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Wine Tasting Party DIY: A Step-by-Step Guide to an Unforgettable Evening

Graphic of a home wine tasting party with food and wine on a table
Image created with AI via Wine By Appointment LLC

Wine Tasting Party

Okay, these types of wine-tasting parties have become a thing now, and am I glad! Whether you're an old pro or a novice, here are some steps to throw a perfect bash!

Plan Your Wine Selection

Begin by deciding on the type of wines you want to feature. Let your imagination run wild, but you may have to do a little research. You can choose wines from a particular region, like Bordeaux or Napa Valley. You can also choose a country or wine region in a country, say Chianti or Valpolicella, for Italy. You can also choose by variety, for example, a tasting of all Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay wines. It's up to you!!

What I've found works best is limiting the number of wines to taste to 4-6. Keeping a relatively small number keeps it easy to manage and fights off tasting fatigue (it's a real thing). Unless you know your guests vehemently oppose red or white wine, I choose 3 red and 3 white wines. A typical wine menu would be a Chardonnay from either France or Napa Valley, an Italian white wine such as Vermentino or Pinot Grigio, a Chenin Blanc, again from either France or California, a Pinot Noir from Oregon, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Northern California and, my new obsession, a Zinfandel from Northern California. 

Okay, it's math time. A 750 ML bottle of wine (the standard size bottle) will hold 25 fluid ounces; a standard pour for a glass of wine is 5 ounces, and a standard pour for a tasting is 1 ounce. So, 1 bottle of wine can accommodate 25 tastes.   So, do the math to determine how many bottles of wine you should buy for each wine. To make it easy, I usually have at least two bottles of the same wine unless a limited number of people attend the party (under 6).

Gather Supplies

Ensure you have all the necessary supplies for your tasting party:

  • Wine glasses: Have at least one glass per person, per wine. If you envision becoming the new Martha Stewart of wine parties, consider investing in universal wine glasses. This type of glass can accommodate both red and white wines. How you ask? The bowl of the wine glass is a bit fuller, so it can provide ample air for red wines (a must). Amazon has some reasonably priced good ones.

  • Wine opener: A good corkscrew is essential. Screw-top wines are great, too.

  • Decanters: For aerating red wines.

  • Water: For rinsing glasses and drinking between tastings.

  • Spit or dump buckets: Not everyone will want to swallow every sample.

  • Palate cleansers: Provide plain crackers or bread (Carr's water crackers are great).

  • Scorecards and pens: For guests to take notes and score each wine.

  • Table coverings and napkins: To handle any spills. Use plain printer paper as placemats. They can handle spills, and your guests can actually see the color of the wine in the glass much more easily.

Set the Stage

Dining room tables (or any flat table) are the way to go for serving and tasting wines. Ensure there's ample room between place settings to spread out a bit.  

Arrange the Wine For Tasting

I set out all of the glasses and pre-pour all the wine per setting. The advantage is that it's easy for guests to go back for another sip or to compare wines. A general rule of thumb is to start with lighter wines and progress to heavier ones. So, from left to right (for example), begin with sparkling wine, move on to light whites, then full-bodied whites, followed by light reds, and finish with full-bodied reds. Dessert wines should be last in the lineup if included in the tasting.

Provide Information

There is some homework involved, but it's the fun kind. Give your guests some background information on each wine. You can create cards with details about the wine's origin, grape variety, tasting notes, and food pairings. I do a little booklet, which is fun to make.

Guide the Tasting

Start the tasting by explaining the basics of wine tasting:

  • Appearance: Have guests look at the wine's color and clarity.

  • Aroma: Encourage them to swirl the wine in the glass and smell the bouquet.

  • Taste: Instruct them to take a small sip, letting the wine cover their palate, and note the flavors and mouthfeel.

  • Finish: Have them observe how long the flavors linger after swallowing or spitting.

Engage Your Guests

Get your guests to talk about the wine! Have them explain what they like about it or not at all (sadly, this happens sometimes). Good topics are how to pair the wine with food, when they would serve it….you get the drift.

Pair with Food

MUST HAVE FOOD!.  Food is as important as the wine. While a full-blown meal is probably unnecessary, ensure complementary foods are served. Offer a selection of cheeses, charcuterie, fruits, nuts, and chocolates. Provide small bites that match well with each wine, but avoid strong flavors that might overpower the wines.

Make it more fun

Consider blind tastings if guests want to think outside the box. Cover all the wine bottles with paper bags, and don't reveal what's been served until all the guests have written down their guesses. It can be fun and educational.

Have fun

Some people take the joy out of living, including some wine concierges. Wine has the reputation of being a little stuffy… here's your opportunity to make it less so by promoting an educational but fun tasting.




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