The finer points of hosting a wine tasting.



While you might think wine tastings are reserved for winery visits or five-star restaurants, there’s something very special about hosting a tasting in the comfort of your own home. The combination of great wine and lively guests makes for an enjoyable evening. And there’s no better way to learn about vino than experimenting and sharing your knowledge.

When it comes to the wine selection, keep it simple. You might focus on a certain varietal, a particular region or a specific genre, such as organic or biodynamic. Keep in mind the season: Sparkling and white wines shine on warm summer nights, while reds and blends lend themselves nicely to cooler evenings.

It’s important to consider how much your guests know about wine. Do your homework ahead of time, prepare notes and introduce each bottle. Order the offerings appropriately: For whites, transition from dry to sweet; with reds, begin with light and move to full-bodied. Explain the steps of tasting wine: First, open the bottle. Notice the color and appearance. Take in the nose of the wine. And finally, savor the flavor, or mouth. Provide tasting cards so your party can take notes and articulate the subtle distinctions.

Wine-tasting parties are about enjoying time with friends and sharing your mutual appreciation for vino. You want to keep it light, encourage participation and learn something along the way. Don’t become mired with the details and right or wrong answers. After all, there are no wrong answers when it comes to personal taste.

Tricks of the Trade

Hosting a wine tasting is one of my favorite ways to entertain. Here are a few ideas to make the evening memorable.

1 Consider selecting flowers for the evening to compare floral aromas in the wine.

2 Use stemmed glasses since cupping a glass can change the temperature of the wine. Mix and match stemware for visual interest.

3 Get the evening started with sparkling water and some hors d’oeuvres. I like a standalone tasting, where you can focus on the wine rather than pairings. Save that for another party.

4 Suggest some descriptors while you explain the steps of tasting wine. Or share a flavor wheel, which articulates the different categories of aroma and taste.

5 Practice swirling with water. Explain why this step is important to enjoy a wine’s aroma.

6 Offer a “spit” bucket. Some guests will not want to finish their glass, for whatever reason, and will want to pour it out. This is perfectly acceptable. Make it clear from the start that they are welcome to dump. I like to use Champagne buckets for their function and appearance.

7 Have crackers and bread available to nibble on between tastings to help cleanse the palate. While cheese is commonly paired with wine, it interferes with the true flavors.

8 Lastly, offer take-home bottles. This allows guests to confirm their tastes and take part of the experience with them.

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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