Wine tasting at home is, more or less, a luxury. When was the last time you opened five bottles of wine by yourself? Yet, tasting an array of vino alongside each other is the ultimate way to compare flavors and determine which varieties please your palate most.
How do you solve this quandary? Invite your friends over, pop some bottles, and enjoy a wide variety of wines together. Impress guests with the perfect wine tasting party by using these expert tips.
1. Do Your Research
Wine tasting is a five-step process that begins before you even taste the wine. Whether you’re familiar with traditional protocol or not, it’s worth reading up on so you can explain it to your guests. Research different varieties and practice identifying different flavors. First-hand experience is invaluable and will make concepts like mouthfeel, aroma, and body easier to understand and convey to guests.
You should also conduct a bit of research on each bottle of wine you choose to serve at the tasting. Make a few notes and impart a few nuggets of knowledge to your friends and family.
2. Send Detailed Invites
Events like wine tastings are among the finer things in life. As such, they come with certain expectations regarding etiquette and dress code. Of course, you can make the gathering as formal or informal as you’d like. However, if you want to maintain an air of elegance, request that guests don semi-formal attire.
Use invites to detail proper etiquette as well as specifics like date, time, and location. Remind guests to forgo perfume and eat a light meal if you aren’t serving entrees on top of hors d’oeuvres. This way they’re ready to taste-test to the best of their ability.
3. Provide a Broad Spectrum of Flavors
Regardless of which kinds of wines you prefer, it’s important to provide multiple choices for your guests. For instance, you can choose to serve reds, whites, pinks, and bubbly, as each one delivers a different flavor.
Alternatively, you can curate an entire lineup of reds with tasting notes ranging from fruity to spicy. Whites have a wide flavor profile, too, with some tasting like citrus and others like butter and warm florals. Various factors, including climate, fermentation, and chemical compounds, play important roles in the scent and flavor of each bottle. Read the descriptions and determine where they come from before adding them to your repertoire.
4. Figure Out Food Pairings
This is a tasting party, which means the food is just as important as the drinks. Serve hors d’oeuvres, not as an afterthought, but as part of the main event. Better yet, pair them with whichever wines you choose to serve.
Meat and cheese boards are a given, and both foods pair well with both reds and whites. However, if you’re serving big, bold wines like Malbec and shiraz, you should serve more flavorful foods with sweet-spicy sauces. Meanwhile, light whites pair best with seafood and noshes with tart dressings.
5. Style Your Spread
Set the stage for your tasting party by styling your spread. Use charcuterie boards to display small bites and decorative bowls to hold dips and sauces. Jazz up the table with seasonal décor like greenery in winter or a floral arrangement in summer.
Of course, the setup should also include functional items like bottle openers, wine stoppers, or a wine preservation system if you have deep pockets. Decanters and simple yet elegant glasses are also essential to bring out the right aromas and flavors of each bottle.
6. Label Everything
Take the pressure off yourself to play educator and use labels instead. Complete your tabletop look with sticky notes or folded cards to describe each snack and wine varietal. Mention the name, vineyard, and flavor profile, and list pairing suggestions. This way everyone feels empowered to discuss each wine and truly enjoy the experience.
Provide small notepads and pens for guests to take notes and write down their favorite varietals or pairings. Otherwise, you might have to remind people which wine is which, especially once everyone’s enjoyed a few glasses.
7. Create a Warm Atmosphere
Last, but certainly not least, create a warm, inviting atmosphere by dimming the lights and placing a few candles around the room. Make sure they’re unscented so they don’t interfere with the aromas in your wine glass.
Remember to turn on some tunes to underscore — not overwhelm — the conversation. Light jazz, instrumentals, and classical music are typically good choices. Brownie points if you can swing hiring a live band or musician. Adding a layer of background noise will also cover up that awkward silence when everyone takes a sip and ponders their wine at the same time.
As your guests begin to dwindle, present the remaining few with a small surprise like a sophisticated nightcap like a French Connection or classic Manhattan. Finishing your party off strong will add a wow factor for those who stick around long enough to experience everything you have in store. Plus, it’s sure to win you invites whenever your friends decide to host tastings of their own.