasting Party For most of us, “a wine tasting” brings to mind a formal affair at a vineyard or specialty wine store, where people sniff, taste, and spit out different vintages. But don’t be intimidated – there are many reasons why hosting a simple wine tasting party at home is a great idea!  For one, it’s always fun to get a group of friends together, and some of your friends are probably interested in understanding and evaluating wine, just as you are.  Also, a wine tasting is a relatively simple type of party to throw.  It’s fun and engaging, and it typically requires less preparation and clean up than other types of get-togethers.  This allows you and your guests to spend more time enjoying one another’s company, rather than having to focus on the logistics of the party itself.  It’s the perfect type of get together for our Wendell August customers who appreciate both the simple and the sophisticated! Creating the Structure for the Event Ideally, wine tasting should be done without distractions to the senses. Therefore, food should not be served while the wine tasting is underway, but you could serve dinner prior to the tasting or have the tasting first, followed by hors d’oeuvres or dessert.  There is no right or wrong way to separate eating from the tasting, but it’s a good idea to let your guests know what they’re in for on your invitation so they may plan accordingly. Next, plan to arrange the wine tasting area where everyone can gather together. If you have the seating, this could be around your dining room table.  However, you can just as effectively gather everyone around a kitchen island or similar space.  It’s a good idea to cover the area with a white table cloth, as this will aid in the sight portion of the tasting. Finally, provide ways for guests to keep track of what is being tasted and share their experiences. Provide tasting grids (like this one from epicurious) and a pens, so they can take notes and share thoughts.  Prior to beginning, provide everyone with a preview by arranging the wines in order.  There are no set rules, but it can be helpful to order the wines from white to red, from dry to sweet, and from light to heavy. Use this simple Wine Party Tasting Checklist to help you through the planning process. Know the Basics & Walk Your Guests through the Steps Explain to your guests that you will take them through the process and note you’ll be engaging the senses of sight, smell, and taste for each wine. You may also want to clarify any of the wine terminology on your tasting grids for your guests.  Remind everyone it’s supposed to be fun and that there are no right or wrong reactions!  Then lead your guests through the steps that follow: Introduce the first sample Begin by introducing and pouring the first wine and provide a brief overview of the steps so guests will know what’s coming next. Instruct everyone to look Demonstrate holding the glass over the white tablecloth at a 45-degree angle. Ask everyone to consider the wine’s color and intensity. Give example questions to consider, such as: Would you describe the color as [a deep red, pale gold]? Does the color saturate the entire glass or does it look watery around the edges? Does it look thick or thin? Solicit additional questions and observations from the group. Ask everyone to sniff Place the glass on the table and swirl it, asking everyone to follow suit. The aromas are released in the thin veneer of wine that lingers on the sides of the glass. Ask guests what the smell reminds them of and offer some suggestions such as fruits (citrus, apple, berries, cheery, melon, plum, peach), vegetables (green peppers, beet root, celery), herbs and spices (mint, cinnamon, vanilla), chocolate, or tobacco. Encourage your guests to close their eyes if it helps. Tell everyone to take a sip and swish Next, ask everyone to take a small mouthful of wine and swish it around before they swallow it. Ask them to consider whether or not the flavors align with the scents they identified in the previous step, as well as whether the wine tastes sweet or dry, thick or thin, light or heavy. Give the okay to swallow Swallow the wine and evaluate its finish. Challenge everyone to evaluate Ask who liked this wine and challenge everyone to attempt to explain exactly what they like or dislike, as it will help identify wines to enjoy in the future. Remind the group that there are no right or wrong answers—it's all a matter of personal taste. Repeat the steps with your other selections and enjoy! If you are looking for a selection of wine accessories to present to your host, or to give out to party guests, here is a great selection.