Wine tastings provide a great way to compare wines and discover new favorites, and visiting different wineries with your wine-loving friends can make for a lively day trip. But if you’re craving a wine tasting and don’t have time to get away, you should consider hosting your own wine tasting party right from your home.
With a little preparation, you can host a wine tasting that’s just as good (or even better) than what you’ll get at a winery. After all, one of the benefits of tasting in your own home is being able to stick around afterward and socialize at your leisure.
Keep reading for some tips that can help your home wine tasting go off without a hitch.
Planning the Perfect Wine Tasting
You’ve decided to host a wine tasting party, but where do you start? You could just buy a few wine bottles and invite friends over, but if you want to host a wine tasting that your guests will remember, you’ll need to plan a little.
Write Down Your Guest List
First, you can’t have a party without guests. When you’re making your guest list, keep in mind that while a home wine tasting is about drinking wine and catching up with friends, it’s also about enjoying new and different wines. You’ll want to invite either guests who already appreciate wine or friends and family who don’t often drink wine but are open-minded and willing to try new things.
The next decision you’ll have to make is how many guests to invite. While the number of guests may depend on how large your kitchen and dining areas are, a tasting should only include five to 10 guests even if space is not an issue. That’s enough guests to collect a variety of different opinions while keeping your tasting intimate and encouraging conversation.
Choose a Wine Theme
The theme of your tasting will depend on your guests. Seasoned wine drinkers might be more interested in comparing similar wines from a single region, such as Tuscany, California, or even local vineyards. On the other hand, if your guests are mostly new to drinking wine, they might be more interested in exploring different varietals and a wider variety of flavors.
For new wine drinkers, you may want to host two different wine tasting parties. At the first get-together, have each guest bring a different type of white wine such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, or Moscato. At your second tasting, explore red wines like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, or Grenache. From there, any future wine tastings you host can build on the discoveries you make in those initial tastings.
Determine Your Budget
Hosting a wine tasting can be expensive. One way to minimize the cost is to ask each guest to bring a bottle of wine that fits the party’s overall theme (and budget). As the host, you can supply a bottle as well, or you can purchase and prepare the post-tasting hors d’oeuvres (we’ll talk more about those later). Another option is to hold an ongoing series of wine tastings within your group and maintaining a rotating list of hosts for each party.
Wine Party Prep
Now that you’ve got the basics covered, it’s time to prepare for your role as a wine tasting host. You’ll need to purchase the necessary supplies and materials, ready your house to receive guests, and create the perfect ambiance.
The Wine Tasting Checklist
Here’s a list of everything you’ll need to host a wine tasting in your own home:
- Wine and hors d’oeuvres
- Enough clear wine glasses for each guest to have at least one
- Pitchers of water and additional cups or bowls for spitting and rinsing glasses between wines
- Mild crackers and other palate cleansers that won’t interfere with the flavor of your wines
- An area for guests to mingle after the tasting
- A table or counter large enough to fit all your guests
Tasting Room Set Up
If you have a bar-height counter, table, or island with enough room for all your guests, you’ve already got the perfect setup for a wine tasting! Have guests sit or stand on one side while you stand on the other, with a variety of wines, glasses, and palette cleansers in the middle of the counter.
If you don’t have enough counter space, any long table will do for a wine tasting. Just make sure you have a place where all your guests can easily gather around with enough additional room for their glasses and other dishes.
The Tasting Room Atmosphere
Besides basic tidying, you’ll want to remove any fragrance plug-ins or candles from the rooms you’ll be using for the tasting. Strong scents in the room can interfere with smelling and tasting your wines. For music, choose a playlist of slower songs that won’t distract from the tasting or disrupt light conversation but will help fill the quiet moments when everyone is contemplating their current wine selection.
Wine Tasting Execution and Etiquette
It’s finally time to start your wine tasting party! Remember, sparkling wines should be served ice-cold, whites should be moderately cold, and reds should be just barely cool. Also, if you’ve got a mix of different wine varietals, it’s important to serve lighter and milder-tasting wines before darker, more flavorful varieties.
As the host, it’s your job to show your guests how wine tasting is done. Even if you’re not a true sommelier, these six steps can help you pull off a flawless party and make you seem like a wine tasting pro.
- Pour only an inch or so of wine into each guest’s glass, ending with your own.
- Hold the wine up to the light to better view its color.
- Gently swirl the wine in a circular motion once or twice. Swirling helps to aerate the wine so you can fully take in its aroma.
- Give the wine a good sniff. Smelling the wine is important, and some varieties smell very different than they taste.
- Now for the best part: take a small sip and let the wine slide over your tongue so you can take in its flavors.
- Swallowing the wine is more fun, but spitting out your wine so you can try more wines without becoming full or tipsy is also completely acceptable wine tasting etiquette.
After each wine, ask your guests what flavor notes they detected and what they liked or didn’t like about the wine. For additional intrigue, you can pour the wine blind, not letting your guests see which wine they are tasting. Ask them to guess the varietal and how much the bottle cost, then reveal the wine and price.
Allow guests to sip some water and nibble on mild-tasting crackers between wines. You want to ensure your guests cleanse their palates, but keep in mind that flavored crackers can interfere with the flavor of your next selection, so make sure you keep the options simple. Don’t worry — you’ll have plenty of flavorful foods after the tasting.
Post-Tasting Hors d’ouevres
One of the benefits of hosting your own wine tasting is that your guests can stay afterward to socialize and enjoy food. This is the perfect chance to further enjoy a full glass of your favorite selection from the tasting. So, pour a glass and then load up your plate with delicious hors d’oeuvres that complement your wine’s flavor.
Hors d’oeuvres can range from simple cheese dips and crackers to more complex meat or seafood appetizers and even homemade sushi rolls. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Cheese and crackers: Gouda, smoked cheddar, gruyere, and ricotta pair well with a wide range of red and white wines.
- Chocolates: Offer a selection of dark, milk, and white chocolates to please all palates.
- Salted or seasoned nuts: Pistachios, cashews, and walnuts are classic favorites.
- Bruschetta: Everyone loves tomatoes, mozzarella, garlic, and basil on crispy baguette slices.
- Grilled shrimp with lemon aioli: Marinate the shrimp overnight to make sure it’s packed with flavor.
- Caprese skewers: It’s hard to go wrong with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil in bite-sized portions.
Need Supplies for Your Wine Tasting Party? We’ve Got You Covered!
At-home wine tastings can deliver a night to remember at an affordable cost. If you’re hosting a tasting, make sure to include some favorites from Apothic and Clos Du Bois, on sale this week in our stores! We have everything you need to host the perfect wine tasting party, so stop by today and prepare to amaze your friends and family with your confidence and expertise.