OK, you’re really into wine, but many of your friends aren’t. Want to get them started? Try hosting a wine-tasting party.
Here are a few tips that I’ve found helpful:
- Limit yourself to three to four whites (sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot grigio, riesling), and/or three to four reds (cabernet, merlot, pinot noir, syrah).
- Label each bottle 1, 2, 3, or A, B, C with stickers or Post-it notes. Plan on a total of 1/3 bottle per person—remember, you’re tasting, not drinking, the wine.
- Set the wines on a table in the traditional order (white to red; lighter-body to heavier-body). This would look like (left to right): sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, merlot, syrah, cabernet.
- Have people pour themselves a very small taste (1/2- to 1-ounce) of each wine, one wine at a time.
- On the table, place several 3-by-5 cards in front of each wine bottle. Encourage guests to write something about each wine’s “sight,” “smell,” and “taste.”
- Don’t stress the note-taking too much. People will naturally be shy and somewhat intimidated if a lot of thought or note-taking is required. Often they will prefer to write nothing, or to merely write down “OK,” “really good,” or “ugh.”
- Invite discussion if you like, as in, “…Who liked wine ‘A’ best?” Or, “…which of the reds did you like best?”
- Serve cheese, bread or crackers (hot snacks if you prefer). Ask the tasters to notice how different each wine tastes with and without food.
- Have one or more pitchers of cold water available as well. It’s a good idea for tasters to drink as much water as wine, in order to keep the palate from drying out and to stave off inebriation.
- Provide quart-sized empty containers for dump buckets. Label them as such. This is where tasters will dispose of unwanted wine, before moving on to the next selection. It’s possible that the “spitting” subject will come up. If they can do it gracefully, provide a separate container for that as well. If they can’t do it gracefully, well, usher them outside and down the block to a neighbor’s house.
- Be prepared for chaos. Despite your best intentions, and/or superb organizational skills, it’s common for guests to scatter or largely ignore the “purpose” of the gathering. Expect it. You’ll be so busy acting as host/hostess, filling water pitchers, adding crackers, etc., that it’ll be difficult to also act as a wine tour guide.
- And finally: Spills happen. A red-wine spill on your white Berber carpet might give you a near-death experience. Get yourself some “Wine Away” or a similar product often available at wine stores. They work great, as I can testify from first-hand experience.
- Oh, and one more thing. Be sure to have fun!