By Sean Weiderick March 21, 2015 Comments Off
How to throw a wine party

If you have ever wanted to host a wine party, but you were not sure where to start, then here are some ideas to get you started:

What you will need:

– Enough wine glasses for all your guests. Everyone should have the same type of glass as it can affect people’s perception of wine. Proper stemware is ideal.

– Some way for people to record their impressions of the wine(s).

– Refreshments are always welcome but, take care, it’s better not to serve anything too spicy or anything that might affect your ability to taste; avoid citrus, eggs (sulphur ruins your palate for all wines except sparkling wine) or anything too overpowering. Cheese, bread and crackers are good choices.

– Water. It’s good to stay hydrated when you’re drinking wine.

– Wine, of course. Either provided by you or your guests.

– Make sure you have a corkscrew. Getting caught without one of these could be embarrassing.

First, you will want to decide what type of wine party you are going to host. Is there a theme? Usually, a wine party theme is something like: wines from a certain region, such as a country or a sub-region of a country. Or, you might choose a particular grape variety as the theme. You might think that restricting your guests to one variety of grape is too limiting but, actually, with so many wines to choose from, such parameters usually make shopping for a bottle of wine easier.

You might consider doing a ‘vertical’ or ‘horizontal’ tasting. A vertical tasting is a tasting of the same wine across multiple vintages. A horizontal tasting is different wines across the same vintage. If you are doing a horizontal tasting, you can have the guests bring wine – just tell them the vintage ahead of time. If you are doing a vertical tasting you will have to arrange the wines ahead of time. You could have your guests bring some money to pay for the wine.

Some other wine party themes could be: Wines by a particular producer, dessert wines, sparkling wines, unusual wines – just to name a few. You might want to confine the tasting to one style, such as: red, white, rose, sparkling, dry or sweet. But, you don’t have to keep to one style as long as you taste the wines in the correct order. The rule of thumb (usually) is dry before sweet, light before heavy, and white before red.

If you are having your guests bring wine, you will want to set a reasonable price range for your guests. This will save any of your guests the embarrassment of being the one who brought the cheapest bottle. Likewise, no one wants to spend way more than everyone else. Wines within a narrow price range also make for fair comparisons. Keep in mind that you don’t want to scare anyone away with the price, so don’t set the range too high.

Another idea worth trying is to have everyone pool their money to buy a special bottle. Have you ever wondered what a really expensive wine tastes like? Well, there is a way to find out that won’t break the bank. Let’s assume your party will have 10 people in attendance. If each person contributes $20, then you can all try a $200 bottle of wine. Note: a standard-size bottle of wine should provide a decent sized sample for about 20 people.

You might consider doing a blind tasting. Don’t worry. No blindfolds are required! Simply slip the wine bottles into numbered or lettered bags. I recommend putting an elastic around the neck of the bottle to keep the bag from slipping off.

An app like Quini can really help. It will lead the group through the tasting, step-by-step, and will allow everyone to record their impressions and easily compare notes. It can be a hassle to prepare tasting sheets for your guests and most people wouldn’t know where to start if you handed them a blank piece of paper. These days most people have an electronic device, so it makes sense to use an app that is set up for just such an occasion.

If you’re doing a blind tasting, touch base with the crew at Quini and they’ll be happy to tell you how to use the app for your function.

Some tips:

– Don’t forget to chill the whites. This shouldn’t take too long. You don’t want the white wines too cold when people taste, but they warm up quickly after being poured into glasses.

– If the ambient temperature is quite high, you might also consider chilling your reds. You definitely don’t want them too cold, though. They should be what is sometimes referred to as ‘cellar temperature’, about the temperature of a cool basement.

– Save some food to be served at the end of the tasting. This will help prevent your guests from becoming intoxicated.

– Wine glass identifiers can help everyone keep track of their glass throughout the evening.

– Sparkling wine is the best palate cleanser – not water. Alternatively, sparkling water should work.

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Sean Weiderick

Sean C. Weiderick has been teaching about wine and writing wine reviews for over a decade. He formerly managed a wine shop in North Vancouver, and is well-known in British Columbia’s wine industry.

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