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Wine Tasting: Four Easy Steps to Hosting a Great Wine Tasting Party
Thomas Jefferson said, “Good wine is a necessity of life for me”. No wonder he was one of our founding fathers!
More and more people are drinking wine these days and why not? It’s readily acknowledged by the medical community that drinking red wine in moderation has a myriad of health benefits including lowering your risk of contracting heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer and cataracts. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a good enough reason to enjoy a glass or two every night. In addition, it’s a nice way to relax after a rough day and getting together with friends over a glass of wine is a great venue for socializing and having fun.
One way to do this is by hosting a wine tasting party. Besides being a lot of fun, this is an excellent approach for learning about wine and maybe finding a few new wines you really enjoy. Below are some guidelines that will help you to organize a wine tasting that’s sure to be a hit.
Inviting your guests- The first thing you need to consider when organizing a wine-tasting party is how many people to invite. Generally speaking, 8 to 12 is considered the optimum number of guests. This size group is large enough to promote spontaneous interaction and small enough to be easily manageable.
Whether you telephone, email, or sent written invitations is a personal choice. I happen to prefer sending email invitations. American Greetings has a great card site that includes “eInvites”. It’s a wonderful service where you can send invitations and your guests can simply click a button to RSVP. You can even schedule follow-up reminders. The American greeting site has a $20.00 yearly membership fee, but for all the ecards and services, I think it’s worth it.
Choosing the wine- In my opinion, choosing the wine to taste at your party is the best part of the planning stage. But then, I happen to get mesmerized every time I walk into a large wine store. There’s so much to choose from.
There are many different ways you can handle wine selection. One option is to consider a themed party. For example: “California Chardonnays”, “German Rieslings”, “Wines Under $10.00”, or “Italian Reds”. The possibilities here are endless, so don’t be afraid to be creative. Another option might be to choose wines from a particular winery or even to select different vintages (years) of the exact same wine. Selecting different vintages of the same wine is called a vertical tasting and this may be more costly to do since older vintages tend to carry a higher price tag.
When buying the wine for your party, keep in mind that for tasting purposes, each pour should be about two ounces. This means that for eight people or less, one 750 ml bottle should be enough.
The question of food- No party would be complete without food. However, depending on your goal for the event, you may want to wait until after tasting the wine to serve food because food affects the taste of wine and visa-versa. If your goal is to have an informal gathering of friends and experience new wines with good food, by all means serve food paired with the various wines. In fact, an easy and fun way to have a wine tasting party is to ask your guests to bring the various courses (appetizers, soup, salad, dessert) along with a paired wine while you provide the main course and wine.
If your primary goal is tasting and judging new wine, it is more appropriate to wait until after the tasting to serve the food. Instead, during the tasting, provide only unflavored crackers (saltines) or bread to cleanse the palette between wines.
Tasting and rating the wine- Remember to limit your pours to two ounces (visually, two ounces is about two inches in a normal size wine glass). Place pitchers of water out for your guests to rinse their glasses or cleanse the palette between tastings. Also, have buckets available for those who choose to spit out the wine instead of swallowing it. Spitting is not necessarily an indication of not liking the wine. Many wine tasters spit so they will not be affected by alcohol consumption. Especially if the tasting is to be followed by socializing and drinking wine.
One suggestion for tasting and rating the wine is to simply hand out paper and pens to each of the guests as they arrive so they are able to make notes on each wine tasted. To make this process more structured and organized, you can download and print wine tasting forms from the internet. Clicking on the link “wine tasting form” link in the resource box at the end of this article will take you to Wine-Reviewer where you may download and print several different forms.
You may reduce the chance of ratings being influenced by personal preference or prejudice by having a “blind tasting”. To do this, completely wrap each of the bottles with aluminum foil and label it with a number. The wine will then be identified and judged by the number on the bottle.
To make the evening a bit more interesting and educational, research the wine, winery and wine-making region. Your guests will probably find the information interesting and will appreciate your effort.
Using these guidelines, having a wine-tasting party is as easy as 1-2-3-4. Have fun, but please remember to drink responsibly and do not let others drink and drive. If possible, have someone be a designated driver to insure that everyone gets home safely.
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