How to Throw a Fun Wine Tasting Party

If you have several friends and/or family that enjoys wine with their meals, try something fun and different and throw a wine tasting party.

fun-wine-tasting-partyMost of the time when someone has a glass of wine, they either purchase what they are already familiar with or they may get to try something new if they are at a restaurant that has suggested something different.

A wine tasting party gives your guests the opportunity to try several different wines in one sitting and maybe even gain some new favorites.

This is also a great way to learn a lot more about wine. If you are the one throwing the wine tasting party you will have some preparation to do ahead of time but don’t worry, it’s not exceedingly complicated.

Popular Wine Accessories for the Wine Lover

Wine Refrigerator-   Chances are if you know enough about wine to throw a wine tasting, you already have many wine accessories in your home that you enjoy already.

One of the most popular items that a wine enthusiast has or strives to get is a wine refrigerator.

popular-wine-accessoriesWine refrigerators are designed to hold full size wine bottles in the method in which they are best held. This means a sound proof, light monitored refrigerator that holds the bottles on their side the way they are supposed to be stored.

There are many different types and sizes of wine refrigerator on the market to choose from.  You can get a tall narrow one that can hold 20 bottles or more and some that are much smaller and shorter and hold 6-10 bottles.

The amount of wine you drink through entertaining and private glasses with your own dinner is a good determining factor of the size wine refrigerator you need.

Some people that have a true passion for wine may even choose to install a true wine cellar in their home.  This is a room, usually in the basement, that they store all the wine bottles.  The temperature of the wine cellar is very conducive to keeping wine properly. Large mansions and castles are known for their wine cellars. Take a look at some beautiful wine cellars here from Architectural Digest.

Wine Aerator – One of the ways to get the best taste from the wine you drink is to use a wine aerator.  It works by softening the tannins in the wine and releases the full aroma and taste of the wine you have poured into the aerator.

Wine has both wanted and unwanted compounds in it. Aerating eliminates the unwanted compounds and keeps all the aromatic ones that wine enthusiasts love.  Wine Decanters do the same thing but an aerator is much faster and works much better overall to get the desired taste.

There are many different sizes and styles of wine aerators available to choose from. How much aerating you intend to do and personal preference are the two main factors that determine which type of wine aerator you’ll choose.

Wine Opener – A good quality, durable wine opener is a must have for any wine enthusiast and you will definitely need it for your wine tasting party.

It is frustrating and can even be embarrassing to struggle with opening a wine bottle.  The right wine opener will eliminate this from occurring.

wine-openerYou’ll be able to smoothly and efficiently open any wine bottle anytime without trouble. There are many different styles and types of wine openers on the market to choose from.  Choose one that has an opening style that appeals to you and that has the look you want as well.

Choosing a Theme for Your Wine Tasting Party

There are several different themes that you can choose from for your wine tasting. Having a theme adds a focus to the wine tasting and adds even more fun to the unique evening.  We have listed several types of wine tasting themes that you could choose to use for your own gathering.

  • Region – With this theme you will choose a specific region and choose several wines from that particular area.
  • Variety – Choose wines from many different regions and have fun comparing them. Remember to choose the same type of wine from each region for example Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley in California to the Cote de Nuits from Burgundy. It is a great way to try several different region’s wine offerings.
  • Styles – Choose several different “styles” of wines, for example, many different dry white wines or dessert wines, etc. This is a good theme for learning the differences in taste between different wine makers.
  • Price – Set a dollar amount that you won’t go over and purchase multiple wins that meet that price point of less. This is great for people who often say they can’t afford a good wine. It gives you and them the chance to find great wines for less than $15-20 or whatever you decide to set your price point at.
  • Mystery Wines – Instead of letting the guests know what they are drinking ahead of time; pour each wine into separate decanters or pitchers. Label each decanter with a number.  Make sure you have a list handy of what each wine is next to the number that is on the bottle. If you don’t have decanters, you can wrap each bottle in foil or brown bags so the identity of the wine isn’t seen. This can be fun to discover new tastes.   Instead of choosing a wine because of the brand, the wine tasters will choose their favorites based on aroma and flavor alone.
  • Guest Favorites – Have each guest bring their favorite bottle of wine. This gives the other guests a chance to see what others’ favorites are and what different kinds of wines are out there and what makes them favored by the other guests.

Intimate-Sized Wine Tasting Parties are more Fun

intimate-sized-wineSmall parties are always going to be more intimate than a larger gathering so keep the guest list to 10 people or 5 couples. The smaller group will have an easier time engaging in conversation.

It also means that 1 bottle of wine will work for the 10 people rather than having to purchase duplicates of each wine to cover everyone.

You can typically get 12- 2 ounce servings per bottle.  Many guests will want to re-taste so be sure to allow for that when you are purchasing your wine.

Another thing to keep in mind when you are making out the guest list is to try and invite people that have similar knowledge of wines.

If all of your guests are equally knowledgeable or inexperienced it will make for a much more enjoyable party.  There is nothing less fun than having one super experienced guest who wants to explain everything about wine in detail to all the newbies.

When sending out your invites, have fun with them and make them as elegant or fun as you want.  Match the invites to the theme and let the guests know what to bring, if anything, and what they can expect during the course of the evening. Don’t forget to let them know what food will be served and if it will be a full meals or finger foods.

Give the guest 2-3 weeks notice for the wine tasting party.  One week is not enough time to arrange schedules and find sitters for the kids and more than 3 weeks is too long and can be forgotten. Don’t forget to enclose an RVSP card with your email and/or telephone number and the date you need to know that they are coming or not, so you know exactly how many will be attending.

Making Super You Have all the Supplies You Will Need

There are several things that you will need to ensure that you get in preparation for your wine tasting party.  We’ve listed these supplies below so you can make your list and see what needs to be purchased and what you may already have on hand.

  • Wine Glasses – You will need two wine glasses per person for a smooth, enjoyable party. While you can get away with only one glass per person, it does not afford you the opportunity to taste the wines and compare them at the same time. If you don’t already have enough wine glasses, you can purchase simple wine glasses easily or borrow some from a friend or family member if needed.  Most often a longer, slimmer glass is used for white wines and a rounder, bowl shaped glass is used for reds.  The glasses should have stems and be completely clear.  If you can find these, it will work well to give each guest the optimum tasting experience
  • Spittoons – You will need to provide each guest with a spittoon to get rid of the wine if they don’t want to swallow every sip. These don’t have to be fancy and can be simple glasses or little buckets if you want something a little fancier.
  • Palate Cleansers – Water crackers or bread works well as a palate cleanser. Each guest will need to have this to cleanse the palate between wines. This is done so one wine doesn’t affect the tasting experience of the next wine.
  • making-super-youWhite Background – You can do this a couple of different ways. One way is to create white backdrops out of white poster board. Fold them in the center so they will stand up by themselves on the table. You can also create a solid backdrop that goes along the whole tasting area but this is a little clunkier to manage. Find something that works well for the set up you will have during the tasting.  If everyone is sitting at the table individually, having individual backdrops would be the best method.  The purpose of the white backdrop is to be able to see the true color of the wines. They will show up the best against a white backdrop. 
  • Pens and Notepads – Place a notepad and a pen next to each guest’s place setting. This is so they can make notes about each wine. There are also tasting grids that can be found online and printed out if you want something a little more official looking.
  • Plenty of bright lighting – Lighting is another important factor in looking at the true color of each wine. As romantic as candlelight sounds, it does not lend itself well to being able to observe the color of the wine sufficiently.

Food is Always Important

One of the things that people love about any dinner party or gathering is the food that is served.  You can get a few things to use during the tasting like bitter chocolate and salted nuts along with creamy cheeses to see how the wine reacts to certain foods.  After the wine tasting, plan on having a full meal or at the very least finger foods and snack type cuisine.

If you want to serve a full meal, think about serving pasta.  After the wine tasting, the guests may or may not feel like having a glass of wine with dinner.  You want to have plenty of other drinks on hand such as iced tea and soda in case they are “wined out”.

You don’t want your guests to get drunk during the tasting so advise them that the meal will be served after the tasting and maybe serve a few light appetizers before the tasting to keep them from drinking on an  empty stomach.

If the guests want to participate by bringing food, consider having a potluck dinner afterwards.  This is always a great way to lower the cost for the host and to experience different people’s recipes and offerings.  Keep a working list of what each guest wants to bring so you can try to eliminate duplicates.

Setting the Table Properly for the Wine Tasting

There are a couple of things that you want to let your guests know when it comes to the wine tasting party. One of the things you want to tell them is not to wear perfumes or scented lotions. This will mess with the aromas of the wine and alter the scents.  You will not want to use incense, scented candles or other room deodorizers as well for the same reason.

Go to the library and pick up a few books on wine to have in case there are questions that the guests have.  Wine tasting guides and other similar books are good choices to make. If you can find them inexpensively enough, you could consider purchasing the same book for each of your guests as a wine tasting “favor” that will serve them well in their wine endeavors after the tasting.

Wine Serving Etiquette During the Tasting

There is a correct way to serve the wine during a tasting but it will vary a little depending on the theme you have chosen.  There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to order but it has been recommended to have the line up in the following order:

  • wine-serving-etiquetteBubbles
  • Light white wines
  • Rich white wines
  • Rose’ Wines
  • Light Red Wines
  • Bold Red Wines
  • Dessert Wines

Serve them at the correct temperature for each type:

  • Bubbles – 40 to 45 degrees
  • White Wines – 40 to 50 degrees
  • Red Wines – 55 to 65 degrees

Put the wines that are on the tasting schedule on the table so the guests can see them.  At each place setting put two glasses, water, napkins, spittoons, water crackers or bread and a notepad and pen.  This is everything your guests will need for the tasting.

Wine Tasting Techniques

Once all the guests are sitting down at their places, you will lead them through the tasting.  Depending on the theme, you will announce the wine that they are getting ready to taste.  Pour each guest their 2 ounce taste.  Instruct them to pick up the glass and swirl the glass gentle to allow the wine to breathe.

This is done for just a few seconds and doesn’t have to be done vigorously; just a gentle swirl a few times should do the trick. Next, have them smell the wine to get a sense of the flavor.  They can make notes as to the aroma and color of the wine at this time if they choose.

Now it’s time to taste the wine. Instruct them to take a small sip and swirl the wine in the mouths for a few seconds. They can then swallow it or spit the rest into the spittoon.  After they have tasted the wine and swallowed it or gotten rid of it, give them time to discuss the wine with the other guests and write down their impressions and notes.

When serving the wines, serve the lightest wines first and work your way to the darkest last.  If you have any dessert wines that you will taste, serve them last regardless of the color.

Note Taking Tips

The note taking process of a wine tasting is so the guests can learn about the different wines and apply what they have learned to the wines they buy and taste in the future.  When the guests first start writing down their notes, they might be a little unsure of what they should write. You can help them by providing a little guidance.  On 3 x 5 note cards write down the following information and place one next to each place setting.

  • Aroma/FlavorAny flavor that you detect when you taste the wine should be written down. This could be honey, lemon, earth, pear, strawberry, chocolate, etc.  The same applies to the aromas that you detect when you smell the wine.
  • note-taking-tipsTexture/WeightThere are several words that can be used to describe the texture or weight of a wine. These include light, crisp, full-bodied, rough, smooth, etc. It may be a little difficult at first to understand the differences. Try to get a feel for the weight of the wine as you taste it so you can learn to understand the differences between a wine that is “full-bodied” and one that is “crisp”
  • Balance – For this one you want to ask yourself if the wine has a mix of flavors that you taste or if you taste one more than any other.
  • Finishing – Does the wine disappear from your taste buds as soon as you swallow it or does it longer in your mouth. One of the marks of a good quality wine is that it will linger and not be gone as soon as you swallow it.

A Fun Game to Finish the Evening

At the end of the night put the wine bottles in paper bags so the guests can see which is which and let them taste the wine and see who can guess correctly without looking at their notes, which wine it is. Provide the winner (the person who gets the most correct) with a wine related prize such a special wine glass, wine stoppers, a wine opener or a similar prize.

If you are attending a wine tasting being hosted by someone else, don’t forget to provide them with a host/hostess gift.  This is a thoughtful thing to do that will show the host/hostess that you appreciate the effort they went through to organize a really enjoyable and unique evening. They don’t have to be wine related, but a wine related gift will definitely be received well since you already know they enjoy wine and wine related things.