What’s a Carménère? Are there any differences between Tuscan wines and those from, say, Sonoma? It doesn’t take more than a scan of grocery shelves these days to show you that wines are . . .well, confuzzling! But you don’t have to be an expert to sort through the tangles of vino information out there. You just need some friends, a little equipment, and a willingness to taste.
Whether you’re a wine-lover or just someone who’d like to know a little more while having a good time, a home wine tasting can be a great way to hang out with friends and learn a little more about the mysteries of wine (especially finding ones you really like). Yes, you can be an oenophile (wine lover) who blind-tastes bottles, takes notes on flavor and color, and keeps notes on best vintages, but you can also just try different wines to figure out what styles suit your tastes.
But before we start talking about the type of wine tasting you want to put together, there are a few things you might need:
- Wines: While it can be informative to choose a theme for your tasting, such as comparing the same varietals (Malbecs or Pinots or Viogniers) or wines from the same region, you can also just invite guests to bring a favorite wine so that all can taste it. Small gatherings of 5-10 people are most manageable. You can count on about 10 tasting pours (2-3 oz.) per bottle.
- Wine tools: Even with the increasing presence of screw off caps these days, you’ll want to have a few wine opening tools on hand. Most wine lovers prefer the wine tools used in restaurants with a small folding blade on one end and a flip out lever device on the other.
- Glasses: You can certainly purchase wine glasses with the classic tulip shape to channel aromas toward the nose, but plastic cups can work just as well for a more casual affair. Aim for at least two glasses per person.
- Wine markers: If you opt for glassware, it’s a good idea to have glass markers so that guests know which wine is theirs. You can find interesting decorative rings that clip around the glass stem or just use stickers if you’re on a budget.
- Spit buckets: Depending on how much wine you’re tasting, you may want to make containers available into which your guests can spit their wine. This helps prevent palate burn out (usually after 3 to 4 tastes) and reduces the impact of the alcohol. You can use pitchers, buckets, or just large plastic cups.
- Water pitchers: Some guests may want to rinse their glasses out between tastes to prevent one wine from contaminating the next. They may also just want a quick mouth rinse to cleanse the palate.
- Crackers or other light food: An unflavored cracker is a great way to clean your palate between tastes, but you can also provide other foods that don’t have strong tastes likely to influence the flavor of the wine.
- Notepads or tasting sheets: For the more formal tasting occasion, guests will want to take notes on characteristics of the wine, region, type, and vintage (year produced).
Types of Tastings
Once you’ve gathered your necessities, chosen a theme (if you want), and invited your guests, it’s time to put together a tasting that suits your style.
Wine pairings: Pairings can be formal or informal. The most formal tend to be progressive meals in which foods move from appetizer to dessert and wines progress from lighter white wines to heavier reds–often ending with sweeter dessert wines. But a fun, less formal way to pull off a pairing is to invite guests to bring a wine paired with an appetizer. Set up a table where the pairings can be displayed and let the fun begin.
The blind tasting: This requires that you, as the host, collect all wines and place them in paper bags or wrap them in foil. The wines are then numbered for ease of reference. Having paper mats on which you can draw circles where the glass can be placed and the number of the wine written next to it will help with identification. True aficionados prefer that food be kept to a minimum until after the tasting and that no candles or other scents be used that might impact the taste of the wine.
Buffet style: You don’t have to be formal to enjoy wine or discover new favorites. You can simply set up a table where guests bring wines grouped by type or region and let the tasting begin. You can still provide pads for those who do want to take notes. Put out snacks, provide the glasses, and let the good times pour!
This article was written by Ivan Young , a writer from Happy Writers.
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Since 1986 Annette Naif has been designing and producing custom events, helping clients create their unique style that translates into a memorable and profitable experience. Annette spent 17 years producing events in the motion picture industry where she helped coordinate numerous productions for film and episodic television programs. Since then Annette’s been running her own event production company, coaching other event planners, teaching an event operations and production course at NYU, and now is the CEO & Creative Director of Naif Productions.