How to Host a Proper Wine Tasting (That’s Still Fun)

Inspired by the stunning wine cellar in the Home to Win house, and the growing popularity of wine (as if it wasn’t always popular, but consumption rates are in fact going up), we consulted our resident wine expert for a few tricks to hosting the best wine tasting in town.

Everyone Loves a Theme Party

Especially when that theme is wine! Choosing the wines for a tasting party can be tough though. There’s so much to choose from, so many varietals and price points, it can be hard to narrow it down. A theme will focus your buying.

Want to learn more about red wine? Pick reds in different styles: start light with Pinot Noir and Gamay and build up to the heavier Syrahs and Cabernet Sauvignons. Love rosé? It’s homeland is in the south of France, so start there and build up your tasting with pink wines from around the world. Want to discover the wines of Portugal, Spain or South Africa? Raid your local wine store for wines from those countries.

Once you’ve picked your theme, select four to six wines in that category and you’re ready to go. Keep your guest list small, so everyone gets to try everything.

“Keep flowers to a minimum: you want to smell the wine, not the decor!”

Script it or Improvise

If you’re looking for a formal educational experience, your dining room table is the perfect stage. Set a place for each guest with a plain white piece of paper, a glass per wine for quick comparisons and a pen. The paper helps you see the wine’s colour more clearly and is a spot to record impressions and keep track of favourites. You’ll want plenty of light and comfortable seats to keep the conversation rolling.

For a more casual party, the sky’s the limit. Put out glasses and set out the wines. Guests can pour each wine at their leisure. Just keep flowers to a minimum: you want to smell the wine, not the décor. Mingle and chat about the wines throughout the evening, trying and re-trying each wine as you go.

You can wrap the bottles for a blind tasting experience—or transfer the wines to decanters—but keeping them out in the open can help you discern your preferences.

 

Party Essentials

Both parties require a few palate cleansers like water and soda crackers. They’re neutral so they won’t distract from your goal: tasting the wine and understanding it. Use your best crystal pitchers and platters. You can also set out some spittoons, so your judgement doesn’t get impaired by the alcohol and your guests can drive home.

Keep treats light and simple. Strong foods can mask the wines’ flavours, and trying to plan the perfect pairings can be stressful. Simple cheese plates of three to five cheeses with crackers, salted nuts and some dried fruit are perfect snacks that just naturally fit with wine. If you’re a carnivore, you can also set out an assortment of charcuterie, especially if you’re tasting reds—the saltiness, fat and protein will help cut through the tannins in young wines.


As for glassware, don’t worry about springing for sets of ISO tasting glasses. Your regular wine glasses, especially if they’re large with room to swirl, are perfect. In a formal setting, put out as many glasses per guest as there are wines (or at least two per guest). For a casual party, a glass per guest is just right.

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