One of the best ways to explore wine is with friends. Not only is it fun to share ideas about the bottles, but it will allow you to taste plenty of wines in one evening. Plus, if you’re staying in, it doesn’t need to be expensive. Here are our top tips and ideas for how to host a wine tasting party at home.
Choose a Theme
Grape varieties – Choose a single variety or common blend. This works particularly well for grapes that are planted around the world like Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon or Riesling. You can include wines of multiple hues with themes like “Pinot” which could mean Noir, Blanc or Gris/Grigio, and can be made in red, white, rose or orange styles.
Country or region – Explore wines from a single country (like a “Tour de France”) or region.
Vintage – Choose several wines from the same year if you have a special birthday or anniversary coming up. This one might take some planning.
Wine style – Taste several wines of the same style, like sparkling wines of the world, orange wines or rosés
Price point – Set a limit and use this as an excuse to find wines that you love at a price point you’re comfortable with.
Source the Wine Smartly
Major retailers like Total Wine and Wholefoods in the US, or Majestic Wine in the UK, offer discounts when you buy over six or twelve bottles. This means you can save if you buy all the bottles from the same place. Local, independent stores often have similar deals – just ask around.
An alternative is to ask each guest to bring a bottle. This is a good idea if you’re hosting a group of wine lovers who might enjoy the opportunity to share something from their cellars.
Blind tastings with multiple contributors are fun – just ask everyone to bring their wine along in a brown bag. You can still opt to set a theme or price limit. Bringing both a white and red wine can also add another layer of depth to a tasting.
Have Enough Supplies
Glasses – At some wine parties, one glass per guest is enough. If you’re hosting the sort of party where guests might like to compare wines, make sure there are two or three of each. Some wine stores like Majestic Wine offer free glass rental. Others offer rental for a fee, but this can be expensive. In some cases, it’s a better idea to buy extra glasses for parties. Ikea has some inexpensive and acceptable options.
You’ll also need a water glass per guest to help keep everyone hydrated.
Spit cups – Even if your guests are unlikely to spit or dump wine, you should give them the option. Solo cups are ideal: a good size, readily available, inexpensive and opaque – so you can’t see the frothy contents…
Charms or pens – After a few pours of wine, it’s easy to forget who owns each glass. Wine glass charms slot around the stem of the glass and will help your guests to remember which belongs to them. Dry Erase pens will also do the trick.
Tasting sheets and pens – You can optionally provide guests with a printed tasting sheet with details on the wine and space for notes. This way, they can remember their favorites.
Wine bags – If your event involves blind tasting, you’ll need to cover up the bottles. A simple brown bag from the wine store can do the trick, but there are plenty of reusable options available online too, like these.
Cheese and charcuterie are the obvious accompaniment to a wine tasting, but if you’re feeling creative, you could find food that matches the theme of the wine. This works well when all of your wines are from the same country or region.
Water biscuits also work well as a simple palate cleanser.
Buy Enough Wine!
One bottle of wine provides ten 75cl samples, which is a reasonably generous pour for a tasting. Five or six different bottles is a good number – enough to keep it interesting, but not too many that guests get tired. You may want to buy some extra bottles so that guests can revisit them.
It’s a good idea to have extra bottles open – perhaps sparkling – for when guests arrive, as everyone is likely to show up at slightly different times.
Winetraveler asked several seasoned wine party hosts for their top tips on hosting events.
Charlotte Kristensen (@thelondonwinegirl) says: “Know your audience! Not everyone wants to discuss the technicalities. It’s so important to gauge your guests and adjust your tasting to give them an interesting and enjoyable experience.
I’ll often look for a different angle that my guests will connect with – I’ve even done a wine and architecture tasting before. Most audiences want to hear a story. You can always speak to individual guests who want to get into the nitty-gritty separately.”
Kim Kramer of Kramer Vineyards in Oregon says: “Have a greeting wine. We like to meet guests as they arrive with a splash of sparkling wine. It’s a festive gesture and sets a celebratory tone for the party. Be sure to select something light and refreshing.”
She adds, “Wine tasting can be dehydrating. Be sure to have plenty of water and other non-alcohol beverage alternatives within easy reach of guests.”
Food and wine writer Sophia Bennet (@SophiaWriter1) adds, “I think the most important thing any party host can do is be welcoming of different opinions. So many people are intimidated by wine, and the last thing I want is for people to feel like they’ll be looked down upon if they don’t like a certain wine.”
Bonus Tip from Winetraveler: When the party is over (and hopefully successful), why not keep the memory around your house? Our friends over at Redfin have offered some ideas on how to use leftover wine bottles, labels, corks and more to create wine decor that’s practical to keep around your house. From creating wine bottle lights to repurposing the labels, you’d be surprised at the number of ways you can immortalize your favorite wine experiences.
Do you have your own suggestions or strategies for hosting a home wine tasting? Share them with us below in the comments or on our Winetraveler community Facebook group!
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