A wine tasting party lets you and your guests get together and try out some different kinds of wine. Other than that, there really are no set rules. That’s where our suggestions for how to host a wine tasting party come in.
Your wine tasting can be a “blind” taste test where your guests don’t know what they are drinking, or you can hand out a list of all of the vintages ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect. You can make it a learning experience where you teach people the art of wine tasting, or not. You can have guests rate the wines and figure which one is the group favorite, or just have fun trying out the different types. Any way you do it…wine tasting is fun for everyone!.
Because this party requires enough wine for everyone to try each type, and enough time to pour a glass of each type for each guest, it usually works best for smaller groups…8 to 12 people is a good number (unless you have help with serving). You will also need to make sure you have enough wine glasses for everyone…and if you are being a real wine “snob”, you will need a new glass for each type of wine (although most of my friends are fine with rinsing their glass out in between tastes).
Read on to find out how to host a wine tasting party.
What Wines To Taste?
There are many different ways you can choose to compare wines:
- different varieties of white wine (eg. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Moscato).
- different varieties of red wine (eg. Pinot Noir, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)
- different types of the same variety of wine (eg. a “champagne” party with all different kinds of bubbly)
- wine made from the same grape grown in different countries (eg. Chardonnay from France vs. Chardonnay from California)
- expensive vs inexpensive bottles of the same variety of wine. See which ones your guests prefer! (If you’re lucky enough to have a Trader Joe’s nearby, you can find some really inexpensive, decent wines there.)
- have each of your guests bring their favorite bottle of wine, and find out which one is everyone’s favorite
Generally, 5 to 8 wines are all that people can taste during one party (after that they have had enough wine that they’re tasting capabilities are a little skewed). Each tasting serving should be about 2 ounces (not a full glass of wine), and each 750 ml bottle of wine contains about 25 ounces, so you can get about 12 tasting servings out of one bottle (which is another reason that 8 – 12 guests works well…you can get away with buying 1 bottle of each wine)
When tasting the wines, there is an order that they should be served in to allow the wine flavors to be best appreciated. White wine should be served before red, and light wines served before heavier ones. The following are types of white and red wines listed in the order that they should be served:
- Dry Riesling
- Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Chenin Blanc
- Sweet Riesling
- Pinot Noir
- Sangiovese (Chianti)
- Zinfandel (Red)
- Shiraz / Syrah
- Cabernet Sauvignon
Make sure to have plenty of water available so that guests can clear their palates (and their wine glasses) between tastings if they wish to.
Wine Glasses and Decanters
Of course, having beautiful wine glasses to go with your wines is a must for a wine-tasting party. If you really want to go all out, getting the right shape of glass for the right type of wine (like these Riedel wine glasses*) enhances the flavor of the wine. I have actually tried this…and it really does make a difference!Wine decanters* are also beautiful to look at…and serve the purpose of aerating your wine. Aerating helps to bring out the aroma and flavor of wines (especially red wine) and can help improve the taste of the wine.
If people are re-using their wine glasses, having pretty wine charms* on each of the glasses helps people remember which one was their glass.
Or you can use a wine-glass marker* to write their names on the glass.
If you are having a “blind” tasting (where the guests do not know which wine they are tasting until after the fact), use pretty wine bags to cover the bottles.
For white wine, you can get these Chill It wine bags* to keep the wine cold while it is on your tasting table. Just put them in the freezer a couple of hours ahead of time and they will be ready to use for your party.
For red wines, velvet wine gift bags* make excellent covers for your wine bottles.
If you don’t feel like setting up your own blind tasting, you can buy a Blind Wine Tasting Kit* which will come with everything that you need.
Rating The Wine
Rating the wines is a fun way to find out which ones your guests liked and didn’t like.
You can make the ratings public by creating a “rating board”. Hang a chalk board that guests can use to write their rating for each wine. These can be a standard 100 point rating system if you have sophisticated wine drinkers, or a simple A+ to F school grading system. At the end of the evening, total up the ratings to find the group’s favorite wine.
Or people can just keep track of their own ratings for future use.
Create a printed list of all of the wines on Japanese rice paper, where you bought them and how much they cost. Your guests can take these home as a reminder of the wines they tried (and circle the ones that they want to try again).
If you want to more about how “real” wine ratings work, take a look at this very informative article from The Wine Enthusiast magazine.
What To Eat?
Since this is a theme involving alcohol, it is a good idea to serve enough food that people will not be drinking on an empty stomach.
Cheese, crackers, bread and fine chocolate are standard pairings when serving the wine itself. I have heard that serving creamy cheese such as goat cheese, blue cheese and brie do not go well with wine (apparently, they coat the tongue and dull the taste buds). Having said that, I happen to love all 3 of those cheese and I cannot resist serving my favorites (no-one has ever complained).
Here’s the list of other appetizers to try (and I hate to say it, but I usually buy these frozen at Costco and stick them in the oven just before guests arrive). The common theme with all of these is that they are bite-sized and easy to eat with one hand (since the other hand will be carrying a wine glass).
- Mini crab cakes
- Mini quiches
- Bite size tacos
- Meatballs (served with toothpicks). Click here to see our recipe.
Wine Tasting Party Music
Like with pretty much any party, music is a must for helping to create the right atmosphere. You can choose any genre of music that your guests prefer…but since you usually want people to mingle and talk during a wine tasting party, keeping the volume at a level where people can still hear other helps.
I also like to use a music app like Pandora for parties…set it to the type of music you want it to play and you don’t have to worry about it. My favorite for wine tasting parties is the “Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong” channel…it just seems to have the right “vibe” for this type of event.
Now you should have some ideas for what you need to host your own wine tasting party…and most of all have fun.