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Hosting A Private Wine Tasting? Here Are Some Tips

private wine tastings
Photo Credit: Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

If you are planning a private wine tasting party, you are no doubt looking forward to sampling lots of delicious wines with your family and friends. Make sure you do not neglect the organization of your wine tasting evening, to ensure that it goes smoothly and everyone has a fantastic time.

Ideally you want to create a relaxed atmosphere for your guests by setting up comfortable tasting areas with cushions and low tasting tables covered in white tablecloths and lit by candles. Now, I know not everyone has these items on hand, of course, so make do with what you have and get as close to comfortable as you can. Have a separate table just for palate-cleansing, with carafes of water and plates of wine crackers or cheese. Naturally, make sure you have plenty of wine glasses; have separate glasses for white, red and rose wine, and make sure they are sparkling clean and polished.

If you are a wine lover but do not know much about the correct wine tasting process, read up on a wine tasting for beginners before hosting your own wine tasting party! You should know that there are four separate stages to a wine tasting: the appearance, the aroma, the sensations in the mouth, and the aftertaste (known as the “finish”). These four stages combine to establish the complexity, character, potential (i.e. for aging or drinking) and any noticeable faults of each wine that is sampled.

Other wine tasting tips to bear in mind are to take care when selecting your wines. Are you focusing on a particular winery (known as “vertical” tasting) or vintage (“horizontal” tasting)? There are many options to choose from; why not ask your guests to choose a bottle of wine each according to one specific requirement, such as a wine of a particular vintage, or a wine from their favorite holiday destination. If any of your guests are wine buffs, ask them for help; they may have some good tips they can share, particularly if they have hosted a wine tasting dinner or evening themselves.

When your guests arrive, talk them through the tasting process. Many people refer to this as the five “S”s: see, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor. It may help to write these on a blackboard and have it displayed in a prominent place in the room as a useful reminder.

A blind wine tasting is recommended to ensure that it is judged impartially. As well as covering the label of the bottle and marking it with only a number, the wine itself may be served in a dark glass or pewter drinking vessel, so that the color of the wine cannot be seen. The idea is that if people know nothing about the wine before they taste it, their opinion will not be subject to any preconceptions. This can make for an interesting exercise! Often these taste tests have surprising results; do not assume that the most expensive wines are the ones that will fare the best.

This site is a great resource for wine tasting basics and wine tasting tips, bargains and creating a template for your score cards. Find interesting trivia about different wine varieties and wine-producing regions and print these out to make cards that can be passed around your event, to get your guests talking. Your wine tasting evening may kick start a passion for wine; why not consider looking into wine tasting vacations? These can be great fun taken with a group of friends or as a family. Wine tasting packages are available at wineries all over the world, but for something closer to home look at wine tours in California, which is the largest producer of wine in the United States. Napa Valley and Santa Barbara are just two of the many Californian regions that make great wine. These tours are popular for corporate wine tasting events, but are equally suitable for couples or small tourist parties who want a private wine tasting.

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