For those of you who know me well, you know that wine tasting is one of my favorite hobbies. And I don’t just mean drinking a glass of wine – I mean, I love that too – but what I’m really talking about here is the activity of taste testing and trying to really analyze a wine, its colors, scents, and flavors. I love comparing a group of wines side by side and figuring out what it is about a wine that I like or dislike. Trying to guess the varietal, winemaker, or vintage is my favorite game, lol. Basically, I like to pretend like I am a Sommelier in training. I also love hosting smaller parties and sharing great wines with great friends, so hosting a wine tasting party makes perfect sense! Follow along with me as I share my top tips for hosting a wine party.
Next to the guest list, the wines are the most important part of the party. There are so many different ways you can organize your tasting. You can go for a total wild card and just ask each of your guests to bring a bottle. This could result in a really great mix of wines, or you could end up with a lot of the same – you just won’t know until everyone shows up. If you want more control over the tasting, you can supply the wines and ask your guests to bring an item for a cheese board instead.
You can do all reds or all whites. You could do different bottles of the same varietal, for example, an all pinot noir tasting. You could taste the same exact wine from one winemaker but from different years (vintages). We did this on our recent trip to France and it was amazing how the vintage really changed the taste of what essentially is the same bottle of wine. A fun one is to do bottles from a certain budget range – everyone bring a $10 or less bottle. Or you can really cater a specific progression of flavors from light to full body, which is basically what I have pictured above.
You can even determine the level of mystery behind the tasting. You can let your guests in on what they are tasting by leaving the bottles out, labeling the tastes as I have in my photo, and reading the descriptions of the wines right before you taste them. Or you can wrap up the bottles or keep them hidden so it is more of a guessing game – see who can identify the most varietals, etc. Basically anything goes! Just make a theme for the night and go with it!
For this most recent tasting, we used 4 out of the 6 bottles that my cousin Mel recently sent me from Traveling Vinyard. They are an awesome online company that provides a variety of ways for customers to enjoy fun, easy, affordable wine tastings. Mel is a Wine Guide for Traveling Vinyard which means she can help with selecting wines and she can also come host a tasting at your home for you and all your friends – even better! I just did a huge review of these wines and shared more information about the company on my YouTube Channel – check it out!!!
I like to offer a cheese board/charcuterie – read my past blog about how to build the perfect cheese plate – while doing the initial tasting of the wine. If you want to provide all the wine, then your guests could each bring a type of cheese or meat to contribute. Then I try to make a dinner that is going to pair well with most of the wines from the tasting. That way my guests can identify their favorite during the tasting and then pour a full glass to enjoy with dinner. For every wine that Traveling Vineyard sells, they provide a huge list of food ideas and recipes that will go perfectly with the wine. That way you don’t need to worry whether your food will be appropriate for the wine – amazing!
So on my recent trip to Palm Desert, I found the deal of the century for these wine tasting carafes. Each set has 4 numbered carafes, a bamboo tray, and a little slate chalkboard where you can label the wines or make notes as you taste. I got six sets for $5 each!!! Yes, I made my parents drive these all the way back to Denver along with a bunch of other things I had to buy out there, lol. But it was so worth it – here’s a link to a similar set on Amazon.
Either way, this makes wine tastings so much easier (and safer). Instead of passing bottles back and forth or walking around the table trying to pour for everyone – which inevitably gets more difficult as the night progresses – you can set this up ahead of time before your guests arrive. This also allows the wine to breathe a bit which is always good. The numbered carafes also keep the wines organized and from getting mixed up as you taste.
I always provide a minimum of 2 wine glasses per guest so they can do a side-by-side tasting to compare the wines easily. Depending on how much space you have at the table and how many guests/glasses you have, you could provide a glass for each wine if you want. Just remember that’s more dishes at the end of the night!
Lastly, I like to have some sort of wine score card, or way for guests to make notes about the wines if they are interested. Some people will just want to drink, but others will be more interested in the “game” of the tasting and the pre-made wine score cards make that super fun and easy.
~ Takeaway ~ Drinking wine is great, but turning it into a wine tasting experience with your friends and family is even better! If you are hosting a smaller gathering, doing a wine tasting theme can be really fun and different. If you are totally clueless about wines, don’t worry because Traveling Vineyard is here to help in so many ways! You can check out my cousin Mel’s Traveling Vinyard website, or her Mel Loves Wine Facebook Group to learn more about how you can get great wines delivered straight to your doorstep and how wine guides like Mel can host a wine tasting party for you and your friends at your house. Cheers!