Hosting your first wine tasting is a rite of passage for wine enthusiasts. It’s up there with learning how to spit.
First, it helps to have a theme, like Bargain Bordeaux, Aromatic Whites or A Trip Through Italy. You can also pick a variety and compare it across countries or regions. For instance, choose Pinot Noir and compare wines from New Zealand, Oregon, California and Burgundy. You will see a big difference in characteristics even though it is technically the same grape! You can even go micro versus macro and do Napa versus Sonoma Merlot.
Next, consider your guests. Are they just discovering wine or are they aficionados? The number of guests is up to you, but we recommend sticking to a manageable 5- 10 guests, and 4-8 wines. Have enough to inspire a lively dialogue about the wines, but not so many that people get lost.
Here are other essentials to consider when planning and hosting a wine tasting party:
1. Where there is wine, there should be food. Your guests will expect you to provide a little nosh. A selection of salumi, cheese, olives, nuts and dried fruit works well, or, you can commit to wine-friendly appetizers. We love the Fig and Blue Cheese Savories. Plain crackers can be good in between tastes of wine to cleanse the palate somewhat.
2. Send out an invitation with the theme, date, time, location, and a hint about what to expect. Also, let them know if you are providing the wines or if you’d like each guest/couple to bring a bottle.
3. Hosting a tasting is a lot like a study group. You’ll need to provide pens and paper for your guests to rate or jot down their impressions of the wines. If it’s a blind tasting, ask your favorite wine merchant for paper wine bags to hide the identity of the bottles and make your guests guess at the grape or the country/region of origin.
4. Make sure you have enough stemware. For a party with five wines and five people, have 10 glasses on hand. Provide each guest with a paper cup as a spit cup. Also set up dump buckets on the table so there is a ratio of one for every two guests. Vases work great for this.
5. Water! Drinking water throughout an evening of wine is essential. It will also lessen the possible next day effects.