Hosting a Wine-Tasting Party
Choosing a Theme
The theme for a tasting can come from a favorite grape variety, with a sampling of wines from around the world or from various U.S. wineries. Or you might concentrate on one type of wine, such as Chianti from Tuscany or Shiraz from Australia. And for a celebratory theme, Champagnes and sparkling wines are incomparable.
After deciding on the theme, ask each guest to bring one bottle of wine that suits the theme. To be sure that all the wines fall within a certain quality range, specify a price range: for example, Zinfandels between $12 and $25. And if your focus is white wines, be sure to remind guests to chill their selections beforehand.
Planning the Event
If the guest list is small, the entire group can sit around a table. But for larger gatherings, place the opened bottles on a sideboard and encourage your guests to sample the wines as they wish. Either way, each participant will need a napkin, pencil and paper for note taking, a water glass and, of course, plenty of wineglasses. Use a beverage bucket or a compact wine cooler to keep white wines chilled. If it is a sparkling wine or Champagne tasting, stoppers will be needed to keep the bubbles bubbling once the bottles are opened.
So that guests will not have to spend time copying down names of wines, slip a numbered tag around the neck of each bottle. They can simply record the numbers of the wines they like. The names of the wines can be matched to the numbers later.
As for food, a wine tasting requires the participants to use their senses to appreciate flavor differences among the wines, so it is best not to make the task more difficult by serving complex foods. Simple, mild-flavored canapés, hors d'oeuvres and finger foodsor a selection of great breads and cheeseswork best. If the wine you are serving is from a particular country or region, complement it with foods from that area.
As informative as it is enjoyable, a wine-tasting party is an event that you and your guests will remember long after the last bottle of wine has been emptied.
Karen MacNeil, Author, The Wine Bible (Workman Publishing Co., 2001).