Erin Doman on June 8, 2016 0 Comments Table of Contents Developing a Plan Setting the Scene Pairings and Hors D’oeuvres The Wine Tasting Event Good friends, tasty food and exceptional wine: the necessary components of a classic soirée that will go down in history. An at-home wine tasting is a unique experience that allows your guests to come together, compare and contrast wines, develop wine knowledge, and most importantly delight their taste buds. It is the chance to take your guests to far-off places through their senses. Whether you’re drinking a 2004 Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon or a 2013 Chianti from Tuscany, Italy, the flavor profiles allow your guests to explore different cultures and the lands they cultivate. We’ve put together a how-to guide on planning, organizing and executing an at-home wine tasting party for a few of your closest friends. Read on to learn how to create a successful wine tasting. 1. Develop a Plan An interactive wine tasting is a great way to organize a fun night with friends and explore wine varieties. Wine tasting parties are most successful when there is a set plan in place. First, you must determine the type of event you’d like to host. Choose from a wine tasting preceding dinner, a standalone tasting or a blind taste test. Theme/Wine Selection Whether you prefer oaky, opulent, buttery or bright, it’s best to serve a variety of wine profiles that follow a theme. This will help narrow the field when choosing wine for your party. Create a cohesive and interesting wine list with four to six wine varieties of the same theme. Consider using any one of these categories as your “theme” and choosing your sampling from there: Varietal: A sampling of a single grape from different regions. Horizontal: Wines from a single category and a single vintage (2000 Bordeauxs) but with different producers. This is a good theme for your more advanced wine palates. Vertical: Wines of the same grape by the same producer from different years. Price: Selections are based on price point. Region: A variety of wines from one location or appellation, such as Chile or Burgundy. Your personal favorites: Create a list based on your most loved grapes, vintages and producers. Guest List An ideal head count for your wine tasting is about 8-10 people. This will be small enough to fit around a table or island comfortably, it will keep the amount of glasses down, fit nicely into your budget, and encourage small intimate conversations. Assemble a group with similar levels of experience and expertise. Amount to Serve Pour 2-3 ounces (about half the size of a regular serving) of each wine to each taster. That adds up to about two bottles of each wine for 8-10 guests. Depending on how heavily your friends drink, you should average about one-half to a whole bottle per guest. Invitations When sending out invitations (whether formal or emailed), let the guests know the intimate details of your wine tasting party and note that it’s not a dinner or cocktail party. Tell them how much food will be served so they can plan ahead. Ask guests not to wear strong perfume or cologne as they could drown out the wine aroma. Request RSVPs and set a deadline. A headcount is important for this party (number of glasses, wine bottles, etc.). Budget Tips Don’t overthink your wine list. Your friends are coming to socialize and have fun. Choose budget-friendly crowd pleasers that are accessible for your guests after the party. Other ways you can limit the cost of setting up a wine tasting include: Limit the number of wine selections Shop wine sales and buy in bulk Enlist your guests to bring a bottle (let them know the theme of the party) 2. Set the Scene When setting the scene for the wine tasting you will be putting several items at each seat. With glassware, spittoons, note cards and water, too much added clutter, like an elaborate centerpiece, will just get in the way. Skip aromatic flowers and scented candles as well, as they can overpower the wine. Keep it simple and highlight the wine theme. Setting the Table Lay a white background on the table (cloth or butcher paper) enabling the wine to be the highlight and offering a friction-free surface for swirling. Line up the wine bottles. Either display the labels so guests can get an idea of what they are tasting (region, grape, vintage), or cover the labels and number the wines for a blind taste test. Click Here To Shop For A Wine Decanter Wine Service No matter the number of wines or your wine selection, line them up in this order: Champagne or Prosecco Light whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio) Rich whites (Chardonnay) Rosés Light reds (Pinot Noir, Granache) Bold reds (Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon) Ports Dessert wines (Riesling, Gewurztraminer) Supplies Before you finalize your wine tasting event, make absolutely sure you have enough of all supplies needed to have your party run smoothly. You will need: Glassware: Use clear, stemmed wine glasses and either allot one glass per person or give each guest a white and red glass. Certain wine glasses are made for such tastings. Note Cards: Provide pens and note cards or a wine tasting grid. Spittoons: Spit buckets will allow guests to pour out unwanted wine. You can use large coffee mugs, plastic cups or a communal bowl. Palate Cleansers: Along with food pairings, set out plain-flavored water crackers or crunchy French bread as simple palate cleansers between wines. Water Wine Accessories Wine accessories will help guests keep track of their glasses, keep wine cool while at the table and decant the wine for greater flavor and aroma. You should have: A decanter Corkscrews / wine openers Ice buckets Wine charms 3. Pairings and Hors D’oeuvres Wine and food go hand in hand. Certain pairings can enhance the wine tasting experience. For example, sweet white wine pairs well with spicy cuisine, while rich meats are complemented by bold reds. Here are a few ideas to streamline your food and wine pairings. Click Here To Shop For A Wine Refrigerator Cheese and Charcuterie Board A cheese and meat tray is the foolproof complement to wine. Pair soft goat cheese with a crisp Pinot Grigio and an aged Gouda with a mature Cabernet Sauvignon. A velvety brie or Camembert goes nicely with a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. Cured meats mingle well with full-bodied reds like a bold Syrah. Prosciutto pairs well with wines that have a touch of sweetness, like Rosé, Moscato or Grenache. There are no hard and fast rules when pairing cheese and charcuterie with wine. Fill in the gaps of the board with olives, nuts and dried fruit. Classic Small Bite Pairing Ideas If you are interested in serving full appetizers with your wines, consider the following classic bite-sized options: Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza Smoked Salmon on Toast Points (white wines pair well with high-acidity foods like seafood) Prosciutto-Wrapped Melon Tomato Bruschetta Caprese Skewers Mini Profiteroles for dessert 4. The Wine Tasting Event The day of the event, your duty is to be as much a teacher as your are the host. Educate guests on how to sample the wines — look, swirl, smell, and savor. Swirling releases the oxygen and flavor and creates a stronger smell and taste. At any wine tasting, the serving temperature is extremely important. It can make or break the entire tasting. Keeping your wine in a wine fridge is strongly recommended over your kitchen fridge. This is because they are designed to store your bottles on their side, away from direct light, all while keeping them ready to serve at their optimal temperatures. Red wines should be served between 55-65° White wines should be served between 50-55° Sparkling wines should be served at 40° Again, serve in order from lighter-bodied wines to heavier-bodies wines. Stagger wine service in 15-minute intervals. This will allow for note taking and conversation. What to Look For Food & Wine magazine contributor Stephen Tanzer explains how to use your senses to examine the wine. Look for: Aromas and flavors Texture and weight Balance Persistence on the palate Final Note In many homes around the world, wine has become a table staple as much as bread, rice and salt are. It can be simple or complex and it can bring about emotions of joy and happiness when consumed in moderation. Follow this guide for setting up a celebration of this iconic beverage, and enjoy your wine tasting!