There’s much talk about wine appreciation as a social exercise—a way to connect with friends and family while learning about a topic that’s undeniably entertaining. Hosting a wine tasting party sets a stage for fun exchanges and surprising discoveries. Add flavorful food to the mix and you pretty much guarantee a good time for anyone with a pulse. But how to plan it? Wine tasting parties needn’t be a study in luxury—many of the best gatherings are simply organized, and don’t break the bank, making them an ideal choice for tight times.
It’s really a simple thing to do. Everyone gets to participate, whether they know a lot or nothing at all about wine. Better still, there are no right or wrong answers, no winners or losers. Ultimately, tasting parties are all about relaxing, having fun with friends, and sharing your mutual appreciation for wine. Armed with our 10 tips and tools, your party will be a guaranteed success.
Tip #1: Decide how many people you want to attend. While you can have any number of guests, keeping the count relatively low—4 to 10 people—will allow for greater interaction.
Cork Card Holders
Tip #2: Select a theme. You can create an Old-World Italian setting at home and have a “taste off” between Barolo and Chianti, both great Italian wines. Or, it could be California wines vs. French wines. Set the stage with traditional-themed napkins or plates; your linens could represent regional colors and other items could represent each country.
Personalized Tile Tray
Wine Cork Bottle Candles
Tip #3. Choose adventurous wines. Dare to taste wines you’ve never had. Ask your local wine purveyor for recommendations that meet your theme setting or refer to our online buying guide for top selections You DO NOT have to buy expensive wines. You can find delicious wines in the $10 to $20 range. Consider 3 whites—such as South African Chenin Blanc, Austrian Grüner Veltliner, and Spanish Albariño—and 3 reds—perhaps Greek Agiorgitiko, Chilean Malbec and Washington Cabernet. You should end up with wines at different prices.
Wine Buying Guide
Wine Pocket Guide
The Wine Enthusiast Wine and Food Pairings Book
Tip #4: Consider starting the evening with a Champagne or sparkling wine and ending with a dessert wine. This adds some nice variety to the tasting. Values such as Cava or Prosecco offer affordable quality and add a fun spin to your party. For dessert wines, pick up a bottle or two of Hungarian Tokai or Canadian Icewine.
Wild Hibiscus Edible Cocktail Flowers
Tip #5: Use quality wine glasses. One white wine glass and one red wine glass for each guest is ideal. The right shape and type of wine glass will enhance your enjoyment of the wines served. If you want to go the extra mile, you can have glasses for each of the 6 wines. You’ll want to get a spit bucket, too.
Fusion Classic Stemware
Wine Tasting Spittoon
Tip #6: It is now time to decide whether you want to make it a blind tasting and have the bottles in bags and whether or not you want to provide tasting note sheets for your guests to write down the smells and flavors they discover. You can even “rate” the wines amongst yourselves.
Wine Tasting Party Kit
Tip #7: Provide guests with some tasty nibbles that won’t confuse their palate. Something simple like a vegetable platter, some crostini, or even a hard cheese will do the trick.
Porcelain Appetizer Spoons
Slate Cheese Server
Tip #8: Don’t overpour. Once the tasting begins, fill glasses with just 1 to 2 ounces of wine. That way, guests won’t need to spit. If a glass should have too much wine for a taste, the excess can be poured into the spit bucket. When the tasting is finished, you should have enough wine left over for everyone to try more of their favorites.
Tip #9: Taste in progression from light to full-bodied. Serve white wines first, starting with the lightest-bodied. A Pinot Grigio-style wine should come before fuller bodied sips like Chenin or Chardonnay. For reds, start with the wine with less tannins and softer flavors, such as a Pinot Noir followed by Merlot and then Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tip #10: If you’re serving dinner, pay attention to likely food and wine matches. Light whites are a friendly match to seafood though more full-bodied whites pair well with poultry. Spicy, exotic foods are likely matches to aromatic whites such as Riesling. More substantial foods, such as stuffed mushrooms, BBQ spareribs or duck sausage, pair well with full-bodied reds. Pair dessert wines with fresh berries or delectable sweets from dark chocolate to Tiramisu.
Raised Barrel Top Lazy Susan
Perfect Pairing Wine Chocolates
It’s that simple. If you love spending time with friends, and enjoy drinking good wine, hosting a tasting party of your own is both fun, and affordable.