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6 Great tips for hosting a wine tasting party

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How to Host a Great Wine Tasting Party

Great Wine Tasting PartySo you want to host a wine tasting party. Okay but now what? Here are some great tips to make your tasting party a success.

1. Guest List –This is a critical step since you want to ensure your guests have a great time. So start with friends who of course enjoy drinking wine, but also, want to leave with a bit more wine knowledge. Are some of your friends wine connoisseurs while others could not tell the difference between a Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc?

• For the wine novices, include a brief tip sheet on grape varieties used in specific wines and provide the URL address for a wine glossary with basic terms for them to check out once they get back home.

• For experienced wine drinkers, have a few bottles available that showcase varietals from a lesser-known wine region.

2. Mix it Up – Drop by a wine shop and let the merchant know that you are anxious to explore a wine or grape variety that is off-the-beaten path. Or if that is too much work for you, then just go to the store where you normally purchase your wine and pick out a wine that you have never tried before. This could be good or bad of course. You can tell your guests that you found a wine you thought would be interesting but you have no idea how it will taste. You may be pleasantly surprised by your find or it turns out to be a disappointment, at least, you’ll have a story to laugh about for years to come.

3. Supplies – Have score cards available with ample room for tasting notes. Write down your initial impression and don’t be swayed by someone with more or less knowledge. It’s your palette so if you taste a certain flavor, you can’t be wrong. No one else has your taste buds so don’t be afraid to speak up even if no one else tastes the same flavors as you. Here are a few starting points:

• Color/appearance – straw pale, candy apple red, Prince purple, you get the idea

• Smell – grapefruit, chocolate, baked bread. Don’t worry about sounding like a wine pro. If you don’t know what leechee tastes like then don’t feel pressure to write it down.

• Taste – sweet, tart/bitter, fruity- Smuckers strawberry jam, cherry popsicle, mango, beef jerky

• The finish – smooth/creamy, stringent-makes you pucker up or chalky

4. Wine – What is your goal?

• You could host a vertical, horizontal or blind tasting

• How many wines, aka flights? Too many and the taste buds get overwhelmed. To few and people are left wanting more. Usually most people tire around five tastings, and many start to lose interest, as well as their better judgment.

• Styles – Will your guests drink reds only, whites only or a combination?

If some of your guests never venture from drinking a white Zinfandel, then you can use your wine tasting party as an opportunity to educate and elevate the palates of these wine novices. In this case, select a wine that will allow them to broaden their horizons by taking baby steps. For example, introduce them to a Pinot Gris from Washington. This is a dry wine, meaning not sweet, but it has a mild flavor that won’t overpower their taste buds with too much oak or bitterness.

5. Budget – When establishing your budget, keep your guest list in mind.

• Novices – You’d hate to serve a great vintage Bordeaux to friends who couldn’t appreciate the sensory pleasures and nuisances. A person who doesn’t drink wine on a regular basis (Do these people actually exist?) needs to understand that good wines can be purchased without having to take out a line of credit. Besides, do you really want to fork over more than $25 for a bottle, not knowing if it the untrained palette will appreciate it?

• Connoisseurs – Of course, you could splurge and throw a wine tasting gala for oenophiles that will be talked about for years. But you don’t have to pull out all the stops. Simply, buy a few worthy bottles and then splurge on one wine that you hope will be especially memorable. Ideas? Try a vintage wine from an exceptional year or uncork a wine from an unusual wine region such as Crotia or Tasmania.

Wine Tasting Party6. Food – Since you don’t want your friends getting hammered, you should serve some light appetizers/finger foods. Have bread and crackers, include some gluten-free options. Serve some proteins to help absorb some of the alcohol such as slices of ham, Spanish sausage and hard, semi-soft and soft cheeses.

A wine tasting party is a great way to stay in touch with friends during the cold winter months and it gives you an excuse to drink more wine. And what’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing!


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