How to Host a Wine Tasting Party
Sharing is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Half the fun of buying and cellaring a bottle of fine wine is opening it in the presence of your friends or family members and watching everyone’s faces light up when they taste it. But why stop at just one bottle? If you’re going to have friends and family over to sample your collection, they might as well taste an assortment of different wines so they can compare and contrast. Congratulations: you’re hosting a wine tasting party.
The idea of inviting a group of people over to your house and having them taste a bunch of different wines seems simple. But you not be sure exactly how to execute it. Should you wear anything special? How many bottles of wine will you need? What kinds of snacks or hors d’oeuvres should you serve with it?
WhisperKOOL is here to help you figure all this out. Let’s start at the beginning.
1. Choosing the Wine
This is probably the easiest part of the whole process. This is your party, and you decide how many bottles you want to include. But the experts recommend no more than five. (More than that will overwhelm your guests’ palates.) Ideally, you should have five bottles for tasting, and then five of the same bottles for drinking afterward, if they prove to be a hit with your guests.
Still not sure what types or vintages of wine to provide? Some connoisseurs advise that you choose a theme for your wine tasting party. You could pick a selection of five wines from a specific wine-growing region, for example, like Rioja in Spain or Central Otago in New Zealand. Or, conversely, you could choose a specific type of wine—say, pinot noir—and select five pinot noirs from different wine-growing regions around the world. You could pick a selection of five wines based on almost any criteria: their price, their style (dessert wine, table wine, dry white wine, rich red), or their vintage (five wines from, say, the year 2013).
You might also do a “blind tasting,” and place the wine bottles in brown paper bags or cover them with aluminum foil if you really want to keep your guests guessing. And speaking of guests…
2. Choosing the Guests
Keep your guest list short, no more than ten people. Otherwise there won’t be enough wine to go around, conversations will blur and blend together, and it’ll be more difficult to keep everyone’s glass topped up. Remember that you won’t be pouring full glasses of wine for each guest—this is a tasting, so pour at most 3-4 ounces per glass, perhaps even two-ounce “tasters.” Keep in mind that your guests may want to re-taste certain wines, too. Realistically, you’re going to need one bottle of wine per person, perhaps even two—so plan the guest list accordingly.
3. Other Wine Tasting Supplies
Some wine tasting party supplies to consider are:
- Glassware. You’ll need at least one Bordeaux glass for each person at the party. Some experts advise two, so guests can taste and compare two wines simultaneously.
- Notebooks and pencils. Encourage your guests to take notes as they taste, so they can remember which wines they liked and seek them out later.
- “Spit” or “dump” buckets. You don’t want anyone to get too tipsy at your wine tasting party. Make sure you have receptacles that people can spit or dump excess wine into.
- Palate cleansers. Make sure to stock up on and set out water crackers or loaves of plain bread so people can cleanse their palates in between tastes.
- Water. Always a good idea for people to stay hydrated while they’re tasting wine. It serves as a palate cleanser as well.
4. Serving Food
There’s all kinds of finger food and small bites that pair with wine. Nuts (pistachios, for example), olives, cheese sticks, fresh fruit, breadsticks, bruschetta, a charcuterie platter, tapenade, pate, pesto…the list is endless. If you feel like going the extra mile, you can research exactly how the tannins, acids, and sugars in wine react with the tannins, acids, and sugars in food. Then you can plan your menu accordingly, pairing a sweet dessert wine with an acidic food like lemon, or pairing a tannic red wine with an aged gouda cheese. See how the flavors complement each other!
5. Wine Tasting Etiquette
Send out the invitations for your wine tasting party at least two weeks in advance.
The dress code of your wine party is up to you. If you’d like it to be a formal affair, let your guests know in the invitations. If you prefer to keep it casual, let everyone know as well. (It’s probably not a good idea to wear anything white, however, for obvious reasons.)
Also inform your guests that they should avoid wearing perfumes or aromatic lotions, as these could interfere with their tasting experience. By the same token, don’t set out flowers or scented candles.
When you serve the wines, start with the lightest and work your way down to the darkest and boldest. If you have anything bubbly, serve that first; then light whites, rich whites, rosé, light red, bold red, and finally dessert wines. Sparkling wines should be served at 40-45 degrees, whites at 40-50 degrees, and reds at 55-65 degrees. For best results, put the reds into the refrigerator thiry minutes before guests arrive, and take rosés and whites out of the fridge a few minutes before opening them.
Serve the guests in the proper order: ladies first, then the oldest man to the youngest.
For extra class points, put on a little background music to enjoy the tasting. We suggest light classical music or jazz (but it’s completely up to you).
Obviously, taste the wine properly! Have your guests hold their glasses up to the light (having a big blank piece of white paper or posterboard to hold the glass up against helps as well). Examine the wine’s opacity and color. Tell your guests to swirl the glass to release the aroma. Have them stick their noses deeply into their glasses and take a good whiff, assessing the aroma. And then have your guests sip the wine and hold it in their mouths to completely assess its flavors.
These are WhisperKOOL’s tips for hosting the perfect wine party. For more informative posts like this, stay tuned to our blog and join our mailing list on our website. We wish you a safe, fun, and fruitful wine tasting party.