A Beginner’s Guide to Hosting a Wine Tasting Party

Oenologists in wine cellar tasting red wine

If it’s your first time planning a wine tasting party, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gathered all the necessary things you have to remember in setting up the event. All you have to do is read through our guide to get things ready.

Pick out wines with a set criteria

Of course, start with your wine selection. What are your preferences? How many do you want to showcase? Do you want the party to exclusively have reds, whites or both? These are only some of the important questions you’ll have to consider heavily.

But before everything else, start with a theme. What kind of theme do you want to have? Do you want your guests to drink wines from a single region? Or something more adventurous like a blind tasting of a single wine from different makers? You can also exclusively have French or Italian wines. Whatever the case, a theme unifies your party’s elements, and gives you a clear direction. If you want more themes. You can look them up online.

Next, choose about 5 to 6 wines based on your theme. If you have more than that, you might overwhelm your guests. If you have less than that, you might end the party too soon.

If you’re leaning towards having both reds and whites. It’s actually okay. But, you have to remember to serve them from light-bodied to full. You also have to chill the reds before serving them. Ice in wine is definitely something you want to stay out of.

Go over the basics

Ultimately, you have to decide how many people are going to attend your party. Having a lot of people over is for experienced hosts. But, note that keeping the guest list to a minimum makes the event more intimate because it encourages more interaction. You can have 5 of your closest friends over. We also suggest inviting not more than 10 people.

You also have to decide if you’re going to hold a blind tasting event where you keep the wines’ labels hidden or keep the party classic by giving out each bottles’ info. Both options are fun, but blind tasting is for hosts with a little bit of experience even though they’re more exciting. Both options need studying though.

Check the party kit, twice

Wine tastings aren’t your run-of-the-mill parties. They need specific tools and kits to make them successful. Always check what you have twice because you’ll never know when you might need another glass or even an extra napkin.

Here’s a checklist of the things you need for your party:

1. wine (have at least 2 bottles for each kind of wine, depending on your guest list)
2. non-tinted glassware (to be on the safe side, have twice as many as the number of guests that you expect to have)
3. bread or water crackers (to cleanse palates)
4. a spittoon for each guest (for obvious reasons, we prefer that each guest needs one)
5. water
6. wine openers
7. napkins
8. placemats
9. polishing cloths
10. decanters
11. pens
12. papers or copies of a points chart (for notes and scoring)
13. wine bags (if you prefer blind tasting)
14. print outs about the wine being served (this one is optional)

Don’t complicate the food

Remember, the wines are the heroes of the party, not the food. The food, their sidekicks, should only compliment their strengths and other qualities. Choose appetizers that are easy to prepare and eat. They don’t have to be expensive horderves from multiple starred restaurants. Don’t strain yourself making them either. All you really need (the basics) are just bread, chocolate, meats like Prosciutto, fruits like grapes and apple pieces and different kinds of sliced cheeses. You can even go rustic and lay them out on a table and just let your guests pick out what they want.

Additionally, pair wines and food that are essentially the same. Choose highly acidic wines for acidic food and cheese from the same region where the wine comes from. The tendency is, makers of that region will have perfected their cheese that go with their wine. They know more than anyone else what goes with their wine.

Mix in your own style

Every party must radiate its host’s own style. Put in some signature pieces that point to your personality and taste. These not only add flare to your event; they make it extra memorable too. You can also add some DIY wine-inspired pieces in your set-up.

Build your way up: from light to full-bodied wine

If it’s your first time hosting, don’t just serve wine randomly. You want to start soft and end with a high note. That is, begin with subtle and delicate wines, the light bodied ones and progress your way up to full-bodied bottles, the ones that have strong flavor and are high in alcohol. Specifically, you can start with a Riesling to a Sauvignon Blanc and end with a Zinfandel.

Don’t be in a hurry

Lastly, there’s no fast-track when it comes to wine tasting. Each bottle must be enjoyed to the fullest; plus, there are a bunch of wine enthusiasts out there who take a long while to look at each glass and to analyze each sip. So, stagger the service to let your guests enjoy their wine more, and to judge the pairings that you’ve suggested.

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