There are those who take wine tasting very seriously and believe it’s all about the wine. They know a Nebbiolo from a Bordeaux. The difference between piquant and acescence.
Frankly, I wouldn’t know an Nebbiolo if it walked up and hit me on the head. But don’t get me wrong. I appreciate a nice glass of wine myself. But sometimes wine isn’t just about the bouquet or the year. It’s also a terrific way to get a party going. Meet new people. Enjoy old friends, conversation and lots of laughs; which of course is often directly proportionate to the amount of wine served. Just saying….
So if you are one of those diehard wine-oisseurs, stop reading. This post is NOT for you.
OK, for everyone else…here are the steps to hosting your own wine tasting. Provided you follow a few guidelines, it can be one of the easiest parties you throw all year.
Pick a Theme: Such as a Varietal (merlot, sauvignon, pinot, etc.) or a region (such as Australia, Napa, Missouri, etc.). Be as broad or as narrow in your theme as you want.
Choose from 4 to 6 different wines that fit your theme. For example, pick 6 different Chardonnays from all around the world or just different points in the United States; or 6 different varietals of wine from the same Australian winery; or perhaps 6 different chards from Napa from 2006. Mix it up, make your own rules, have fun!
Guests & Wine – Provide 4 to 6 different bottles for 6 to 8 guests. If you are inviting a larger crowd, consider 2 bottles of each wine (just be sure to label the like bottles the same).
Bottle Bags and Labels – Bottles need to be disguised, so they won’t influence the grading. And a little mystery is just plain fun. A brown paper bag will certainly do the job. But I’m partial to my jute bags with their Chalk Cloth labels.
HINT: label the bottles using letters since the grading is numerical. After tasting numerous bottles of wine, too many numbers often leads to too much confusion.
Glasses – Use clear wine glasses with full bowls for swirling without spillage (we hope).
Water and bowls – Have a pitcher of water and a bucket or bowl handy to rinse glasses between tastings
Scorecards – These can be as simple as a blank note card where each guest rates the overall appeal of each wine with a single number score of 1 to 10; or a standard “wine-y” scorecard with the five main attributes evaluated, assessed and assigned a score; or my personal favorite – the four different scorecards I developed to guarantee lively conversation and lots of laughs!
The standard five attributes are assessed against pop culture measuring sticks. I certainly find it much more entertaining to judge the overall taste against the likes of Howard Stern versus Michelle Obama or Snooki versus Grace Kelly. And its clarity: closer to the plot of Lost or Gilligan’s Island? You get the idea.
Food – Simple is best! Bland crackers are great to cleanse the palate during the tasting, but surely something a bit more substantial would be welcomed once the grading is done. Traditionally, fruit and cheese are served.
Picking the best: Once all the wines have been tasted and scored, each guest totals his or her own scores and figures their personal rankings. The host adds all the individual totals for a grand total and announces the party-wide rankings. How did your individual rankings compare to that of the group?
ALTERNATIVE: You can set it up as a competition. The host picks a theme with each guest bringing a bottle that fits that theme. Each bottle is bagged and tagged. Yes, in some cases it is possible to distinguish your bottle from the rest by the bit of neck exposed at the bag’s opening. So here’s a hint if you feel compelled to thwart the hyper-competitive guest: pour his or her wine into an alternate clean and dry bottle, then bag and tag this alternate bottle. Hah! Continue with the tasting as before, and when the scores are all tallied uncloak the bottles and award a prize to the person bringing the top-ranking wine. Prize you say? Perhaps this amazing bottle stopper turned by incredible Etsy artist, Steve of SunsetTurnings.etsy.com. Check out all his beautiful wine bottle stoppers at: http://www.etsy.com/shop/sunsetturnings?section_id=6529140
The best thing about wine tasting among friends (and even new acquaintances) is its light-hearted atmosphere. It’s about fun, laughter and enjoying each other’s company … and a good glass of wine.