Hosting a wine tasting in your home is a fun and easy way to discover new wines, expand your wine knowledge and socialize with others who share your passion for the good things in life. Here is a comprehensive run down of what you’ll need to make it happen:
1. Guest list:decide how many people you can comfortably host, and base all your plans around that. Make sure you have enough room for people to mingle and also to sit down if they choose.
2. Wine: kind of goes without saying, but you’ll need to choose some wine for the event. Anywhere from four to six wines should be sufficient, and do try to get a variety. For instance, you might decide on six wines, and you could split them up by having three reds, two whites and a rose, of whatever you prefer. Choose wines that are different in style, varietal or age to set them apart. If the wines are under cork (as opposed to a screw cap) try to purchase an extra, if you can. This will ensure that you have a backup in case the bottle is ‘corked’.
3. Glassware: based on how many people you want to invite, try to have at least two glasses per person (one for red, one for white), but if glassware is an issue, you could go with one each in a pinch. Just make sure there is spring water available to rinse glasses between tastes. Most caterers or party rental outlets have wine glasses available to rent at a very affordable price. Ideally, you should try to obtain proper tasting glasses: they are called INAO tasting glasses, and are quite small (ie: not generally made for drinking, but for tasting). Their shape and the way they are engineered are designed specifically for proper wine evaluation. Your home wine glasses are fine if you have enough. If you have both red and white wine glasses, all the better!
4. Tasting sheets: make up a tasting sheet for the wines you will taste so that your guests can jot down their thoughts. It’s always a wise idea to supply the price of the wine and where you purchased it from, so that your guests may go to the store and purchase it themselves if they find something they absolutely love. Don’t forget pens/pencils too! You can find an example of a tasting sheet here.
5. Water for rinsing: make sure you have plenty of spring water on hand so that people may rinse their glasses if they like. It is not advisable to use tap water as most tap water is chlorinated and will leave a chemical residue on the glass and sometimes impart off flavors. Also, keep a case of individual water bottles on hand for people to drink.
6. Dump Buckets: even if you and your guests are not experienced ‘spitters’ that doesn’t mean you can’t practice! Also, it’s good to have dump buckets on hand to pour out any extra wine if the taster has inadvertently poured too much. You can use any receptacle, such as the metal cup of a cocktail shaker, a disposable plastic beer cup, an ice bucket, anything you have on hand. Just be sure to check the bucket(s) regularly and empty them when necessary!
7. Set up your table: set up your wines so that people may approach the bottle and pour a sample easily. They should be able to move from one wine to the next easily. Be sure to leave some room in between wines for people to linger, because they will
8. Food: you don’t have to be a wine and food-pairing expert for this part – just make sure you have something on hand for your guests to nibble. Some tasters like a small piece of bread or a saltine cracker in between tastes to neutralize their palate. Cheeses are optional, but for tasting purposes, stick to hard, salty cheeses rather than pungent, ripened or soft cheeses as these are more difficult to pair correctly and may give rise to some … interesting flavors in the wine. Also, avoid spicy food and green vegetables as they can interfere. Stick to fairly neutral flavors (at least for your first tasting event) and you’ll be good to go.
9. Camera: make sure you take some pictures, as your guests will want to remember how lovely your event was! Take some photos of the bottles as well, so you can tie the whole thing together.
10. Keep it simple: don’t try to over complicate the party, and remember, it’s s meant to be fun, entertaining and social. Have some nice background music to elevate the mood, but not so loud as people can’t talk over it. You will want to encourage discussion around the wines, as each person’s feedback and opinion has great validity in the overall scheme of things. And above all – HAVE FUN!