A wine tasting is the perfect way to get together with your friends while learning more about this elegant and complex beverage. If you’ve never hosted your own wine tasting before, we are here to help! Purchase some wine from your favorite wine shop, set out your favorite glassware and get ready to plan. Here are seven expert tips to help you host the ultimate wine tasting party at your home or apartment:
1. Choose your wine tasting theme.
Before sending out your invites, consider choosing a theme for your wine tasting. We recommend choosing a total of five to seven wines for your party to sample. You can do a mix of reds and whites, or narrow the theme down even more, such as pinot noir from different countries around the world or different white wines from California. You can also do a random selection of wines all at the same price point to determine how much bang for your buck you can get across different varieties. If you are willing to spend a little more, it can be nice to do different vintages of the same wine across the years for a more advanced tasting.
2. Purchase enough wine for your guests.
Once your guests have RSVPed and you have a firm guest count, you can do the math to determine how much wine you need to buy. If you keep your pours on the small size (two to three oz. each), you can usually get eight to 12 tasting servings out of a single bottle of wine. However, that doesn’t really allow for second tastings, so it’s usually a good idea to get at least two bottles of each kind of wine unless your tasting party is going to be pretty small. We recommend buying the wine yourself so you have more control over the varieties and quantity and to ensure that your guests don’t accidentally bring duplicates.
3. Taste the wine in the right order.
No matter what theme you decided on for your wine tasting, you should make sure to bring out the wine in the right order. Tastings are supposed to start with the lightest-bodied wine and then move up so that you end with the most robust wine. If you choose a highly specific theme with similar wines, such as the same varietal from different regions, do a little research into each of the wines and try to order them from lightest to heaviest to the best of your ability. This is also a great opportunity to have guests compare two different wines and give their subjective impressions of the differences between them.
4. Assemble your tableware.
Speaking of comparing wines, we recommend having at least two wine glasses for each guest in order to make that possible. We recommend clear glassware on a white tablecloth so that guests will be able to evaluate the true color of the wine. You should also provide water glasses so they can stay hydrated and rinse their palates between rounds. It’s also a good idea to have some spit buckets discreetly placed around the table so guests can dispose of unwanted wine. Finally, you will also need plates, utensils and other kitchen tools for whatever food you choose to serve.
5. Don’t forget about the food.
While the focus of a wine tasting is obviously the wine, it’s vital to have some food on hand. Not only will that help to soak up the alcohol and prevent your guests from getting too tipsy, it will also serve as an important palate cleanser in between wines. If you want to keep things simple, cheese and charcuterie boards paired with bread and crackers are always a good bet for wine tastings. If you want to get fancy, you can design an entire menu around the wines that you plan to feature during the tasting. However, if this is your first time hosting a wine tasting, we recommend sticking with the cheese and charcuterie boards to prevent overwhelming yourself or your guests.
6. Have a story prepared for each wine.
Unless your friends are already serious winos, they might not know the intricacies of each wine. If that’s the case, we do suggest having a short 3- to 5-minute story for each wine prepared so that you can give your friends a little bit of knowledge as you pour the next round. Cover the basics of how the wine should taste and where it comes from, as well as any interesting facts from the winery’s backstory that are memorable. You might also want to give your friends a small notepad or something else that they can use to jot down notes about the wines that they like so they can use their new knowledge to inform their future wine purchases.
7. End the night with a wine swap.
If you want to send your guests home with a little something, ask each of them to bring a different bottle of wine and swap them at the end of the night. That way, everyone gets to go home with a souvenir of the wine tasting that they can enjoy. If you ask guests to do this, give them a price point to aim for so that way you’re not trying to figure out who gets to take the nicest bottle home and who gets stuck with the cheapest one. You can also do a blind wine swap, where everyone brings their wine bottle in a bag and then grabs one to take home — sight unseen — for a little surprise.
Have you hosted a wine tasting at home before, or are you just now planning out your first one? What are your other expert tips for hosting a successful wine tasting at home? Try out these tips before your next wine tasting!