The Guest List and Wine Buying
Determine who you want to invite and then how you're getting the wines. You do not need to do all the buying yourself, especially if you want your friends to contribute their ideas to the party. A good suggestion is to send an e-mail or invitation two weeks in advance that outlines the theme of the party and encourages guests to bring wine as well.
Your invitation might also include any price sets that will help anyone on a budget. You will also want to include any type of food or cheese pairings so that guests can choose wines that are best served with the dishes. As the host, you will want to purchase more than your guests, for those "just in case" moments.
Selecting the Wine
What kind of wine tasting party do you wish to host? You will want to decide what you want to taste during your party. Perhaps you want to sample different varietals or wines from a specific region. One of the key things to remember is to be adventuresome yet practical.
Many local groceries are now offering a wide selection of fine wines from around the world. However, you may want to visit a wine store with a knowledgeable staff to answer any questions you might have. Consider selecting wine you would not normally purchase.
Wine tasting parties can be casual or formal - whatever suites your fancy. Some basic supplies include:
- Plain bread or crackers: Something light that will help "clean the palate" and pairs with all types of wines.
- Wine glasses: At least one per guests
- Pitcher of water: For cleaning out the glasses between each tasting.
- Dump bucket: For discarding wine before next pouring or spitting out
- Tasting cards & pens/pencils: For describing and recording each wine tasted
- Paper bags: To cover the labels for blind tastings
If possible, serve the wines on a large table with good lighting. A cheap white tablecloth is recommended as solid background to assess the color of the wines.
Atmosphere & Education
Set the atmosphere and decorate! Add candles, pillows, vintage bottles, artwork, and table linens. Keep the feeling light and casual, with lots of comfort. Atmosphere is key to the enjoyment of wine, so make sure and have the right mood. Candles should be unscented so they won't interfere when smelling the wine. We recommend cheap table linens so that, if stained, it won't hurt the bank to throw them away.
You may want to do a little research about wine, winemaking and wine regions before the party or purchase a book offering information about wines and wine tasting. This knowledge can help when questions arise about a specific wine, varietal or region and add to the experience.
It's what you've been waiting for! People taste wines in all different ways, but typically you want to work from sweet to dry with white wines and progress from light to full-bodied with red wines. Note unique color, smells, and flavors - but above all, have fun. This is not a professional wine tasting, it's education, so enjoy.
A simple tasting card to write down your observations and thoughts is always a good idea, especially if you find a wine you want to purchase yourself.
You may also want to send an email or note after the party that includes a list of the wines served and where they were purchased so that guests can buy a bottle of their own.
Download a PDF version of the Planning Guide