Sure, reading books (or sites like ours) is a great way to learn about wine. But the most fun and effective way to learn about wine is to taste a lot of it. This can become really expensive, really quickly – so what’s a wine student to do?
Hosting a wine tasting with friends is a great way to taste a bunch of wines, have fun, and not go broke doing it. By hosting a tasting, each guest is responsible for bringing a bottle or two that fits in with the evening’s requirements, spreading out the cost and introducing new wines. Don’t worry: it’s not as daunting as it might seem. Check out these tips for hosting a wine tasting!
With a few of your other wine-loving friends, establish a theme for the evening to get the most out of the tasting. Specificity is the name of the game here, so really dial into a category like Oregon Pinot Noir or Argentinean Malbec. Focusing in this way allows everyone to evaluate the wines against each other.
Going too broad in theme, like “New World Reds” might pit a Napa Cabernet against a Tempranillo grown in North Carolina. Interesting, sure, but doesn’t provide a lot in the way of evaluating stylistic and terroir differences.
Conversely, you can focus on the food pairing. Maybe you want to host a chocolate and wine tasting. In that case, everyone chooses to bring a bottle of wine they feel will pair well with chocolate.
Setting a budget is both practical and kind. It allows everyone to stay on the same page cost-wise and also keeps the wines in the same general class. If you’re hosting a Merlot party, for instance, it wouldn’t be fair to evaluate a $15 bottle against a vintage Right Bank Bordeaux.
Related: Wine-Tasting Etiquette
Ask everyone to wrap their bottle in a brown paper bag to keep the label hidden. This helps everybody judge the wine itself and not the label. You’d be surprised by how susceptible we are to great (or terrible) marketing!
To keep it all straight, assign each bottle a number. Your guests can write down their impression of each bottle using this number system and, after everyone has tasted each wine, you can reveal the true packaging. It’s an exciting moment for each person to describe why they chose the wine they brought and for everyone to discuss further.
In addition to serving food that fits the theme of the tasting, as the host, you are responsible for providing glassware, paper, and pens, and a spit bucket. While your guests may not want to spit their wine, they may decide to dump samples rather than drink them.
Each guest needs their own glass and, to be safe, provide at least one backup glass per person. This way, folks can taste two wines side-by-side to detect differences and similarities.
Your guests also need something to take notes on. Even if you decide not to serve the wines blind, your guests will appreciate having these notes to look back on the next time they go wine shopping.
Make sure to serve food that complements the theme and keeps your guests from getting too intoxicated. Chat with your local wine merchant for food ideas around your theme and check out this guide for pairing food and wine to get started.
What’s better than great wine and artisanal pizza?
The New York Times described Ridge Monte Bello as “America’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignon.”
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