8 Tips for Successfully Hosting a Wine Tasting in Your Home

8 Tips for Successfully Hosting a Wine Tasting in Your Home

Whether you are a wine novice or a serious wine collector, tasting competition events are fun and instructive. Why not try hosting a wine tasting party in your home? Wine professionals always advise new wine enthusiasts to increase your own “sensory Rolodex©” by sampling as many new wines as possible. Wine professionals also suggest active note-taking to prevent recall problems. “Can you imagine remembering everything about a wine after tasting 100 of them like wine judges have to do at a competition?” said a sommelier that regularly judges international wine competitions.

Here are my Top 8 suggestions for successfully hosting a wine tasting event:

Tip 1: Select a Tasting Event Theme

Will you do a blind tasting and set up a competition for the guests to match a concealed bottle to a given winemakers’ notes? Will you do a vertical tasting of different vintages of the same wine? Or, simply, will you provide a tasting flight of multiple varietals, vintages, and winemakers to satisfy many types of wine drinkers? Know your guests and decide the most intriguing format when hosting a wine tasting. Here are some suggested topics:

  • ABCs of Anything But Chardonnay – alternative white wines you will love
  • The Wines of Napa Valley
  • Italian Wine – Which Wine Pairs Best with Pizza? Use wines from Tuscany, Lazio, Sicily, Naples
  • Cabernet Sauvignon –The Best of California, Washington, and Chile
  • Know the Wines of Texas….(or Oregon, Washington, Virginia, New York, Michigan)

Tip 2: Blind Tasting Bottle Disguises – Guest “Guess” Sheets – An Answer Key

Have wrappers or bags available to hide the wine label when hosting a wine tasting. Make sure the bottles are hidden before the event begins. Number the bottles. If you are chilling the wine, make sure the bags are water and ice-proof. Provide two handouts for guests: a Tasting Note Log in one column and a list of all the possible wines with prices in the other column. Consider having a Master Wine Aroma Kit wine essence bottles available so that guests can compare aroma’s of the wines to the samples in this kit. They will be amazed at how many aromas they can identify. Don’t forget to make yourself an Answer Key!

Tip 3: Provide Wine Friendly Finger Foods

Offer wine-friendly foods such as cheeses, meats, bruschetta, and pizza. Consider asking guests to provide the appetizers.

Tip 4: Use Measured Stoppers

Utilized measured bottle stoppers so guests can sample an ounce of wine. There are about 24-25 tastings per bottle. Measured stoppers can be found at wine supply stores or online. Otherwise, instruct guests to pour small quantities or you will find that your Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon goes first!

Tip 5: Set a Tasting Time Limit

I suggest two hours for the wine tasting. Guests’ palates will get tired after that point. Have wine disposal buckets available for the “spitters” or “dumpers” who want to simply sample, but not drink the wines.

Tip 6: Have a “Big Reveal” at Party’s End

Have an end-of-event “Reveal” of the correct wine names. Dramatically cut off the bag and ribbon to reveal each hidden wine. Ask the crowd if they correctly identified it.

Tip 7: A Prize for the Best Taster

Be festive and give a prize for the most accurate taster. A bottle of your favorite wine might be the most appropriate prize.

Tip 8: Linger Over the Wines and Add Dessert

Conclude the event with desserts and dessert wine. Remember that the dessert wine should always be sweeter than the dessert – to keep the wine from tasting flat. Suggested dessert wines are a Vin Santo or a Brachetto d’Acqui especially with Italian desserts like cannoli and tiramisu. Let guests linger over all the opened wines.

Annual tasting parties can be matched to an occasion, holiday or a season. Tastings are memorable, popular events. Consider a wine tasting party following fall wine harvest season, pre-Thanksgiving, or as a salute to vintage release dates in the spring.

Be sure to remind your guests that wine sensory detection is a practice sport, so practice often. Cheers!

Tasting Theme Wine Suggestions: Italian Wines – Which Wine Pairs Best with Pizza?

Italian White Wines

Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina 2015, $13.99

Wine Enthusiast 90 Points

Montenidoli Fiore Vernaccia 2014, $24.99

San Gimignano, Tuscany

Robert Parker 92 points

Jankara Vermentino di Gallura Superiore 2014,$21.99

Wine Enthusiast 90 Points

Italian Rosé

Tiberio Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo 2016, $14.99  

92 point ratings

Italian Red Wine

Castello di Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva 2013,  $20.99

Wine Spectator 91 points

Paolo Scavino Barolo 2013, $39.99

Robert Parker 93 Points

Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2011 $49.99

Wine Enthusiast 92 Points

Suggested Dessert Wines to Serve:

Vin Santo or Brachetto d’Acqui

Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santo (half-bottle), $44.99

Robert Parker 94 points


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