How to Host Your Own Wine-Tasting Party: A Brief Guide
Posted by Aleks Flom on
For wine lovers, few things could be more enjoyable than an evening sampling a well-curated list of bottles, each filled with the good stuff and chosen for their flavours, aromas, and character. What better way to do this than by throwing a wine tasting party?
Hosting your own wine tasting party is the perfect way to spread your enthusiasm for great bottles of vino, and to get your friends and family together for an evening of taste sensations, and exciting explorations into a whole world of flavour. You’ll be able to show off your savoir-faire when it comes to selecting top wines, and you’ll be able to enjoy the various benefits that come about from tasting wines in good company.
For example, did you know that your ability to dive deeper into flavours and aromas, and seek out secondary and tertiary notes in your wine is heightened by sharing your ideas and thoughts with others? It’s true - when we start talking about wine and tasting with other people, we’re able to hone our senses further and bounce ideas off one another, leading to the kind of results that are difficult to reach when tasting on our own. What’s more, hosting your own wine tasting party has the other added benefit of ensuring you’re only picking wines you know you’re going to love… so no nasty surprises await!
In this blog, we’re going to be looking at top tips for holding a wine-tasting party, which range from the more obvious points which always need reiterating, all the way through to some which you may not have thought of or would come by yourself. Wine tasting can be as simple or as complex as you want it to, and as hearty and simple or as high-falutin’ as you wish… just remember the golden rule: wine is made for enjoyment - so make sure you’re having plenty of fun!
A Quick Note on Wine Tasting
If you look around online, you can find no shortage of advice when it comes to wine tasting, and the supposedly ‘correct’ ways of doing it. As with many things in life, you can make the process as simple or as complicated as you wish - but all approaches essentially boil down to the same handful of key steps. These are:
The idea of ‘tasting with your eyes’ is one which will be familiar to anybody who struggles when making their food look presentable on a plate. When it comes to wine, taking a moment to appreciate the colour is important, though. Wines come in a magnificent array of colours, from the palest yellow-green, all the way through to the inkiest purples. The colour of the wine actually provides some clue as to how it will taste, too, as our brains are wired to associate colour with flavour. Hold your glass up to the light, and spend just a few seconds admiring the colour, and imagining what wonders and secrets it holds.
Swirling is key - it’s not just about looking pretentious with a glass in your hand. When you swirl your glass, it gives the wine an opportunity to oxidise as more of the liquid comes into contact with the air. As wine oxidises, the compounds which hold the flavonoids and aroma are loosened, and you get to experience the wine as the winemaker intender. If you want to ensure your wine is perfectly aerated every time you pour it, you can consider getting yourself a top quality aerator, such as this one.
The character of a wine is just as much about the aroma as it is about the taste. Take some real time to deeply sniff your wine - get your nose right into your glass and inhale - and check out which scents you pick up. Is it fruity? Spicy? Earthy? Something totally different? Make a note, then head back for another sniff.
There’s no need to swill the wine around your mouth like you’re getting busy with the Listerine. In fact, don’t do this at all - you’ll only end up looking silly. Let a bit of the wine roll around your tongue and coat the roof of your mouth before swallowing, and focus on the experience of drinking the wine, and the kind of flavours it presents. Don’t spit (unless you really, really don’t like the wine) - this is your party, and you deserve to enjoy every drop!
Choosing your wines
OK - so you’ve sent out the invites, decided on the date, and have given your house or garden a bit of a clean in preparation for your guests. The next part is the fun bit - heading down to the wine store to choose your bottles.
If you’re hosting the kind of wine tasting party designed to show off your great taste and sophistication when it comes to vino, this is something which is going to require a bit of time and thought (no rushing down to your local petrol station to grab a few bottles of whatever they’ve got… please!) - so choose a reputable merchant, and feel free to speak to them about your wishes and ideas.
We’d always encourage you to go for bottles which come from wineries that have a story to tell. This usually means smaller, independent operations, interested in capturing something interesting about their location in each bottle. Wines made by big, multinational wine giants are all well and good for a night in front of the TV and a pizza… but they don’t tend to tick the right kind of boxes when it comes to flavour, character and distinction. Go for a range of reds and whites, and mix together some popular grape varietals with some lesser-known or more region-specific examples, just to make sure there’s a chance of discovering something totally new at your party which could end up being a new favourite!
Steer clear of cheap (by which we mean under £8 (the cut-off point at which the wine is more likely to be of a low quality, and a bottle the winery is keen to get rid off), avoid young red wines which are meant for aging (you won’t be tasting them at their best unless you’re planning your party 3 years in advance), and don’t be afraid of taking a few risks. Our best advice? Have a chat with the person working in the shop. The days of snooty and unhelpful wine merchants have thankfully long since past, and it’s more than likely the shop assistant will have some great tips for bottles to lay out for your guests.
Choosing your wine tasting style
The next task is choosing the type of wine tasting you want to present to your guests. If you haven’t been to many wine tasting events before, you might not be familiar with the range of styles or modes they come in. These tend to fit into the following few categories:
- Horizontal Tastings
A horizontal tasting is when the host presents a selection of wines from the same vintage year, and often from the same region, grape varietal, or style. However, they’re each from different wineries, or made by different esteemed winemakers. This is a fairly advanced type of tasting, as the idea is to identify subtle difference from terroir to terroir, or from vigneron to vigneron.
- Vertical Tastings
Again, a fairly advanced type of tasting. This is when all the wines come from the same winery, but from different vintage years. The concept behind this is to see how different weather conditions and other subtle factors influence the outcome in the bottle.
- Blind Tastings
A blind tasting doesn’t involve blindfolds (although that sounds like fun)... but rather a mixed bag of wines made from the same varietal. For example, it could involve 10 bottles of Pinot Noir, all taken from wineries across a region, a country, or from around the world. These can be fun - especially if you have a favourite wine style or grape - as they tend to reveal how much a grape varietal can be influenced by New and Old World climate conditions and winemaking style.
- The Double Blind Tasting
Want to give your guests a challenge? The double blind tasting involves a mix of wine bottles, which have had the labels removed (or which are poured from a bottle disguised within a paper bag). This type of tasting really puts your wine skills and expertise to the test, as you can ask your guests to try to identify the wine style, grape varietal, or country (or region) of origin.
Of course, you’re more than welcome to completely do away with all of these conventions, and simply select bottles you like the look of or particularly want to try. It’s your party, after all!
Serving Wine at the Right Temperature
The world of wine features many misconceptions. However, one of the most common involves the temperature at which wine should be served. This is significant, as ensuring your wine is served to your guests at the optimum temperature can make a real difference to how that wine is received; too warm, and the wine tastes flabby and lifeless (with only the taste of alcohol dominating the palate), too cold, and the flavours and aromas will be inhibited, meaning you’ll miss out on everything that makes wine special.
Red wines should not - despite what you may have heard - be served at room temperature. They should, in fact, be served at ‘cellar temperature’, which is somewhere between 15 - 18C (59 - 64 fahrenheit). White wines should be served between 8 - 11C (47 - 52 fahrenheit), and not ice or fridge cold. Champagne and sparkling wines can be served from an ice bucket. Want to keep your wines at the perfect temperature? Check out Brumate’s top range of Winesulators!
How many tastings are in a bottle?
If you’re serving plenty of different wines at your wine tasting party, you don’t want to fill up your guests’ glasses with each style on offer (at least, not at first). Tasting wine is all about exploring those flavours and aromas, as opposed to getting a bit tipsy and not being able to tell your Zinfandel from your Cabernet Franc. Most tasting experts recommend that the classic volume for a tasting should be around 75 - 90ml of wine per glass (that’s between 2 - 3 oz), which should mean you get about 10 taste servings per bottle.
Think about food and accompaniments
No wine tasting party is complete without a delicious range of foods, nibbles, and flavoursome accompaniments. Pairing food and wine can be a complex process, which requires real skill and a deft hand… but if you’re serving lots of different wines, you don’t have to worry too much about getting it absolutely right. Tasting parties are all about discovery and exploration, so present your guests with some elegant platters of small bites, finger foods, and deli items to pick at while enjoying their wine.
Source some quality cheeses, charcuterie items, fruits and nuts, and lay them out prettily on your tasting table. Artisan bread is never a bad idea, nor are stronger flavoured items like olives and pickles. Bring in some contrast with some sweet nibbles too (candied nuts and fruit is always a sophisticated choices), and let people explore the flavour combinations they provide.
Wine Tasting Parties: A Celebration of Fun, Friends, and Flavour
Well, there you have it - our brief guide to hosting your own wine tasting party, complete with top tips and ideas for getting it absolutely spot on! We’ve no doubt that with our suggestions, you can host a wine tasting party that’s sure to delight your friends, and give you the opportunity to revel in the range and variety of wines that makes this drink so incredibly special. Don’t forget that Brumate has plenty of fantastic items designed to take your enjoyment of wine and other drinks to the next level… so be sure to check out our fantastic range today!