If you’ve never thrown a wine tasting party (or added a special tasting to any gathering), you really should consider doing so. It’s an easy and fun way to get folks talking. Plus everyone will remember the unique party idea for a long time! Here are a few wine tasting party basics to get you started.
Steps to Host a Wine Tasting Party
Step 1: Gather the wine.
I recommend gathering between 3 and 6 different wines, but keep them in the same theme. For instance, choose Norton wines each made by different producers, or serve a selection of wines from the same region (may I recommend Missouri wine?!)….whatever theme you choose will be fun, so use your imagination.
I went to a party around Halloween one year where the hostess chose three wines with spooky names (all reds). Everyone had a great time with the names once the bottles were unveiled. Another tasting was focused on whether the price of the wine made a difference in quality…anything goes!
If you are short on cash, don’t worry – just ask everyone to bring a bottle that fits the theme. That way you can spread out the cost of the party, and everyone will have a built-in hostess present!
Step 2: Gather other supplies.
I recommend having a pitcher or two with water and providing at least one large bucket or opaque vase to use for a ‘dump bucket’. This bucket is used to pour out rinse water in between each wine, or possibly to pour out a wine that isn’t liked!
You’ll need brown paper bags to hide the wine bottles in during the party (or use fancy bags, just make sure people can’t see the wine labels through the bag). You’ll also need at least one wine glass per person.
Finally, paper and pens/pencils round out the last of the essentials you’ll want to have for the party.
Step 3: Plan on some food.
Set out a variety of nibbles for everyone to munch on during the tasting. A selection of cheeses and sausages would be a solid, traditional offering. Or try serving a selection of meatballs, pots of fondue, or even a make-your-own grilled cheese buffet.
Also, it’s good to have slices of a neutral-flavored bread or plain crackers available for guests so that they can ‘cleanse’ their palates between each wine. Water will also work as a palate cleanser.
Step 4: Prep for the party.
Make a large sign with instructions and/or wine rating system for the wine tasting. If you are inviting a large number of guests, you might also add information about how much each person should pour so there is enough of each wine available for everyone.
Chill any wines that need to be cold and pop the corks just before guests arrive. Place each wine in a brown paper bag and give it a number or letter to identify it. Be sure to hide the corks from your guests so that you don’t give away any information about the wine. You can certainly share what the theme of the tasting is, just keep the individual wines a secret until the tasting portion is finished.
Set out your wine glasses, pitchers of water and dump buckets. Don’t forget the food too!
There are a couple ways to set up your wine tasting area. You can have each wine at a separate station around your space along with a sheet of paper that people can write down their ratings.
Or group the wines together in one spot. Create a graph with a list of the wine I.D. numbers/letters and space for people to write their ratings down. This second option is good for those of you who are limited on space.
Alternatively, you can give everyone their own sheet of paper & pen to write down scores privately. That way previous tasters won’t influence the scores of those who taste after.
Rating the Wines
As far as how to rate the wines, I’ve found it best to follow the KISS principle -’keep it simple sipping.’ I suggest people rate the wine from 1-3.
A rating of 1 means they really, really liked the wine; 2 means it’s just o.k.; and a wine rating of 3 means they didn’t really like the wine.
Have everyone write down their rating for each wine after they have tried it. Once everyone has had a chance to try all the wines, total the scores. The wine with the lowest # is the winner of the tasting.
At this stage, you’ll unveil all the wines to your guests. Have fun comparing scores with each other and any observances people have about the wines!
I hope that helps you get ready for a fun gathering with your friends soon. Have you ever thrown a wine tasting party? Tell us about it in the comments – I’d love to hear any extra tips you can share! Cheers!