How to Host a Wine Tasting Party

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending an online wine tasting.  I was sent several bottles of wine and then went on an online chat with other people who were tasting the wine while the wine maker gave us tasting note.  I love a good glass of wine but I’m not very knowledgeable about my wine so I learned a lot and had a fun time.

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Since I only had a few sips out of each bottle I thought it would be fun to have my friends over an host my own Wine Tasting Party.  It’s really pretty easy to host your own wine tasting party with a group of friends.  All you need is some wine, some food, and some friends!

Deciding on the Wines

The first thing you need to do is decide on the wines.  There are several ways you can do this.  The first way is to choose a single wine and a single vintage.   An example of this would be tasting 1996 Bordeaux or 1999 Pinot Noirs.  Because this is a tasting of very similar wines I would only recommend doing this with seasoned wine tasters.

A second way to choose the wines is to do a single varietal.  This means choose one type of wine and then get different bottles of it from different regions.  One example of this would be to choose Chardonnay and then buy bottles from California, New Zealand, Italy, Chile, and Spain.  This way you can taste what each regions brings to a similar type of wine but it doesn’t need to be the same vintage.  This is great for people that like a certain type of wine.

The third way to choose the wines is to go with a single vineyard.  This is what you would do if you were traveling to different vineyards and wanted to taste the varieties they make in order to find your favorite.  When tasting this way make sure you go from the lightest wine to the heaviest.  During my wine tasting party I served five different types of wine from Murrieta’s Well which is in California.  We sample two white wines, then a rose, and finished off with two red wines.

Deciding on Food Pairing

When doing a wine tasting you want to stick with lighter foods so that people don’t get full on the pairings.  If you are doing a full on meal with wine pairings that is a whole other ball game.  In this case I paired either a fruit, cheese, or chocolate with each wine that I served in order to try and bring out the flavor of each wine.  You can also pair it with seafood or meat.

A fun way to choose food pairings with your wine.

I have a handy chart I got from CK Mondavi that helped me choose what to pair with each wine.  It gives examples of seafood, poultry, meat, cheese, and fruit that pair well with each of the wines.  You only need a few bites of each to pair with the wines.   Make sure to have bread or crackers on hand to help cleanse the palate in between each tasting as well.

I want to share with you what food I paired with each of the wines that we tasted.  Below is the varietal, the vintage, and the food I paired with each one.

  • Sauvignon Blanc-2017-Apple and Orange Slices
  • The Whip (a blend of Sauivgnon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Orange Muscat, and Viognier)-2016-Brie and Crackers
  • Dry Rose-2017-Smoked Gouda
  • The Spur (a blend of Cabernet Sauivgnon, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc)-2015-Aged Cheddar and Strawberries
  • Cabernet Sauvignon-2015-Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt

Setting the Table

This is where it starts to get tricky.  You can set the table in several different ways.  If you are simply doing a wine tasting and not doing any food pairings then you should have several glasses in front of each place setting.  Then you can place a board with crackers, bread, and cheese in the middle of the table to use as palate cleansers.

Learn how to host your own Wine Tasting Party!

If you are doing simple food pairings with the wines then you should had a plate in the center of each place setting with the food pairings on each one.  Make sure that each pairing is clearly set aside from another pairing.  Then arrange the wine glasses around the plate so that each wine glass is close to the food it is paired with.

If you are a seasoned wine taster then you may want to have spit buckets near each place setting as well.  My friends and I tend to swirl the wines and taste them then actually drink what we are tasting but many people simply swirl the wine in their mouths and then spit them back out.  These can be large coffee mugs or heavy plastic cups.  It should be a cup with some weight so that it doesn’t fall over.

How to Taste the Wines

I’m going to give you a very basic way to taste the wine since I am new to all this.  I do know that the first thing you do is hold the glass up and tilt it away from you to examine the color of the wine.  Then you gently swirl the glass several times to release the aroma of the wine and stick your nose in the glass to smell the aroma.  This is a good time to stop and discuss what everyone at your tasting smells in the wine.

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Next you want to take a good sized sip of the wine but don’t swallow it.   Give it a swish in your mouth so that you can really taste it.  You can gently draw air into your mouth which helps to distinguish the flavors in the wine. At this point you can either swallow the wine or spit it out.

Now you want to chat with your guests about what they taste.  Do you taste floral notes?   Is the wine fruity?   Do you get a hint of chocolate or tobacco?  It’s fun to guess what you are actually tasting before telling your guests what flavors they should be tasting in the wine.  After you give the description have your guests taste the wine again and see if they can taste the different flavors.

What to do After the Tasting

What you do after the tasting is up to you but generally everyone decides on their favorite wine and each person gets a glass of the wine of their choice.  This is a great time to pull out a charcuterie board to enjoy with the wine.  Enjoy your time with your friends!

What to Put on a Charcuterie Board

I have a few different posts on how to create a charcuterie board but I’ll just give a quick overview.  A Charcuterie Board is basically a meat and cheese tray with some crackers or bread, possibly some fruit, maybe some nuts, and some olives if you wish.  You can really put anything you want on it.

The basis of your board is the meat and the cheese.  I usually start by choosing 2 or 3 cheeses.  I like to pick 2 cheeses that I can slice and one that I can spread.  In this case I put the Smoked Gouda and Aged Cheddar on my board because I already used them in my food pairings.  Then I added in a spreadable Swiss.

Next you need to pick your cured meats. Some of the most common meats on a Charcuterie platter are bacon, hams, salami, or sausage.   I’m not a huge cured meat fan so I usually go with boring old pepperoni and some prosciutto.

A fun idea is to pair a small bite (food item) with each wine during a wine tasting.

Then you move on to fruit.  You can pick dried fruit or fresh fruit.  Since I already had oranges, apples, and strawberries as part of my food pairings I used these on my charcuterie board in addition to dried craisins because I always have them in the house.

Then you can add something pickled.  This might include pickles, vegetable pickles, pepperoncinis, or pickled carrots.  Olives are a great choice as well.  Then add in some type of nut for some crunch and a few jams or spreads.  I like to use fig jam, spicy brown mustard, and chutney on my charcuterie boards.

Finally finish your board with your breads.   You can use crostini, artisan bread, different types of crackers, or wafers.  Anything that you can load up with the goodies you put on the charcuterie board.

Enjoy Yourself

The most important part of Hosting a Wine Tasting is to enjoy yourself.   Invite friends that have things in common.   I wouldn’t invite more than 5 or 6 people.  It’s easier to keep it to a close knit group when you are tasting multiple wines and doing food pairings as well.

I hosted my own wine party and have some great tips on how you can do it too!

Prepare as much as you can in advance so you don’t have to worry about it later.  I had all of the wines corked a few hours in advance.  I made sure to put the white wines in the refrigerator so that they were chilled.  I set the table several hours in advance so everything was ready when it was time to start.

When making my charcuterie board I had the bread and crackers on the board ready to go.  I had the cheese and meats sliced and ready to go in the refrigerator so all I had to do was build the charcuterie board after the wine tasting.  A great time to do this is when the guests are choosing their favorite wine.  Have everyone discuss their favorite and then serve themselves a hearty glass while you simply set out everything on the charcuterie board.

After the tasting clear the tasting glasses and plates, set out appetizer plates and the charcuterie board and enjoy!  The best part of the wine tasting is enjoy a glass of wine and some snacks with your friends.


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