Interested in hosting a wine tasting but not sure where to start? Here are some tips on how to hold a successful event, along with some options.
A varietal tasting showcases the same grape from different regions. For example, taste Chardonnays from California, Italy, Australia and New Zealand. Choose wines that are about the same age and provide guests with some characteristics of each region so they can learn about how a varietal changes depending upon where it’s grown.
Choose wines from a specific country or wine region, like Italy (which can also be broken down into regions), Chile or the western coast (Oregon, California and Washington State). Here you can choose a few whites and a few reds.
Sometimes guests like to bring a wine to share and this allows you to try wines you may never buy or sample on your own. If you have friends you meet up with on regular occasions, try taking turns bringing a wine for the rest of the group to share and evaluate.
A horizontal tasting is the most challenging, involving wines from a single varietal and vintage, such as 1993 Bordeaux or 2007 Chardonnay. Purchase wines from different wine producers to taste and compare their differences. This tasting may be harder and more frustrating for beginners, as there may be more subtle differences. Consider your guests before choosing this kind of tasting.
Setting Up the Bottles
To have a blind tasting, wrap the bottles in aluminum foil and number each bottle. Give each guest a piece of paper and pencil to keep notes. A blind tasting prevents tasters from making judgment about the wine just from the label.
Use all-purpose tasting glasses if you have them to allow for swirling and sipping. Use different glasses for reds and whites.
Here are a few things to do to prepare for guests.
Minimize scents in the room from flowers, candles or air fresheners as they can compromise the taste and aromas of the wine. Chill drier whites to 50-55 degrees and reds between 60-65 degrees. Lay out crackers or bread for guests to snack on in between wines; this will also help cleanse the palate. Supply dump buckets for guests and water to rinse out glasses. Guests may also appreciate paper and pencils to take notes.
When tasting the wines, remember to use the senses to evaluate each wine by examining it in the glass for color and viscosity; smell the aromas; sip and swirl it in your mouth. You do not have to be a wine connoisseur nor do you have to agree with everyone else on what you smell and taste. A wine tasting should be about enjoyment and good company so first and foremost, have fun!
(See this article from Food & Wine Magazine for more tips)