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How To Host An At-Home Wine-Tasting

Feb 28, 2008
Wine tastings are always a fun outing, but often commercial ones just don't last long enough. There are still things to be learned about each wine. Maybe you didn't quite get to taste certain ones. Or perhaps you wanted to try a particular one with a certain food. The easiest way to make sure you get all you want out of your next wine-tasting is to host it at your own home. Another benefit is that you don't have to worry about driving afterwards.

Invite as many people as you are comfortable having into your home at once. In your invitation, explain that you are hosting a wine tasting and will provide at least 3 different wines to taste, but that you would like for each guest to bring a bottle or two of their favorite wine as well for everyone to try. You may even want to have them do a little research on their wine, by providing a list of questions that are somewhat generic but will help each taster decide on whether the wine is a yes or no for them. Some questions you might want to include are what types of food go well with this wine, how much is it, where can you buy it, is it best served chilled, should it breathe before serving and is it a good wine to let age.

Set up your tasting in the manner you feel would best fit your guests. A smaller group may enjoy sitting around a table, with each person drinking the same wine at the same time and discussing it together in more depth. For a larger group, it might be better to set up wine tasting stations, with a couple of wines together at each and people can move in small groups from one station to the next.

Provide more than enough wine glasses - real ones, not plastic. You can rent them if you need to from most party-rental companies. Be sure to provide buckets for tasters to spit or dump wine. Keep pitchers of water nearby to rinse glasses between tasting and to occasionally rinse palettes. Baskets of pre-sliced bread will also be necessary to neutralize your guests' taste buds from time to time. Cheese and chocolate are good accompaniments to certain wines. Placing them strategically next to wines they pair with is a good idea. Refrain from serving spicy foods or foods with very strong flavors as they will inhibit tasting the differences between wines. In fact, heavier finger foods may be best left for later after the bulk of the taste testing has been done and guests are looking to just relax and wind down a little.

There are many variations on the home wine tasting party. You can have a contest where all the wines are brown bagged and each guest must try to identify the wine by taste only. The person with the most right wins a bottle of wine to take home. You can also pre-set a price point to make things interesting. For example, guests must bring their favorite wine under $15. In addition, there are a variety of direct selling companies that now offer at-home wine tasting parties. The benefit of these parties is that you will often earn free and discounted wine for yourself for acting as the host. The downside is that many people dislike direct sales and may not come for that reason. If you do choose to do a party of that type, stock up on a few personal favorites to serve and enjoy with your friends after the sales representative leaves or runs out of wine, whichever comes first!

Enjoy your party!
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