Helpful Tips for Having Your Own Wine Tasting Event from Windy City Novelties
August 08, 2012
While wine tasting parties may seem to be reserved for the sophisticated upper classes or something that can only be found at four-star restaurants or quaint little vineyards, with the right supplies and a little research and planning, you can easily host a wine tasting at home for you and your friends!
Even if you’re a wine novice, a classy wine tasting is not out of reach for anyone. If this is your first experience with a wine tasting, enlist the help of a local liquor store or wine club, where you’re sure to find a wine connoisseur, or someone who can put you in touch with a knowledgeable wine vendor or expert who can help you select the wines for your event. If your friends are all novices as well, this is a perfect opportunity to introduce the group to basic reds, whites, sparkling, or dessert wines. It’s best to stick with wines in the same group as mixing the flavors can confuse the palate and make it harder for guests to judge the individual wines. You’ll also want to pay attention to the season when you’re scheduling your wine tasting and not choose heavy fall-flavored wines in the middle of summer or lighter summer vintages mid-winter.
Once you’ve decided on the theme for your wine tasting, it’s time to set the guest list and send out your invitations. Sure, online invitations and informal email invites are simple, but since wine tastings seem more upscale, why not go with fancier wine lovers personalized invitations? You’ll need to include specific information about your wine tasting on the invitation, including the type of wines you’ll be sampling, whether you’ll be serving light appetizers and dessert or no food at all, and that guests should refrain from wearing any perfumes or scented lotions as they can interfere with the wine tasting experience. You’ll also want to include a firm RSVP date and follow up with anyone you haven’t heard from so you have a solid headcount to ensure you have enough wine for the evening. A good rule of thumb when buying your wine is to plan on two ounces of each wine per person, which is why it’s important to have an accurate head count.
You can keep your decorations minimal for your wine tasting party, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set the scene for some sophistication! In order to accurately judge the color of the wines, you’ll need a white tablecloth for your sampling table. You’ll also want to have white napkins available for each guest. While it isn’t necessary for each guest to have a new wineglass for each wine sample—all you need to do is rinse each glass with cold water in between each sample—having new glasses for every sample will make the evening move along faster and more smoothly. If you don’t have enough of Grandma’s fine glassware to go around, consider renting enough wine glasses for the evening, or purchasing good quality clear plastic wine glasses which are an inexpensive option and will make cleanup easier at the end of the evening. If you really want to try something different, check out light up wine glasses. You don’t want flowers overpowering the scents of the wine, which is a key part of the wine tasting experience, so avoid fussy flower centerpieces. A glass bowl filled with red and green grapes is a classy alternative that also fits in with your evening’s theme. You will also need to have a pitcher of ice cold water and glasses on the table so guests can cleanse their palate between samples as well as tasting grids and pens to help guests keep track of the wines and their color and intensity, aroma, flavor, acidity, sweetness, body, alcohol, finish, and complexity. Tasting grids can be found online and printed out so your guests can keep track of their observations and which wines they enjoyed.
A wine tasting doesn’t require a heavy menu but you’ll want to serve some light appetizers before the sampling starts so that your guests aren’t drinking on an empty stomach. Avoid high acidity foods, strong cheeses, and spicy foods that might impact their ability to taste the wine. Serve bruschetta, a nice baguette spread with a honey butter or mild cheese, and bland crackers. You won’t need to serve much as you don’t want your guests to fill up before they start drinking.
Once everyone’s gathered around the tasting table and the drinking gets started you’ll want to make sure everyone is focused on the wine, so hold any more food back until after your tasting is finished. This way, the guests won’t be distracted.
After your tasting is done, pop open a few bottles of the most popular wines from the tasting and let the guests enjoy a few more glasses. For the after drinking part of the party, serving dessert is a popular choice. Go with something rich and decadent, like German chocolate cake, cheesecake, mini éclairs, and other rich desserts. One fun way to approach the desserts is to ask each guest to bring their favorite dessert to share with everyone. Between sampling new wines and new desserts, you and your guests will have plenty of new culinary experiences in one night!
Now that you’ve thrown your first wine tasting party—and can call it a complete success—you can get started on planning your next event! After all, there are many different wines you can introduce your friends to and since you’ve been such a great hostess for this wine tasting event, they might expect you to turn this into a monthly event!