Here is what you’ll need:
• FRIENDS – You need friends because wine tastes better when shared with those you love, and wine-tasting only makes sense if you’re able to compare notes with others. Keep it friendly and cheerful by avoiding any sense of snobbishness. It’s all about having fun and comparing opinions; swanky but not stuffy. I find that 8 to 10 people makes the perfect amount of guests for this type of party.
• WINE – I know this seems like a no brainer, but there are various ways to chose wine for a wine-tasting party. You may decide to have a theme (Italian, French, Californian, etc…) or go the opposite and mix it up. Either way, I categorized 4 types of wine-tasting.
1. Vertical Tasting: This type of wine-tasting involves multiple vintages of the same wine. It’s a little harder to pull off, and a little more expensive, as aged wines tend to be pricier and harder to find. This is a unique and interesting way to discover all the various alterations of a wine throughout the years.
2. Horizontal Tasting: In this case, the wines are all from the same vintage but different wineries. Keeping wine variety or type and wine region the same helps emphasize the differences in winery styles.
3. Anything Goes: Well… like it says, anything goes! Whites, rosés, reds, sparklings… whatever strikes your fancy. Get 3 reds and 3 whites, and let your friends try them all. In this situation, you’re not comparing the same wine and therefore not asked to judge which is better. You’re simply sampling various wines for your own enjoyment.
4. Blind Tasting: For additional fun, consider a blind tasting and see if your guests can tell the difference between the various wines. That can be done once everyone has had a chance to taste all the wines.
5. Spin The Bottle: Oh wait… never mind! That’s for the after-party.
In either case, try to limit the vintages, varietals or wineries to about 10. More than 10 different wines will certainly overwhelm those delicate taste buds, and some of your guests might find themselves obligated to spend the night, even if it isn’t their intention.
• GLASSES – Clear crystal glasses are best for tasting wines. Stemless or colored glasses are NOT recommended as they prevent you from really looking at the wine, which is an important part of the process. There is a wide variety of wine glasses to choose from and each wine type proudly needs its own. You can decide which wine glass to use based on the wine being served.
• FOOD – Food is important but not so important that it will take precedence over the wine. Wine pairing is crucial, but not so much when “tasting” the wine. The star of the party is the wine, the food is only here to help clear the palate in between wine types. Bread, plain crackers or pretzels are ideal, but if you must have more for your guests, consider the following suggestions:
Cured olives can be a nice addition to the party. In general, stick to the milder olives and avoid the very spicy ones which will undoubtedly ruin your evening. Some excellent options are Lucques, Picholines, Niçoise and Moroccan olives.
Salumi (or “charcuterie” in French) are cured meat products and predominantly made from pork. It comes from the Italian word salume, pl. salumi “salted meat”.
– dry salami
– uncooked ham
– bresaola (air-dried, salted beef that has been aged two or three months)
Cheese is the basic go-to food when having wine. I personally recommend traditional cheese like a good brie, Camembert, goat, or even gruyère (swiss) and cheddar which can easily be cut in small cubes. Just avoid the flavored cheese like maple syrup cheddar or mango and ginger stilton. That will also ruin your evening and possibly even your night.
Fresh fruits are easy and refreshing. Prepare a few trays of blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or grapes for your guests to munch on throughout the evening.
Dried fruits is another possibility. Dried cherries, figs, apricots and cranberries are great for the occasion.
• WATER – Yep, that’s right. Flat or sparkling water is essential to the process, especially if you’re tasting various types of wines. Just like food, water will also cleanse your taste buds and get them ready to savor the next wine.
So let’s recap: Friends, wine, glasses, food and water. Well that just about covers it. Once again, wine tasting is a great opportunity to bring people together and have a good time. It is fun and educational at the same time. Not only do you learn about specific wines, you may also learn insightful stories about the wineries that made the wine. New and historical information about featured wineries is always a good addition to any wine-tasting experience.
Drink wines from lightest to fullest. If you’re trying various types of wines, go from bubbly, to whites, to rosés, then reds and dessert wines.
For a traditional tasting, the standard pour is about 2 ounces of wine. Therefore, you can get about 12 glasses per bottle of wine.
Now remember, wine tasting and drinking are two separate activities. When tasting, you try to put your tastes into words which takes practice. Being able to describe taste can be complicated and confusing. Different people come up with different ways of processing and verbalizing those sensory feelings. In the end, what really matters is that everyone is sharing their appreciation for wine using their own creative way, and regardless of the “lingo”. It’s all about enjoying the moment. Have fun at your wine-tasting party, and be sure to let me know when and where!