Hosting a Wine Tasting Party

Hosting a Wine Tasting Party

Hosting a Wine Tasting Party

OK, now you are really into wine and the idea of organizing a party just to taste some wines doesn't sound silly at all. What next? Believe it or not, there are actually many different forms of wine tasting parties, ranging from the simple to the advanced. Before we go into the various forms of wine tasting parties, there are some general hints that you may want to note.

General Tips on Hosting Wine Parties

  • Try not to have more than 10 persons so that everyone can get to taste each bottle.
  • Have the right glasses and have enough of them. The ideal is one glass per person per bottle but if not, have at least two glasses per person.
  • There is actually no standard limit to the number of wines that should be tasted but personally we think there is diminishing returns after 6 bottles. It usually becomes a wild drinking binge whenever there is too much alcohol.
  • Have enough plain water ready because drinking too much wine can be dehydrating. Using carbonated water (eg. Perrier) is very helpful to rinse the glass and remove the taste from the mouth as well.
  • Have an empty pail ready for people to spit excess wine from their mouth. This is especially important if you want to do just wine tasting and not enjoy the wine.
  • Get some cheese, crackers or bread ready to accompany the wines. Some cheese may actually enhance the taste of the wines (or rather, the wine enhance the taste of the cheese)!
  • Try to do the wine tasting in an air-conditioned room. Otherwise, it may get quite uncomfortable and becomes less enjoyable.
  • The right mood often creates a much more enjoyable and fun tasting session. Have the right lights and soft background music (Jazz!) to have the greatest impact. Of course, the real wine pros would probably scorn at this!
  • Get some paper and pen ready for people to scribble down their tasting notes. 
  • Finally, have fun. Don't make it into a snob event - in which case it will be the last wine event you'll ever have.

Types of Wine Parties

A. Cross Varietal Tasting
Level Simple - For Beginners
How This format compares different wine grapes. If possible, try to get wines from the same producers or regions or range and from the same vintage. For reds wines, use Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Melot, Zinfandel and Gamay. For whites, get Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Riesling and Gewurztraminer. Learn to identify the unique look and taste of each grape.
B. Cross Country Tasting
Level Moderate - For Intermediate Drinkers
How This format compares the same wine grapes from different countries, especially between the "Old World" (France, Spain) and the "New World" (US, Australia) wines. Try to get the wines from the same range. Price may not be a good indicator as wines from one region may differ from another even though quality is the same. Learn to appreciate the style of wine-making, especially the oakiness, texture and fruit of the wine.
C. The Price Level Tasting
Level Moderate - For Intermediate Drinkers
How This format compares the same wines grapes but different quality. One method is to compares wines from a lower appellation (eg. Bordeaux) to one whose appellation is a specific district (eg. Pauillac). You can also compare wines from the same producer between the non-reserved and the private reserved selections. Price, in this case, is often a good judge. You will learn to appreciate the different flavor and body of the wines.
D. Vertical Vintage Tasting
Level Advance - For Advance Drinkers
How This format compares wines from the same producer but from different vintages. To appreciate this, it is often better to get the wines from producers who don't mix grapes from other regions to enhance the wine. The mid to high-end wines are often a safe bet. Learn to appreciate the effect of weather on wines. Usually, wine from good years tend to be more fruity, better finish and aroma.
E. The Blind Tasting
Level Advance - For Advanced Drinkers
How For this, anything goes. Basically, the wine labels are removed and tasters have to guess the grape, region and even vintage of the wine. Definitely not for the faint hearted! To make it simpler, just guess the grape or region of the wines. For such tastings, usually the very good wines are brought out.

There are actually many different variations of the above five types and it is entirely up to you to make it more interesting and fun for everybody. So, enjoy yourself and do let me know if you know of any other types.

So, now that you know how to throw a proper wine tasting party, what's left to make your party especially memorable? Often times, a party is only as good as its party favors. Customized wine glasses can add the finishing touches to any special night, especially one that involves wine! An etched wine glass makes a great gift to hand your guests as they arrive, and guarantees that your friends and family will remember your wine tasting fondly.