How to Host a Wine Tasting Party

Three Parts:Getting ReadyPutting Your Plan into ActionWine Scoring Sheet

Hosting a wine tasting party is a great way to do something fun, classy, and different with your friends. If the same light beers and bowl of sad pita chips and hummus is getting old, then you should mix things up by hosting a wine tasting party in the comfort of your home. All you need is some supplies, a bit of knowledge, and the willingness to try something new. If you want to know how to host a wine tasting party that's an even bigger hit than a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, then follow these steps.

Part 1
Getting Ready

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    Choose a theme. One of the most important parts of hosting a wine tasting is deciding what kind of wines you want to try. There's no right answer that will please all your guests or lead to a perfect party, but here are some suggestions:[1][2]
    • Sample different wines from one region, such as Napa Valley, Santa Barbara wine country, Willamette Valley, Rioja, New Zealand, the South of France, or whatever you like.[3]
    • Taste varietals produced in different parts of the world, such as drinking only the Cabernet Sauvignon produced in Napa Valley, France, or Argentina.
    • Do a horizontal tasting. Taste only 2012 Chardonnays produced all over the world. This may be tricky to find, though.
    • Do a tasting by one winemaker. If you really like Robert Mondavi, Cake bread, Stag's Leap, or Duckhorn wine, for example, try several different wines from this one winemaker.
    • Sample only reds, whites, sparkling wines, or dessert wines. Just remember that dessert wines tend to be sweeter and may be more difficult to taste.
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    Figure out the food situation. You shouldn't be eating during the wine tasting, other than the bread or crackers that will be needed to cleanse your palate. So, you should decide whether you want to give your guests a light meal before the tasting, serve dinner after the tasting, or serve appetizers or dessert after the tasting. Ideally, some sort of food should be provided so your guests don't get wine drunk without anything to absorb the alcohol.
    • You can tell your guests what the situation is when you invite them, so they know if they should come with a full stomach, or if they should prepare to eat.
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    Get the right wine glasses. It's not realistic that you'll be able to give each of your guests a new wine glass before every new tasting. Realistically, just one glass per guest will do, or one longer, less oval-shaped glass for whites and a rounder, larger glass for reds, if you're feeling up to it.
    • The glasses should have stems so the guests don't warm the wine with their hands.
    • The glasses should be clear so the guests can see the color of the wine.
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    Gather your supplies. There are a number of supplies you'll need to host a wine-tasting party in addition to the wine glasses. Here are some to get you started:[4][5]
    • Obviously, the wine. Pick your wines based on the theme you'll be going for. In general, it's good to have wines in different price ranges, from pretty cheap to more expensive, if you can afford it. Make sure that you have enough wine for your guests -- a bottle of wine can pour 5 regular glasses of wine, or enough for 6-10 people to taste the wine.
    • Back-up corkscrews in case yours break.
    • A wine opener.
    • A spittoon. This can either come in the form of a large bowl in the center of the table or as small paper cups for each guest.
    • An ice bucket for chilling white wine. This will keep you from running to the fridge.
    • A white tablecloth or white napkins. This will help your guests see the color profiles of the wines.
    • A tasting grid. This can help your guests identify the flavors of the wine and jot down their impressions. You can find some great ones online.[6]
    • An aerator or decanter for the wine. This can help bring out the flavors in a red wine.
    • Bread or crackers to taste in between wines.
    • Cups of ice water for your guests as well as a pitcher of water for the table.
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    Invite your guests. The ideal number of guests you should invite to a wine tasting should be between 6-12 people. If you have a nice big dining room table, invite enough people so that they can comfortably stand around it. You don't want any extra people leaning over the group and making everyone feel uncomfortable. If you really want to be formal and fancy about it, you can send out nice invitations or e-vites.
    • You should try to invite people who have a similar knowledge about wine. If everyone knows almost nothing, then that's fine, but you want to avoid the awkwardness of having just one person who knows absolutely nothing, or that one guy who is Mr. Wine Expert and tries to educate everyone else at great length.
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    Pick a good time. You can host a wine tasting party any time of the year. If you want to keep it thematic, though, you can taste white wines during the summer and taste red wines during the winter. Additionally, since you shouldn't really be eating during the tasting because it will ruin the flavor of the wine, so you should invite your guests over at around 4 PM, when they don't want dinner yet, or after they've eaten, at 9 PM or so, though that may be a little late.

Part 2
Putting Your Plan into Action

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    Put everything out on the table. Put your wines out on the table so the guests can see what they're going to taste and get even more excited for the night. If the table's not big enough, arrange the wines on a visible counter. Arrange the glasses, water, napkins, crackers, bread, and paper cups or spittoons for your guests.
    • Don't put out any flowers or scented candles. This strong aroma can make it more difficult to recognize the flavors of the wine. Opt for a bowl of grapes instead.
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    Master wine tasting techniques. It doesn't take much to taste wine and look like an expert. Just tell your guests what they're going to drink, have them hold the glass and swirl it around for a few seconds to let the wine "breathe," and then make them smell the wine to get a better sense of the flavor. After that, your guests should take a small sip of the wine, swirl it around their mouths for several seconds, and then either swallow it or spit it out.
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    Start tasting the wine. The order does matter when it comes to tasting wines. You should start from the lightest wine to the darkest, so work your way from a light white to a dark, flavorful red wine. If you have dessert wine on the menu, you should taste it last, even if it's a lighter color than some of the red wines.
    • Wines that are similar, like the same varietal of wine for 2011 and 2012, should be tasted one after the other.
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    Give people time to take notes. Let people write down their impressions and give them time to think about it. People may be a little shy about their impressions because they don't feel like experts, so make sure to make them feel comfortable. Giving everyone a minute to think will also keep people from getting affected by the opinions of others. Here are some things to look for as you take notes:[7]
    • Aromas and flavors. Any flavor or aroma that comes to mind should be written down, whether it's blackberry, honey, lemon, chocolate, pear, earth, or pomegranate.
    • Texture and weight. See if the wine is light and crisp, full-bodied, rough, or smooth.
    • Balance. Does the wine have a smooth mixture of flavors, or does one flavor, such as oak or tannins, dominate the beverage?
    • The finish. See if the wine lingers on your palate or if it disappears the second you swallow it. A good wine should linger.
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    Don't get wine-wasted. If you want to host a classy wine tasting party, then you'll need to provide your guests with an air of calm, competence, and comfort. If you're tripping all over yourself or not making any sense, then the guests won't take the party seriously and may stop paying attention to you. Instead, spit out more wine than you drink and wait until after the wine tasting is over to really go for the wine, if that's your game plan.
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    Consider adding a game toward the end. If you want to kick your wine tasting party up a notch, play a fun game where you put the wine bottles in brown paper bags and pour the wine for your guests without telling them which wine it is. The winner could get a prize, or just the satisfaction of knowing that he is an expert wine taster.
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    Serve food afterwards. If you want to keep your guests at your place and to make sure they don't get completely drunk, then it's important to serve them some food. You can serve more dessert-style foods if it's the right time.(If the guests are really hungry during the tasting, of course, then it's best to give them something to keep them happy and not too drunk than to wait.) Here is some food that goes well with fine wine:
    • Prosciutto wrapped around melon
    • Cheese
    • A light pear salad
    • Chocolate
    • Fruit compote
    • Flan

Wine Scoring Sheet

Sample Wine Scoring Sheet


  • The choices are endless and the potential for fun is enormous!

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Categories: Wine | Theme Parties