8 Great Wine Tasting Themes

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At the risk of sounding puerile, wine tasting themes can provide a little excitement to an otherwise dull event. While you certainly can entertain your guests with a variety of wine tasting party ideas like pin the wine cask on the winery, that’s not exactly the kind of party theme I was referring to. There are different variations of wine tastings a host can execute that will keep your guest fixed on the event and help them learn about wine at the same time. So let’s look at a few possible ideas and perhaps you will comment with your own ideas to share with others.

The thing about wine tasting for beginners especially is that the event can be intimidating. They don’t know what to do, they aren’t aware of any kind of etiquette, which is perfectly fine and expected. You, as the host, will have to carry them through the event by the hand. By making a wine theme for the tasting, you are taking away from the stuffy intellectual expectations, the stigmas associated with how a wine tasting is perceived. This helps the beginner learn wine regions and varietals quicker, because it’s fun. Also, as typical tastings can descend into chaos quickly, providing a theme can help limit distractions.

So choose from among the following and have fun with it:

  • 1. The wine tasting dinner theme. This is perfect for a small group. Food and wine pairing is essential to wine tasting as it helps identify characteristics of a wine and lets the guest learn how to pair it successfully to a particular food. Base your wine choices around the meal. Choose light to medium bodied wines that will enhance a meal. Old world wines, those from Italy or France, are perfect wine tasting food wines. Let that be a dinner theme. Use our Food and Wine Pairing Guide to help identify other possibilities.
  • 2. For more casual affairs that don’t include meals, try something like a blind tasting. Of course you can have some wine tasting party food, to help cleanse the pallet between wines, but you don’t need full meals for this. Cheese is perfect as it help reintroduce saliva back into the mouth after tasting a wine. All this entails is covering the wine labels and having the guests guess what varietal they are tasting. If you want to join along, have your guests bring a bottle of their favorite wine to include. A blind wine tasting party will probably be the most fun.
  • 3. If you can find the proper vintages, a vertical tasting is fairly fun. This kind of wine appreciation pairs wines across several vintages of a varietal or blend from the same vintner or producer, hence it’s name. It helps identify characteristics across vintages (years). Like I said, you might be hard pressed to find vintages going back more than a couple years, especially of the same varietal by the same producer. It could take some hunting if you are determined. Maybe not if you live near a winery.
  • 4. The horizontal tasting is another fun one. A little bit easier than the vertical tasting in my opinion, it includes several wines of the same varietal and vintage across several producers. This helps guests learn the characteristics of a particular varietal or blend of the same harvest time. Even better if it spans varietals across a particular region. This would really narrow down the characteristics of wine varietals to specific flavors and show differences across several terroirs.
  • 5. Regional wine tastings. Do you see how we’re expanding outward with these wine themes? Regional, as you might have guessed includes wines from specific wine regions from around the world. Wine regions produce similar style wines usually when it comes to varietals. If you were to take several Cabernet Sauvignons from California, you would taste similarities among them. This can help identify styles of particular wine growing regions. You could even narrow this down by choosing regions within a large wine region, like say Napa Cabernet Sauvignons rather than California as a whole. Nearly every country that produces wine has regions within regions to choose from. Go wild.
  • 6. Much like horizontal wine themes, a grape varietal theme works almost identical. The difference is using wine same wine varietals from different parts of the world to learn the varying characteristics of a wine region on a global level. Remember, varietals are the types of wine based on a single grape, ie., Merlot is both a grape variety and a wine varietal.
  • 7. Producer based themes. This is probably the easiest wine tasting party event to set up and the most common. This is also known as tasting flights. A flight is a series of wines from a producer that includes a range of wines from white to red. You taste from white to red or dry to sweet. This will teach you a little bit about the winemaker’s style of winemaking. These wine tasting themes are also typically conducted by wineries in their wine tasting room during tourist season.
  • 8. The Free-For-All. Not really a wine tasting theme, but just a way to throw a casual get-together for some friends who enjoy tasting wine. Have each guest bring a bottle of wine that they would like to share with the group. There is no theme to this, but as with all of these tastings you can include wine tasting note cards to jot down thoughts about the different wines.

That leads to the scoring. Not many people get involved with this aspect of wine tasting. It’s fairly involved and requires thorough judging of a wine or wines. In its simplest, the cards are used to rate wines. At its most complicated you can set up judging contests and give away wine tasting gifts for whoever brings the most favored wine.

Those are my eight wine tasting themes. Do you have any?

Learn how to set up a wine tasting on the cheap with these bargain ideas.

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