How to Host a Wine Tasting

| June 10, 2011

[caption id="attachment_797" align="alignnone" width="443"] Use these tips to host a successful wine tasting.[/caption]

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.

Varietal Tasting
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.

Regional/Country-Specific Tasting
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.

Guests’ Choice
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.

Horizontal Tasting
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.

Glasses
Use all-purpose tasting glasses if you have them to allow for swirling and sipping. Use different glasses for reds and whites.

Other Notes
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.

Tasting Time
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)

The Best Way to Learn About Wine is By Tasting It

| January 19, 2011

Anyone who knows about wine will tell you there’s no better way to learn about it than through the senses. This means tasting, smelling and analyzing. There is a lot to learn and wine tastings are the best way to affordably taste a variety of wines. Company representatives can also offer their knowledge and recommendations. Even if you are just beginning to learn about wine, there is no reason to feel intimidated or overwhelmed.

The best way to start learning about wine is by identifying characteristics of varietals and regions. This allows for development of wine knowledge and your own personal tastes. You may also discover wines you never have tasted before and find wines you didn’t think you liked. For example, California chardonnay is oaky and buttery from aging in oak barrels, but Italian chardonnay is aged in steel barrels and has a much different taste. So before you swear off chardonnay forever, it’s best to try different ones from regions around the globe.

Wine tastings are sometimes free, but definitely worth a nominal entry fee for the opportunity to try a variety of wines without purchasing the whole bottle. This includes wines in a variety of price ranges as well. With a little research, you may find stores near you that offer free weekly wine tastings. While they may only offer a few wines, this is still a good way to expand your wine knowledge. Sometimes stores also offer monthly specials on wines or discounts on wines they have at their tastings.

Here are some tips on tasting wine from the Wine Tastings Guide:

  • Opening & Pouring:  When pouring wine for a taste, only fill the glass about one quarter full, making sure to leave room for swirling and sniffing. If you are at a larger wine tasting, also keep in mind you may be trying several wines. It’s okay not to drink all of the wine (even advisable!) and pour the rest out once you are finished tasting. Remember to pace yourself!
  • Wine Color & Appearance: Assess the wine’s color, depth or opacity, clarity and viscosity. The wine’s color can indicate whether it is light, medium or full bodied, but this isn’t always the case.
  • Aroma or “Nose”: Study the aroma or “nose” of the wine, swirling if necessary. Describe what you smell. Is it oak, cherry, currant, citrus, vanilla or earth? Is it simple or complex? There is no right or wrong answer here, and don’t feel discouraged if you don’t identify the same aromas as others. Some will be inviting to you and make you want to sip the wine, while others may turn you off.
  • Flavor or “Mouth”: This is the final step in the process. Take a small sip and swirl the wine in your mouth. Suck in some air to help you identify more about the wine. How does it feel in your mouth? Is it smooth, dry, sweet or bitter? Are there tannins (a drying, cotton-like feeling) or does it feel silky and velvety? Is it lighter or fuller bodied? What is the “finish” like after you are done tasting the wine? Do you want to drink more? What is your overall assessment: positive or negative? This is another area where there is no right or wrong answer and personal preferences will come into play.
  • Take Notes: If there are wines you really enjoy, you may forget their names or characteristics, especially at larger wine tastings. Taking notes will help you remember what you liked about each wine and identify similarities or differences between them.

Another good resource is LocalWineEvents.com, which has listings of events by states, articles and other information. You can also sign-up for their newsletter which will include events in your area by email. If you don’t find what you are looking for there, research local wine stores or specialty stores to see if they offer weekly or monthly wine tastings. Here on the seacoast of New Hampshire, we are lucky to have a variety of opportunities to try different wines through weekly and monthly events and tastings.