Host a wine tasting

Pin It The next time you are planning a get together with friends, consider a wine tasting. It will add some variety to your social gatherings and can be coupled up with a dinner party.

Start by selecting a date to invite your guests over. Use email to simplify the process of figuring out when everyone’s schedules are clear. In your email you might ask for suggestions on what types of wine your guests like or might want to try.

There are two great ways to set up the wine selections:

The first is called a vertical wine tasting. Select different years of the same type of wine by the same maker. For example If “Barefoot” Merlot is the wine you select, then 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 might be the years. This is a very good method to find out which year’s wines you like from a particular maker. Afterwards, you can stick with buying that year for your regular “wine with dinner” or make it a point to bring a bottle of it to the next dinner party.

The second way to arrange the wine selection is called horizontal. You would use the same year and type of wine with different makers. Maybe a 2006 Merlot from: Yellowtail, Sutter Home, Kendall-Jackson, Robert Mondavi, Barefoot, “2 Buck Chuck”, and Woodbridge could be the makers chosen. This type of tasting is bound to give you an abundance of different tastes, since the grapes are grown in different regions.

A twist on the methods above is to have a mystery tasting where all the wine bottles are covered and your guests try to guess the wine maker (label), the year, and how much the bottle costs – “Charles Shaw, 2006, for $2.00”.

Aficionados can be more daring and host a wine tasting which spans from white to red, but when hosting a tasting of this sort, you must follow a particular order:

Taste the white first: with different whites, taste the dry first and then progressively sweeter wines.

When tasting both red and white, the red should be tasted after the white is done. Then taste the light reds first, moving on to progressively more full-bodied reds.

How many bottles of wine do you need?

That depends on how many guests you are entertaining. There are 12 two-ounce “tastes” per bottle, so 12 guests can taste from one bottle – if you have 24 guests, you will need two bottles of each type of wine to allow everyone a taste. To go one step further, if you taste eight different wines with 24 people, you will need sixteen bottles of wine (two of each kind).

Practice with a measuring cup pouring 2-ounce portions of water in a wine glass to find out how high to fill for the tasting. Wine glasses should be identical to make pouring the correct amount easier.

Your guests can bring wine to the tasting to help spread the cost. Put the names of the wines you have selected in a hat and draw them to decide who will bring each wine. You may want to put a dollar limit on the wine selection to make it as fair as possible (under $20, for example).

What you will need:
  1. Enough bottles of wine for everyone to taste (see above).
  2. Wine bottle covers. Each bottle’s label should be covered so nobody will be influenced by the name. Heavy construction paper taped around the bottle (top and bottom to avoid slipping and a mess) with a number printed (or written) on it will allow everyone to properly identify “wine bottle #6” when rating the wines.
  3. One 8 ½oz wine glass per guest - or one per guest per type of wine to avoid having to rinse and wipe glasses between different wines (6 tasters and 6 wines would mean 36 glasses).
  4. A dump bucket (or bowl) for leftover wine.
  5. Water glasses and a pitcher of filtered water or bottled water (to avoid tap water chlorine taste tainting the wine flavor).
  6. Plain bread and/or crackers to cleanse the palate between different wines.
  7. Light food and appetizers for before and after the tasting.
  8. Click Here To Download A Printable Wine Tasting Score Card!
  9. A stack of wine tasting scoring cards for each wine (enough for every guest).

    The wines should be arranged in the order you will taste them especially if you are hosting a more daring red/white style tasting (tasting a sweet wine and then a dry will not be the most pleasant of experiences).

The Process:
If you have a small group of guests there should be plenty of time to taste each wine and then discuss it. With larger groups, you will have to forego discussion in order to finish the tasting.

For discussions, everyone should be aware of some terms used to characterize wines. Use the five S’s in the order they are listed -- See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Savor:

- See: “Clarity” is how clear the wine looks (not cloudy). The tasting table should be covered in bright white linen so the glass of wine can be viewed against the white background.

- Swirl: An 8 ½oz wine glass allows enough room for swirling without spilling. “Legs” are the strands of wine that cling to the sides of the glass while slowly dripping down after the swirl. More legs mean sweeter wine (the sugar makes it thicker).

- Sniff: The “Nose” is what the wine smells like (its bouquet). Swirl the wine in the glass before smelling it to release the aroma.

- Sip: Tasting the wine will let you know if it is “dry” or “sweet”, and if you have a wine taster’s palate will yield essences of maybe cherry, or chocolate, or a variety of different tastes. Most people can detect maybe 3 or 4. To try for more, suck air through the wine, then spit it out (or not) and allow the vapors to travel up your nasal passage where more tastes may be found.

- Savor: The “Finish” is how long the flavor of the wine lasts after you swallow it.

Every taster should have a pencil (with eraser) and a preprinted sheet listing different wine qualities they can check off with an area for comments.

The Winner:
The best wine will be the one that scored the highest when averaged across all tasters.

If your guests all bring a bottle of wine to the tasting, and their bottle wins, they can get a prize such as a set of Wine Charms, for example.

After having your wine tasting, you may want to make it an annual event - "The Second Annual Fall Wine Tasting" - it can be a simple event or as complex as you like. Use the information above as a guide and tailor your winetasting event to your "tastes".

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