Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Host Your Own Wine Tasting Soiree

Host your Own Wine Tasting Soiree

Whether or not the sun will come out tomorrow, it is time for us to come up with a new excuse to invite our friends and family around and have some fun. With the barbeque grill gathering dust, how about hosting your very own Wine Tasting Evening. To begin, you don’t have to know a lot about wine – a keen interest in wines and an appetite to learn is all that’s required. Nowadays, there is an overwhelming amount of information about wine available from all media sources. The internet is filled with wine facts and statistics making it possible to find out about any wine, grape variety, wine region and so much more with a simple click of a button. When deciding on a theme for you wine tasting, your local wine shop is always there to advise you and would be more that happy to assist you in choosing a good selection of wines.

Preparation for a wine tasting evening can be as simple or as fussy as you like.
Most importantly you will need people, wine and glasses. Twelve to sixteen guests is a nice size crowd to invite – one bottle of wine can serve up to sixteen guests (2oz taste each). Then, decide on a wine theme for the evening. You can choose any concept you like but it is a good idea to have a specific wine focus, whether it is grape variety, vineyard, wine region or vintage so that it is more interesting to discern each wine and critique accordingly. If you are a beginner, try to stick to more basic wines at the start. Six wine types is a good number to serve your guests in order to add depth and enthusiasm to the wine debate that unfolds.

You will need a lot of wine glasses. Try to use smaller wine glasses. I would suggest borrowing glasses from family and close friends or alternatively, you could purchase a nice selection of suitable wine glasses if you plan on hosting future wine tastings. Set up the wine glasses, 6 per person. It is a good idea to label each glass
1 to 6, so that each wine can be identified. (If you chose to host a blind wine tasting, cover each wine bottle with a paper bag and ask your guests to identify and rate each wine by the scoring methods that you decide to use). When you’re ready, pour each glass maybe a third of the way full. Examine the wine both from the side and top of the glass – it’s colour, depth & intensity. Always hold the glass by the stem so your hand doesn’t warm up the wine. Next, swirl the wine around to allow oxygen into the wine and the aromas to release. Smell the wine and try to recognize familiar scents (see below). Take a mouthful and swish the wine around every part of your tongue. Your tongue has ‘zones’ for each type of flavour – the tip senses sweet, the front sides salt, the back sides acid and the very back bitter. (visit for more information on how to taste wines) Now the fun starts, comment on the wine, compare notes and rate the wine verbally amongst your guests. It is also a good idea to make tasting notes as you go along in order to review each wine at the end of the evening.

If you decide to serve food, try to keep it simple so that palates are not overwhelmed. A good cheese plate with crackers or crusty bread always goes down well. Fresh fruit and nuts can also be nice accompaniments, especially if they enhance the flavours of the wines. (For example: When tasting Shiraz wines with strawberry/pepper tones, sprinkle some ground black pepper on a fresh strawberry and take a bite before sampling the wine - taste the difference!). Water is a must – have still and sparkling readily available for your guests to cleanse their palates between each wine tasting. Have a bowl (spittoon) at hand for those who prefer to emit their wine after swishing it on the tongue.

If you like, hand out comment cards/scoring sheets to your guest so that they can evaluate each wine. You may choose to rate the wines on sight, smell and flavour/texture (eg 1 to 5) – create a method to suit you and your guests.

Here are some flavours to look for in wines:

Spices – cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, liquorice, mint, vanilla
Nuts – almonds, hazelnuts
Flowers – rose, violet, white flowers
Fruits – apple, apricot, banana, cherry, citrus, fig, tropical fruits, orange peach, pear, plum, raisin
Berries – blackberry, raspberry, strawberry
Plants – grass, oak, tea, tobacco, general wood

After each wine has been tasted, it is nice to sit back and discuss each one. You will be amazed how your guests’ tastes and preferences vary, fuelling light debate. At the end of the evening, each of your guests will have decided on their favourite wine and will leave knowing their new found likes and dislikes. If your first wine tasting evening is a success, suggest monthly wine tasting evenings to your guests and take it in turns to be the perfect host.

David’s Top Tips of the Week

· The Wine Vault is now offering Wine Tasting Theme Collections to suit your Wine Tasting Evening – for more information, please visit

· Le Nez du Vin – this is a set of wine tasting aromas that will enhance your Wine Tasting - both educational and fun

· Weekend Wine Tastings at The Wine Vault every Friday & Saturday 10am to 6pm

No comments: