If you enjoy wine, then anytime of year is a good time to have a wine tasting and hanging out with good friends. If you also enjoy entertaining, then this will be nothing but fun for you! However, if throwing a wine tasting party seems a little intimidating and/or expensive, don’t worry! This is about having fun not breaking the bank! I have some ideas to throw an easy and inexpensive wine tasting at home.
It doesn’t have to be expensive. You could host a party with a collection of inexpensive wines just to see which ones taste the best and you might even find a wine that could end up a favorite. You can choose from red (Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, Red Zinfandel,) or white (Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvingon Blanc, Riesling.) You could have different varieties such as comparing Pinot Noir from New Zealand’s Central Otago, California’s Russian River Valley, Oregon’s Dundee Hills, Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits, or California’s Sonoma Coast or stick to a specific region. Taste through a series of similarly styled wines for example, select an array of “crisp, dry white wines” or “rich, bold reds” or “dessert wines.”
Another idea is to ask your guests to bring a wine (or two) that they enjoy or a new one they want to try and that no one else has had before. Keep all the wines at an agreed upon price point and don’t tell anyone the cost…. I have had some really inexpensive wines that have tasted surprisingly good. It will be fun to guess the price after the tasting.
Six to twelve guests is a good number for a wine tasting and 6 or 7 different wines will be enough so you don’t overwhelm your guests (and you want everyone to drink responsibly or at least not drive home). I usually serve a 2oz pour and 6-7 different wines are quite sufficient. You can mix red and white wines for variety. For me the dining room table would be perfect or a space where you can all see each other to discuss the wines. Also don’t cross taste so you don’t remember which is which wine. If this is a serious tasting, take pictures of the wine labels and write notes so you all remember which wines impressed you.
Food is really important for a few reasons. You don’t want your guests drinking on an empty stomach and it is also fun to taste what food pairs well with the wines you are tasting. There are several ways to do this as you can see by the pictures above. You can have a long platter at the dining table (or several smaller ones) in the middle for people to nibble as they are tasting, or you can set it up as shown above with the wine paired with the cheese which will take some research but that is part of the fun. You can also serve a platter with cheeses, meats, fruits and various types of breads and artisan crackers, if you want to go all out and get fancy.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, try doing a little extra research on how the acids, tannins, and sugar in foods interact with wines. Try tasting bitter chocolate, salted nuts, acidic lemon, or creamy cheese alongside the same wine to see how wine reacts to various components. Make sure that guests know what will be served so they don’t arrive with an empty stomach if you’re only serving light hors d’oeuvres.
The options for the wine tasting are endless. You can be really creative, or keep it bland with dried toast or crackers and cheeses or chips and dip… it is all about the effort you want to put into this. You can do a wine and fondue tasting, a champagne tasting, a wine dinner with 4 courses and a dessert buffet… so many options and so little time!
You could end the tasting with chocolates and wine – either sweet wine or a red which goes surprisingly well with dark chocolates. Fruit with bolder cheeses would work with any leftover wines as well.
Generally each bottle has 750 ml and the average taste is 2 oz. So one bottle can serve up to 12 guests. Provide water to swirl out the glass after each new wine, and a bucket for pouring it out. Some hosts like to hand out a wine tasting grid which is used to rate the wine according to several sensory characteristics (smell, taste, texture) or provide pad and paper for notes. The five basic steps for a successful tasting are: Introduction, look, smell, swallow, and evaluate. If you do your research on the wines you should have the tasting notes and it is fun to see whether your guests can identify the aroma and taste. In order to see the color clearly you should have clear wine glasses and a white background such as the table linens. Don’t forget to give everyone a glass of cold water to to cleanse their palate after each taste.
You could do a blind tasting; pour wines into decanters or pitchers, labeling them by number, or simply wrap the bottles in foil or serve from brown bags, disguising their identity. This is a fun and conversationally interactive way to really taste wines objectively. If you have a trusted wine shop with knowledgeable staff, have them select the wines for you, so even you are in on the blind!
I enjoy hosting wine tastings with a lot of components…so I will either serve champagne cocktails for my guests as they arrive with some appetizers, or have a champagne bar where guests can create their own for an interactive fun atmosphere. I also serve appetizers as the guests arrive and then after everyone is present we start the tasting.
If you have any unused wine you can keep white wine in the fridge for up to 5 days and red wine for 3-4 days. Make sure you put the cork back in.
You could of course always contact me to do a wine tasting for you and your guests or at the office for you and your VIP clients or guests. Just complete the form below and we will contact you for a free consultation.