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Wine Tasting at Home

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Have you heard of the 4 S’s of wine tasting?

  1. See
  2. Swirl
  3. Smell
  4. Sip

Now that you know what you’re supposed to do once the wine is in the glass – it’s time to learn what to do to get your very own wine tasting planned!

How do you host a wine tasting at home?

If you’re planning a wine tasting at home there are a few ducks you need to get in a row.  In this post we’ll cover some of the basics like:

  • How many people you should invite to your wine tasting party.
  • Wine tasting at home supplies
  • Wine tasting party menu
  • Organizing your wine tasting party
  • Tips for your wine tasting

A wine tasting party table set up with three different glasses of wine and bottles along with a simple snack board.

How many people do you invite to your wine tasting party?

A good rule of thumb is to invite no more than 6-8 people to your party.  Why? There are a two good reasons.

  1. You need to provide a space where guests can gather comfortably around a table.  Most tables seat 6-8 people.  If you can seat 10 people, go with up to 10, but after that it tends to be difficult to keep the party centered on the tasting rather than side conversations.
  2. The amount of wine you’ll need to purchase. You will be purchasing a couple of different bottles of each type of wine.  This can get expensive, and there really isn’t any reason that this event needs to be cost prohibitive.

What supplies do you need for a wine tasting at home?

Clearly there is the wine.  However; you may be asking yourself, “What do I need to host a wine tasting party? 

  • Plain, white linens: The focus should be the wine, not the bright decor.  With white linens your guests will easily see the different color variations.  
  • Glasses: Choose glasses appropriate for the wine you are tasting.  A white wine should be tasted in a white wine glass.  The glass has the shape of a U. With this shape white wines can stay cooler longer. Also important is that the scents from the white will last longer in a proper white glass.  Red wines need more room to breathe.  Therefore, use a larger glass for reds. Pino Noir, for instance does best in a glass with a wide bottom and more narrow top.  You can find out more about what types of glasses to choose for the wines you are testing here on The Wine Enthusiast page.

A chart describing which glass to use for different wines.

  • Spittoons: The plan is to pour sips of only a couple of ounces of each type of wine,  The proper way to take a sip that is enough to taste the wine.  After swishing the wine in your mouth, people should spit out the rest.  In these times I would recommend individual spittoons for guests.  These can be clear plastic cups that can be thrown away or recycled.  
  • Cork screws: Don’t leave yourself in the lurch when a cork screw breaks.  Always have a backup on-hand.
  • Ice buckets: Keep your whites and bubbly in an ice bucket so it can be enjoyed at the proper temperature.  
  • Filtered water: Have a pitcher of filtered water on the table and water glasses for each guest.  Having filtered water will ensure that guests aren’t tasting water instead of the wine.
  • Pens & Scoring Sheets: Each guest should have a pen and a tasting sheet to take notes.  You can use disposable wine tasting score sheet, or, provide each guest with a take-home gift of a journal they can take home with them. They’ll love this as they’ll have started their very own wine tasting journal.

Personally – I love this journal and suggest it as a take-home gift for your wine tasting (affiliate link).  It’s a classy journal and one that your guests will keep for years to come:

Photo of a wine journal that is clickable to an affiliate. The journal is blue with gold writing and says Wine Journal

Wine Tasting Party Menu

If there is one thing you need at a wine tasting at home, it’s food.  Not just because guests will be hungry, and offering some nibbles is the right thing to do, but because when people drink, they need to put something in their bellies. I’ve gathered some of my favorite wine tasting worthy appetizers right here for you!

Wine Tasting Party Food Menu

Perfect bites for your at home wine tasting party. Hosting your at-home wine tasting is easy with these yummy appetizers!

Steps to host a wine tasting party:

  • Decide on your guest list (keep to a maximum of 8 – 10 if you have that much seating around your table).
  • Pick an invitation for your at home wine tasting. It’s important to arrange the right time to begin your party.  Arranging for the party to begin around 3:30 on a Saturday allows guests time for lunch beforehand. You can offer some party food (be careful not to fight with the wine you have chosen), and then dinner or more substantial appetizers after the tasting.  
  • Choose the type of wine you will taste.  Stick with a season, region, or type.
  • Set the table with each person having the following items:
    • Glasses
    • Spittoon
    • Water glass
    • Scoring sheet
    • Pens
    • Oyster crackers for cleansing the pallet in between sips.
  • Have your party menu chosen and prep ahead as much as possible.  
  • Set up your wines ahead of time covering the label with butcher’s paper, a wine bag, or even a paper lunch bag tied with twine.  The wines should be tested in order from lightest to darkest.
  • Pour only 2 oz of wine per tasting.  This will work out to be 10 tastings per each bottle of wine.

Tips for hosting a successful wine tasting party at home:

  1. Use only white linens.  This will allow the color of each wine to stand out.
  2. Stay away from any scented candles or oils.  You don’t want them to interfere with the tasting experience.
  3. Have an aerator on-hand.
  4. Stick to a season, region, or type of wine. Think about how many tastings you can arrange in one year if you do this? 
  5. Choose wines that are all in the same price category so you are comparing apples to apples.  Premium wines are generally over $50 a bottle, however; you can get some beautiful wines for around the $20 price point.
  6. Start your tasting with a brief explanation as to why you chose the wines you chose.
  7. Explain how the tasting will progress and how to participate. It may be the first wine tasting for some!
  8. Encourage guests to note what the wine says to them. You don’t need to be an expert to know what you like.  

A bottle of red wine and a glass of red wine. A cutting board with a cork screw.

The goal of the party?

The goal of hosting a wine party at home is that each person attending will discover new wines that they enjoy. One of my favorite wines was discovered at one of NYC’s best hotels.  After we returned home we looked for the wine thinking it would be a nice bottle to have once in a while for a special occasion.

Turns out my fancy glass of vino at that overpriced hotel was under $9 a bottle. 

This once again proved to me that it doesn’t always take a premium bottle to enjoy a good glass.  Enjoy your guests, have fun, and don’t worry about all the stuffy rules that sometimes go along with wine tastings.  All that truly matters is the company you keep.

Cheers,

JJ

 

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