Bringing friends together to enjoy some new and interesting wines seems simple enough at first. After all, wine is fun. But, planning the perfect wine tasting party takes much more thought than first appears needed. In fact, many hosts can get overwhelmed once they realize how many decisions must be made. The key to planning a great wine tasting party is to follow a simple path to success.
Here are a few tips:
- Start with a theme. This will help narrow down what wines to serve. Some ideas include: wines under $20, wines from a particular county, region, or appellation, focus on a specific type of wine or even a specific vintage. Here are a few examples… 2012 Napa Valley Cabernets, or red wines under $20 or a three flight tasting from different vintners who make Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir or a blind tasting of three different types of the same wine. Really, there are all kinds of combinations or themes you can choose, but the theme will frame the evening and heighten people’s interest.
- How many different wines to serve? The number of wines you serve will depend on your budget. Tastings usually consist of 4 to 8 different wines with a range of different wine styles, regions and/or price points represented all within your theme. This allows your guests enough variety to find one or two from the lineup that they will really enjoy. Let your theme and budget dictate the number of wines to service. I like to serve three different varietals represented by tasting flights of three different wines… so nine different wines to taste. This usually guarantees guests will find at least one favorite varietal and one or two special wines.
- How much wine to buy? Remember this is a wine tasting and a tasting pour is just 1.5 oz. This is enough for your guests to fully appreciate several wines. For perspective, a 1 oz. taste of eight different wines equals two 4 oz. glasses of wine. It adds up quickly so remember each glass is a taste, not a drink in and of itself. A good recommendation is for the host overseeing the pour to practice with a measuring cup to see what 1.5 oz. really looks like in a glass. If guests are serving themselves, mark a line on the side of the glass with a wax pencil or glass marker to show a pour line. Let guests know before they get started that the pour line is a recommendation to ensure that everyone gets a taste of each wine.
- Will one bottle of each wine be enough for a party of 8 to 16 guests? Yes. There are 24 ounces of wine in a regularly sized bottle of wine. So, one bottle of wine easily serves 8 to 16 guests for a tasting. If you want to invite more than 16 guests, you definitely will need to buy two bottles of each wine. I always like to have a second bottle so guests can go back to their favorites for another taste. Some might even want a full pour of their favorites… so having some back up bottles is definitely advised.
- Should I serve cheese & crackers or some small bites? I personally like some paired cheeses or some paired small bites when tasting wine. Some wines are made for sipping before a meal. Other wines are meant to be enjoyed with food. My Italian background thinks food with wine is always a good thing. There are many good websites that provide cheese/food pairing advice and recommendations. Have fun exploring, but remember don’t get stressed with finding the perfectly paired cheese or food. The focus is trying new wines and sharing the experience with friends. The experience is what truly makes wine fun.
Let me know what you think or if you have some of your own ideas or secrets to organize the perfect wine tasting party. A final note: I always encourage friends to use a car service like Uber to make sure they are safe going home.