September 13, 2021
Elevate your get-togethers with friends and family by hosting a wine tasting night! Wine tasting is a fun and different way to entertain. Not only does it give you a fun topic to discuss but you can really build an elegant evening out of it. You can really bring the winery experience to your own home when you set up a wine tasting party. The benefit is you don't even have to leave your own home!
Select a Theme
Choosing a theme for your wine tasting will make your experience more enjoyable and allows you to build your night around the wine theme. Plus, if you are having your guests bringing something for the wine tasting, they can bring something that coordinates with the theme and complements the wine. Here are just a few theme suggestions to get you started:
Sampling a specific wine variety from different regions is a really great way to compare the subtleties in flavor of the same wine from different regions, either locally or around the world. This theme is bests for when your whole party enjoys the same wine variety.
A price range is always a great idea whether combined with another theme or on its own. It's a fun theme for those on a budget because you can showoff some great wines at an affordable price.
Tasting similar styles of wine, like, crisp whites, dry reds, or fruity wines is a great way to explore a wide range of wines but including a similar theme will keep your tasting experience very cohesive and allow you to perfectly pair foods with your wines.
Why not travel with your palate? Take a wine flight to France or Germany or California? Selecting a region is a great way to explore the flavors of an area and pair it with some regional foods for a truly incredible wine tasting experience. Who needs to travel when you have wine?
Maybe you want to get sentimental or maybe you just love a particular vintage. Whatever the reason, selecting a vintage as a theme is like traveling through time. You can celebrate a moment and relive memories through a vintage theme. This theme celebrates beautifully aged wines and flavors.
Decanting several wines, covering up labels, or placing the bottles in bags and assigning numbers to them for a fun way to spark up conversations about the possible wines that you may be tasting. It is also a fun way to compete with your friends with the most discerning palates.
Have everyone bring in a bottle and you can taste everyone's favorite wines or maybe just something interesting they found. A wine tasting doesn't necessarily have to have a theme but it certainly makes it easier to offer complementing foods. A random assortment can be just as fun and enjoyable.
Keep the Party Intimate & Purchase Accordingly
How Many People Should You Invite
Limiting guests to about 10 or fewer encourages conversation, makes it a lot easier to plan, and allows everyone the opportunity to get a taste of each bottle without the need to purchase too many duplicate bottles.
How Much to Serve
A bottle of wine is about 24 ounces, so you could conceptually pour 12 2-ounce tastes from each bottle. You also want to provide a variety of wines for people to taste. Plus, people will typically want to retaste or enjoy more of their favorites. If you're trying to decide how many different wines you should offer during your tasting, we recommend one bottle per person.
When you're pouring wine for your guests, start small about 2 ounces per person to start. Let everyone get a taste before pouring additional servings to guests.
Properly Prepare Your Wines
To ensure your tasting experience will be exceptional, you need to properly prepare your wines for the tasting. Wines are a delicate and complex beverage that will need special care and preparation for you to fully enjoy the flavors and aromas. This means proper storage of your wines prior to your tasting and ensuring they are at the ideal serving temperature. The ideal method for this is storing your wines in a wine refrigerator.
Not only does a wine refrigerator maintains your wines at the ideal serving temperature but for those who collect older vintages, this protects your wines from prematurely aging. Temperature is key to the tasting experience because you can lose a lot of the aromas and notes when a wine is too cold or too hot. When you're serving wines for a tasting, you want the temperature to be perfect so you can fully experience each wine and discuss it. A standard refrigerator is often too cold to store your wines and does not have the consistent temperature maintenance that a wine refrigerator has. This is detrimental to older wine vintages.
While you could store your wines at room temperature, this is also not ideal because the temperature in your home often fluctuates. This means your wine will most likely not be at the ideal serving temperature and you will not be able to experience the complexity of your wines. Also, a standard refrigerator doesn't control fro humidity, which is so important for storing wines. Humidity control ensures that corks will not dry out or become too damp, both of which can be destructive to aging wines.
If you are storing wines for serving and wines for preserving, we highly recommend a dual zone wine refrigerator. A dual zone wine refrigerator has two independently controlled temperature zones, which means you can store your vintages at their ideal temperature or you can separate your whites and reds.
We also think it is best to pour each of your wines into a decanter or in a pinch, you can use a wine aerator. We go into details about what a wine aerator does in this article. Essentially, aerating your wine or letting it breathe before drinking will allow some of the alcohol to evaporate and the wine to oxidize, bringing out the complex flavors but eliminating any harshness. Breathing your wines will bring out the rich flavors and bold aromatics, which really completes your wine tasting experience.
Stock the Necessary Supplies
A huge part of the wine experience for each wine and individual is enjoying it out of the proper wine glass. Each wine glass is designed to provide the appropriate amount of evaporation, oxidation, and allows the aromas to be carried to the nose and palate. Also, depending on the lip of the glass, it will guide the wine onto the tongue differently, changing the wine tasting experience. We have a guide for how to choose a wine glass here. We recommend providing at least two glasses per person or you can provide wine flight sets to each of your guests.
This may sound like an obvious one but it often feels like you can never find one when you need one. It is also important to find a high-quality one that is easy to use because with older vintage wines, the corks can be delicate and have a tendency to crumble when opened.
For those who want to, provide spit buckets or guests can also just dump the remaining unwanted wine in their glass into a convenient disposal vessel.
If you're going to be serving up a lot of alcohol, it is always important to provide plenty of water for your guests to stay hydrated and to cleanse the palate.
Provide your guests with little notebooks or notepads with pens and pencils for documenting their experience. Not only will it allow you to compare notes with everyone but each person can compare the notes of each wine. It's always great to document the notes and wine varieties you enjoy for future tastings and for buying bottles for your own wine collection.
Provide your guests with a blank white wall or even opaque poster paper so, they can easily see the color and consistency of the wine. You can much more easily see the legs of your wine and the rich color when it is up against a pure white background. Also, as much as a candle-lit room has a beautiful ambiance, it's not conducive for a tasting. Be sure you are in a well-lit space, this also helps with the tasting experience.
Plain crackers or bread are great for the beginning stages of the tasting when everyone is trying to detect the complex notes and flavors in each wine. You don't want to offer anything with any overwhelming flavor as a palate cleanser because your guests won't be able to taste the complex notes of the wines. However, the next phase of your tasting can be a pairing with complementing foods.
The Perfect Food Pairings
What's a wine party without great food? It's much easier to prepare foods for your wine tasting when you have a theme in mind because you can select complementing foods for your wines. Wine and food pairings aren't hard; however, there are some general rules to keep in mind when pairing.
Consider which basic flavors, such as salty, sweet, bitter, acidic, fat, and spicy are in your food. Then, decide if you want your foods to complement or contrast your wines. Each flavor profile reacts differently to different wine varieties. In general, you want your wines to always be sweeter or more acidic than the food you're pairing them with. Select wines with the same intensity as the food you're serving it with. Bold flavors need bold wines so that one doesn't dominate the other.
Red wines pair best with bold-flavored meats and strong cheeses. While white wines pair best with light-flavored meats and lighter cheeses. More acidic and bitter wines help cut through fattier foods and brightens them up. As a general rule, White, Sparkling, and Rosé wines frequently create contrasting pairings. While red wines will create congruent or complementing pairings.
We recommend preparing small bites, a charcuterie board, and a cheeseboard. Think about foods that are easy to share so, everyone can have a little taste with their wines. Easy party bites allow your guests to walk around and easily chat with others about the wines.
Set The Table
When you're setting up your party, be sure to light unscented candles and minimize any perfumes or home scents. You don't want these fragrances to interfere with your ability to taste and smell the aromas of your wines. Provide your guests with some wine tasting guides, it will help everyone be on the same page regarding terminology and understanding wine notes.
It's also best to set out everyone's set of glasses for the tasting in a row. It will help everyone mentally prepare for however many wines you will be serving. Whether you're doing a blind tasting or you have a wine lineup prepared, it is a great idea to create a paper placemat with the names or numbers of each wine. That way, your guests can easily keep track of each wine you'll be tasting because they can place their glasses back on top of the label and know which wine they're on.
Serve Your Wines Properly
When serving your wines it is ideal to go from lightest to darkest or lightest in flavor to boldest in flavor. Also, it is ideal to end with the sweetest wines. You want to build the flavors on the palate so, you get to enjoy each wine without missing any subtle notes. That is also what the palate cleansers are for but it is still best to build to the most intense wines, as their flavors can overwhelm lighter wines. This is the ideal serving order for your wines: bubbles, light whites, rich whites, rosés, light reds, bold reds, and then dessert wines.
As a general rule, these are the ideal serving temperatures: bubbles 40-45 degrees, whites 40-50 degrees, and reds 55-65 degrees. To learn more about wine varieties and their ideal serving temperatures, take a look at our detailed article here. These precise serving temperatures are why we highly recommend investing in a wine refrigerator or beverage center to ensure your wines are being served properly. You can shop our sales here.
What to Discuss
Finally, and most importantly, brainstorm some ideas to get the conversation going on during the wine tasting. A wine tasting might be new for many people and providing ideas for discussions will prevent any awkwardness. Compile a list of topics you may want to discuss with your guests about each wine. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Appearance and consistency
- Compare the wines
- Food pairings
- Does it evoke memories? Or images in your mind?
- Is it worth the price?
- Similar wines
Sip, Taste, and Enjoy!
Organizing a wine tasting can be a whole lot of work but it will be worth it for the experience. We want to help you through every step of the process. From chilling and storing your wines to selecting the perfect wine glasses, our experts can help you prepare for your wine tasting. We have been providing the wine industry with wine storage and equipment for over two decades and we are dedicated to making your beverage experience more enjoyable. Contact our team with your questions at 800-710-9939.