Wine tastings are a great party to host because they provide the perfect excuse to improve your wine intelligence and have fun at the same time. The pressure of entertaining (ewww…small talk) is also alleviated somewhat because the group gets quite focused on the tasting and anytime you run out of things to say, just take a sip or scuttle away to refill your glass. Of course, for wine novices, the idea of hosting a tasting all by yourself can feel daunting but actually, you can use this to your advantage.
I’d like to offer you a few tips to make your wine tasting party useful as well as a few recommendations for how to host it.
What You Need to Host a Wine Tasting
You actually don’t need very many materials to turn a regular party into a wine tasting. More important than supplies is to have a structured plan with a goal that everyone can follow and achieve. Here’s a basic list of what you’ll need:
- At least 2 different wines (see tasting themes below)
- Snacks (such as crackers, cheese, and fruit)
- Wine glasses (at least 1 per person)
- Notepaper and pens
- A place for people to sit with good lighting
If you want a little more direction, we offer a couple of useful tools:
Create a Structured Wine Tasting
If you’re just getting started with wine, here are two great goals to set in order to make sure that everyone can learn together.
Step 1: Practice the Wine Tasting Method
Take 20 minutes or so to go through the wine tasting method together and assess the characteristics of a single wine. Here is a video to watch while tasting to understand what to pay attention to.
Step 2: Comparative Tasting
Now that you’ve finished the first glass, continue your tasting by adding another wine into the mix. The simple act of adding one wine creates a comparative tasting. Be sure to use the same tasting method with the new wine. Just so you know, comparative tastings (whether blind or not blind) are the most fascinating and helpful tasting style if you’re looking to learn about wine!
Comparative Tasting Themes
- Same Wine / Different Region: Great examples include a Bordeaux blend from France and one from California, or perhaps a Malbec from Argentina and one from France. Be creative!
- Same Wine / Different Winemaking Method: The most classic comparison with this theme is an oaked Chardonnay vs. an unoaked Chardonnay. You’ll quickly learn how oak affects the taste of wine!
- Same Wine / Different Price Point: Will more money get you into a better tasting wine? Check out our article on wine pricing to find out what you can expect to spend.
- Different Wine / Same Style: Pick a wine style (see all 9 wine styles here) and try out different varietal wines within that style. This is a great way to find new favorites.
- Different Wine / Same Region: Within the same region, how do different grapes grow? Places like Tuscany, Paso Robles, McLaren Vale, and Mendoza are a great place to start!
Rinse and Repeat
If everyone had a great time (and chances are, they will) you can create a semi-frequent wine tasting group. Each of the comparative tasting themes can be recreated with different wines and you’ll learn something different each time. Over time, your track record of tastings will grow, giving you a deep understanding of wine.
Wine Tasting Placemats
If you’d like a little more assistance memorizing and practicing the tasting method, we offer a set of tasting placemats that will help you perfect your technique.