In my life I have hosted more than a few wine tasting parties. Let’s say a plethora and figure it is more than 50 and less than a thousand, but the successful ones all had three components; good wine, tasty snacks and guests that are actually interested in tasting wine. Now this is not to say there are other things you might need to worry about like clean glasses, only the best for my guests, and perhaps a theme, try to avoid political, religious or Philadelphia Eagle related themes, they end badly, but with those three things set, you should do fine.
So, let’s talk about the most important element first, the wine. Take into account what your guests might like to drink. If someone is going to freak out if you pour Merlot, you might want to avoid it, but I always try to include a good mix of wines to expose guests to new grapes, different regions and new wineries. Start off with a sparkling wine or a light white wine and maybe have an overall mix of sparkling, white, rose, lighter reds and heavier red wines. If you know someone likes sweet wines, then throw one into the mix. Usually I start lighter and go heavier, with a sweeter one at the beginning or end, but you do what you want. If that means six Chardonnays, have at it, but mix up the regions, the winemakers and the styles
Sometimes it helps to have a theme for your wine tasting (avoid those listed above) such as ‘Tour du France’, ‘Wines of the Spanish Inquisition’ or ‘Grapes with Funny Names’. Usually I go with basic themes like California, France or Italy, but you can dig down deeper and stick to a specific region like Sonoma, Champagne or Piedmont and see how wines from the same region, or literally the same hillside can be dramatically different. Another option is a blind tasting where you let guests play Sherlock Holmes and find the markers and clues to decide the grapes, wine, region and age of the wine, but I’ll go over that in a couple weeks (foreshadowing technique to keep you coming back).
I would suggest you limit the number of wines to six to 10 at the most, but you might want to have more than one bottle of each on hand depending on how many guests you have. Each normal sized bottle is 750 milliliters of wine or about 25.4 ounces. When I teach a class, I can use one bottle to pour everyone a taste and have a little left over, but even if you might figure one bottle per 12 people, have a spare incase that wine proves to be popular.
Food is critical for a wine tasting, so don’t overlook it. If you are pouring six to 10 wines or more, you really need to have a little nosh to not only absorb all the alcohol your guests are ingesting, but to make those wines taste even better and enhance their experience. Wine and food go hand and glove; if it doesn’t fit, you must, ah, um, well you get the idea. If all else fails, google wine and food pairings, but don’t scrimp on the quantity or the quality. Cheese, olives, meats, bread or crackers are all basics, but try fruits, veggies, chocolates, jams and spreads too. Everyone has different tastes and what works for one person may not for another, so go big! Some of my favorites are milk chocolate with rose wines, cheeses of all kinds and fig spread on bread. Until you have had it, you have not truly lived.
Now we have great wines and we have some amazing food…who to invite? I tend to be all inclusive when I am hosting wine-a-paloozas at my house. Communists, Republicans, Free-Trade supporters, Presbyterians and Buddhists, but something happened at a recent soiree that has me thinking my come one, come all policy.
This particular party featured 25 wines that ranged from $30 to $150 per bottle, so some pretty good grape juice. At the end of the night one of my guests filled their glass to the brim and proceeded to down it. Now, I’m the last person to comment on someone’s drinking habits. Who am I kidding? Ok, I’m the first person. A wine tasting is just that; tasting. If you want to drink from a bucket and get drunk, perhaps actually tasting the wine is not your first, second or even third priority. I’m going to have to re-think my guest list next time.
You might also want to keep this in mind for your guests. Have other beverage options, beer, soda, juice for partners and spouses of invitees that may not be wowed by your bottle of Krug or Chateau Cheval Blanc. That way everyone can have fun and your party will be a success, unless you invite Eagles fans; if you do that make sure you have 911 on speed dial. A few other options to consider:
- Glasses – have plenty and in my case, I clean them
- Decanters – In a pinch a clean coffee pot will do, but try and have at least one if you are serving big red wines
- Water – Always have lots on hand to hydrate while tasting. I use the garden hose, but your guests may want fancy bottled water…or from a clean glass
- Dump buckets – Not everyone will enjoy the Retsina. Better in a bucket than your potted plants
- Pouring disks – The best way to pour without spilling, trust me, I’m a professional
Good luck and have a great party!
WINE-A-PALOOZA Wines of the Week – Kirk’s Upcoming Wine Party
So, I figure that my old radio industry friends who are coming next weekend for a mini wine-a-palooza will NEVER read this blog, so I’ll share two of my selections with you.
My friend is turning 60, and he likes Bordeaux, so one of the wines for next week is the Chateau Monbousquet Saint-Émilion, 2012. This Grand Cru Classe stunner is full of plum and black fruit with some interesting herbal notes and well worth the 93 points Wine Spectator gave it. A great value Right Bank Bordeaux at $53.
Go big or go home. Since the party is at my house, I may, may do both and open this almost perfect wine. Will it be great in 10 or 15 years? Sure, but I ‘think’ I may open the 2014 Chappellet Pritchard Hill Cabernet next Saturday. It is simply perfection in a bottle and I would say you would be hard pressed to find better, hence 99+ points from Wine Advocate and a pricy $240. Enjoy…
#ChateauMonbousquet #ChappelletPritchardHill #partyongarth #winetastingparties