Wine…for some people there couldn’t be a scarier topic to talk about. What, with all the gibberish about swirling, slurping and spitting and then using terms used to describe a wine’s flavor like leather, mushrooms and citrus fruits. How in the world can you say a wine tastes like any one of those things when it’s made from grapes. It is made from grapes? Right?
One way to help overcome your fear of wines is by throwing your very own wine tasting party. Yes, YOU have a wine tasting party at your very own house. This is one of the easiest parties to throw and will probably be one of the most fun parties you’ll have. Plus, not only am I going to give you lots of tips on how to throw the party, but I am also going to give away a complete wine tasting party kit to make your party even easier to host.
How to learn about wine? Throw a wine tasting party. Yes, even if the only knowledge you have about wine is that you can tell the difference between red and white wines, throwing your own party is a great way to learn about the vino. And just because it’s a wine party, it doesn’t mean you can’t focus on the food too.
Who do You Invite
Choose your guests based on who’s fun to be around, not who’s the biggest wine nerd in your group. You want people from different backgrounds that are open to new experiences and are willing to talk (this is no time to invite those wall flower friends of yours). You don’t want the guy, or girl, who knows everything there is to know about wines taking over the conversation. This person will then end up (not necessarily intentionally) hijacking what everyone else thinks about the wines. Your first wine tasting party should also be kept to a manageable size. This is not the time to throw a 50 person rager. You’re trying to get your bearings about you, you want people to talk about the wines (as well as other topics) and you want to be able to keep track of the wines you are tasting.
Laying in The Supplies
First of all, you need a theme. I’m not talking about theme as in a “pirate party” where everyone dresses up. I’m referring to a theme for the wines. You could make it as broad as a “red” or “white” wine party. Or you could pick a certain area that the wines are from like “Sonoma wines” or “Portuguese wines.” You could also have a fun theme like “wines from Trader Joe’s” or “wines less than $15.”
Then you need to decide if you will be doing a blind tasting. Not wearing blindfolds (that would be a nightmare for your carpets and furniture). Blind tastings means that you wrap the bottles in plain paper (to hide the labels) and only number the bottles. That way people can’t be swayed by the “pretty label” or maybe a wine they’ve had before or seen at the store. When serving the wines, you start with the lightest color wine first and serve the darkest wine last. (The lighter the color, the lighter the flavor. That way your taste buds can adjust and taste of each wine. If you start with the darkest first, you may not be able to taste the lighter flavored wines later.)
Now the wine tools. Yes, there are some wine tools required for drinking wine. First of all, you’ll need a bottle opener. There are a few different kinds of openers with the most popular being a wine key (that’s the one you see used in restaurants that kind of looks like a Swiss army knife). The other very popular model makes opening wine bottles very easy. It has a corkscrew with a lever, or two, that opens the bottle using leverage.
Next, on the wine tools list, is a vacuum pump wine preserver. This tool is only necessary if you have any vino left over, which you probably won’t given this type of party. But this tool is invaluable when you do have leftovers. It helps to keep that wine fresh for a couple of extra days.
If you are serving red wine, you may have heard the term aerating or decanting the wine to let it breathe. Some red wines taste much better when they’ve been exposed to air. A convenient tool is an aerator that you can just pop into the bottle and aerates the wine as you pour. Easy peasy and quick. A decanter allows you to pour the wine into a larger vessel, with a wider opening than the original wine bottle and let’s the air get at the wine over several minutes or hours.
On to the glasses. Yes, there are specific glasses made for specific wines. But when you’re throwing a wine tasting party, keep it simple. Everyone gets the same size glass. Of course that can lead to a bit of confusion if someone sets their glass down. How do you tell them apart. Make sure you have some wine charms, or those little sticky things that attach to the glasses, or better yet – glasses that allow you to write the guests name on them. No more glass confusion.
The food. Keep it simple. Definitely have a cheese plate with some charcuterie, nuts and dried fruit for people to nosh on. You can Google “best cheeses for red/white wine” to get an idea of the best cheeses to serve (the list can get quite long, so I’m not including that here). Some other great things to serve would be dark chocolate (if you are serving reds), glazed nuts, shortbread cookies, polenta rounds, brushcetta, and different types of toasted breads.
Give each of your guests a notepad and pen (or at least a sheet of paper and pen) so that they can make notes or at least write down the names of their favorite wines.
A dump/spit bucket. This is a place where you can dump the wine, from your glass, or spit out so that you don’t get hammered out of your minds or if you don’t like a particular wine. I picked up a low/wide vase to use at my parties. Also, it’s nice if you can’t see through the sides of the dump bucket. Empty it out as needed.
There are a couple of different ways to handle the wines themselves. You could supply the wines or you could ask your guests to bring a bottle of wine that fits within the theme. One of my favorite ways to throw a wine tasting party is to ask my guests to bring their favorite bottle of red wine. This gives your guests a great variety of wines to try and allows the person who brought the wine to talk about why they like it or how they discovered it (great conversation starter). If you are having a group of 10 – 20 people, you will need 2 bottles of each wine.
I also like to buy an extra bottle of wine and keep it under wraps (literally) to give away to one of my guests at the end of the night. The wine I choose is one of my favorites and would be fitting with the theme of the party.
Time to Imbibe
Line up everyone’s glasses and give them a 2 – 3 ounce pour. (The size of the pour really depends on how many people you have, but make sure it’s enough that you can have a couple of sips so that you can really taste the flavors in the wine.)
Pour each wine one at a time then discuss. This doesn’t have to be a serious conversation…have fun with it. What do you like/dislike about the wine? Do you taste flavors like cherry or blueberry in the wine? Does it taste better with food or without?
Remember, this is a party. Sure…you’re going to learn some things, but the primary reason you are having this little event is so you can get together with friends and enjoy each others company. The fact that you’re learning something is secondary.
At the beginning of this long post, I promised you a giveaway that would help to make throwing a wine party even easier than with the tips I just gave you. I have teamed up with a great kitchenware site called Big Kitchen to send you a wine tasting party kit, with pretty much all of the wine tools you’ll need. Below, is a photo of what you’re going to get (wine not included…but feel free to stop by and I’ll share this one with you).
- A beautiful glass decanter to help you let those precious reds breathe. The other great thing about this decanter is that it also comes with a large tube that fits inside of it. That’s so you can fill the tube with ice and keep your whites and rosé wines chilled.
- A lever pull wine bottle opener that even comes with an extra worm. Not the slimy kind. That metal corkscrew on the device is called a worm.
- A set of 6 plate clips. These little clips attach to your plates and hold a wine glass too. No more trying to balance both and you’re left with a free hand. (Which of course makes talking much easier…or to take notes on the wines.)
- An aerating spout pour. Just pop this into your bottle of red wine and it will aerate the wine while you pour.
- A vacuum pump wine preserver. Just in case you have any wine left over (ha) you’ll be able to preserve it for another day of enjoyment.
- A wine bottle gift bag. You could use this to disguise the bottle that you are pouring, or use it to wrap the surprise bottle of wine to give away at the end of the party.
- A wine journal. This hard bound book will let you take lots of notes on all of the wines you enjoy and keep of record of the which one’s you want to buy again.
- A set of two chalkboard wine glasses. These generously sized glasses have a base that’s covered in chalkboard material. They come with a bag of chalk so you can write your guest’s name on the glasses. The problem of which glass is mine is solved.
This is a fantastic package to get you well on your way for throwing a fun wine tasting party. It’s worth well over $100, and you know you want this. Of course, you can always get these, and a lot more stuff for your bar or kitchen over at Big Kitchen. I’m hooked on the site.
The contest will run until Friday, July 27, 2012 at midnight PST. I’ll select the winner from a randomly generated number from Random.org. The winner will have 72 hours to respond to me. If they don’t I’ll select another winner. Just leave a comment below telling me what your wine party theme would be. You can get an additional entry by liking My Man’s Belly on Facebook and coming back here to tell me that you did that.Welcome to My Man's Belly! Leave me a comment and let me know what you think about the site or if there's a recipe you'd like to see here. Have a great day.