Hosting a wine tasting party sounds like a blast! Also, maybe it sounds a little overwhelming? No worries, here is a great guide to help you host a stress free and fun tasting party at home. A great idea to start with is to do a tasting before lunch or dinner. Then after the tasting can follow up with a meal that will complement the wines that were sampled, and your guests can opt to choose a wine they liked best to drink with their meal.
A few quick starting points: try to sample around 8 wines max. If you do more, you risk overwhelming your guests with flavors. You can serve the wines in flights of four, with a pause in between. Your guests can sample four wines, write their notes, discuss, and then move on to the second flight. That makes it easier to remember each wine and its characteristics. Set out 4 wine glasses for each guest, and pour from left to right. Give your guests about 2 ounces of wine for each sample (for reference, a standard small shot glass is about 1 ounce). That is enough for several sips. Be sure to start with lighter white wines, and finish with stronger red wines. Tasting the stronger red wines last will ensure you don’t overwhelm the taste buds before you taste the lighter white wines.
Types of Tasting
Regional: Different types of wine from the same area. Taste the differences/similarities of various wines subjected to the same elements (water, sunlight, weather patterns, etc.)
Varietal: Same grape type from different areas. Learn/taste how different areas contribute their own style/character to the same variety.
Category: One wine from each category. This type of tasting could be most open to your own preferences and interpretations.
Set the Scene
Cover the table with a white tablecloth (or butcher paper); the white color will help you easily examine and describe the colors of the wine. The friction-free surface also makes it easier to swirl the wine in your glass.
Serve your white wines slightly chilled, and your red wines around room temperature. Wines that are too cold or too warm will lose some of their more subtle flavors.
*Fun tip: Do a blind tasting. Wrap the bottles with foil or a wine bottle cover and label each wine by number. Blind tasting ensures swanky names or a well-designed label doesn’t accidentally affect your tasting experience.
Make sure you set out some neutral crackers or some crusty bread for your guests to munch on between tastings. They will act as palate cleansers and make sure the flavors of multiple wines won’t get muddled up on your taste buds.
Also be sure to set out little pads of paper so your guests can write down their tasting notes. You can find tasting note charts online that can be printed out and used for notes as well.
Tasting the Wine
Look: Examine the color of the white against a white background; is it a warm honey color? A rich burgundy? Is it translucent or more opaque?
Swirl: Swirl your wine around in your glass so it will aerate (air will be added to the wine to enhance the flavors & aromas)
Sniff: After swirling, inhale the scents of the wine, what do you smell? Your sense of smell contributes a great deal to what you taste in the wine itself.
Sip: Take a good sip. Hold the wine in your mouth; swish it around, allowing it to coat your taste buds. What does the wine feel and taste like? Is it thin and acidic? Rich and velvety?
Savor: Draw in some air through your teeth and let it mix with the wine on your tongue. Since your mouth and nasal passages are connected, inhaling air through your mouth while the wine is on your tongue allows you to taste and smell more complex scents and flavors. Your tongue by itself only has five basic tastes.
What do you taste? Do you like it?
Aromas & Flavor: Enjoy tasting the wine, and jot down descriptive words or phrases you think describe it best.
Texture & Weight: Is the wine light? Crisp? Is it rough or smooth? Full-bodied?
Overall “Balance”: A “good” wine should taste harmonious, with various flavors present without one flavor dominating over the rest.
Persistence on the Palate: A good indicator of wine quality is how long the wine flavor lingers on your tongue. If it disappears the moment you swallow it, it may lack concentration of flavor, or it was made with substandard grapes. A great wine lingers on your tongue after you’ve swallowed it, and you can savor the aftertaste.
Compare your Notes:
After you’ve tasted and written down your notes, talk with your fellow tasters. Share your likes and dislikes, and pick your favorites. Taste your wines again as you discuss them, it’s possible you will discover a new flavor or a change as it sits out in the open air. Have everyone pick their favorites and then reveal the labels!
Now that you’ve finished your tasting, its time to eat! Pick a wine with our meal and pay attention to how the flavors change and interact with the food you’re eating.
Have fun & enjoy!