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Hosting a Wine Tasting Party

If you’re a wine aficionado, you probably agree that there’s nothing better than getting a whole group of like-minded wine enthusiasts together for a tasting party. Home wine tasting parties are all the rage among wine lovers, eliminating the need to travel far and wide to taste a variety of vintages.

If you’ve never before hosted a wine tasty party, you’ll find that with ample planning and attention to details it isn’t that complicated. Furthermore, these tasting parties provide a great opportunity to get together with friends who have similar interests, sharing thoughts on new varieties and old favorites and other issues that are important to wine lovers.

Planning

When hosting a wine tasting party in your home – even if it’s large – you’ll probably want to limit the guest list to no more than about 10-12 individuals. That means you’ll only need one of each bottle in order for everyone to enjoy a taste. The average taste is about 2 oz. and the average bottle of wine is 25 oz., so more than 12 guests could present the need to purchase additional wine.

Generally, wine tasting parties include about 6 to 8 bottles of wine of different varieties and price ranges. It’s always nice to include those that are new to the market or to the group. It allows the tasters an introduction to some interesting new products. If you’re the host, you should be responsible for purchasing the wine, unless you’ve made previous arrangements with your guests for splitting the cost.

Also be sure that you have enough glassware available in advance of the day of the party so you have time to purchase what you’re missing. Or, you can ask your guests to bring along enough glassware for themselves.

You’ll also want to decide whether or not to make this a “blind” tasting. That means your guests won’t know what they’re sipping until after the tasting is complete. This is to the taster’s advantage in that they won’t develop any pre-conceived ideas just by looking at the label. However, some tasting parties do indeed display the labels. It’s up to you and your guests.

Regardless of whether or not the tasting is blind, it’s still a good idea to prepare a “score” sheet for each participant. On the sheet, you’ll list the name or number of each wine and leave room for comments. You can also ask your guests to rank the bottles from favorite to least favorite. At the end, you can determine the winner by tallying the sheets. Many wineries have such score sheets available if you need some guidance.

Choosing the Wines

Basically, you can choose one of two ways to organize your tasting party – vertically or horizontally. This refers to the kinds of wine you’ll be offering. Vertical tastings include the same kind of wine from the same winery but of different vintages. For example, you might choose 6 Pinot Grigio varieties from a certain California winery but all from different years. A horizontal tasting includes, for example, six different bottles of Chardonnay from the same vintage but from different wineries. You can, of course, do your own thing, but these are the most common ways to organize a tasting party.

It’s best to include mostly better quality wines, not the $6.99 bottles you can find on most wine shop shelves. If you need help with selections, purchase a wine guide, log onto winery websites, or seek out a wine expert in your area, perhaps the sommelier at a local restaurant that has an impressive wine list. Above all, take time to gather the facts before you go shopping and make a definitive list. Have alternatives available in case you can’t find your first choices.

The Day of the Party

When it’s almost time for the guests to arrive, set up your table. Take any refrigerated wines out of the fridge about an hour before the party. Place them in bags (bottle covers) and number them before the guests arrive if you’re doing a blind test and arrange them in the order you wish for them to be tasted.

Have a seat and the correct number of glasses available for each guest, including a water glass. Also include a large cup for spitting. Spitting allows for the best tasting so that your palate will not be confused. Also have plain bread and pitchers of water available to further cleanse the palate, and place a score sheet and pencil at each place.

Don’t serve any food before the tasting, but it’s certainly okay to do so afterwards. It’s also a nice idea to have an extra bottle of each wine available so that your guests can enjoy more of their favorites after the tasting is complete.


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