7 Keys To The Perfect Wine Tasting Party

Peter and I hosted our first wine tasting party a number of years ago as a ruse to pull off a surprise birthday party for a dear friend. The party was such a hit that we made it an annual tradition.

Over the years we have tweeked the event and now have it running like a well tuned party machine. Let me share a few tips.

7 keys to perfect wine tasting party

1. Choose Great Wine

 

wine tasting party selection

Obviously.

The number one key to a successful wine tasting party is to serve great wine. I’m not saying it has to be fancy or expensive wine, just that it should be something worth showcasing to your guests. Something unusual, a wine/winery with a unique story, a great value for the dollar.

Use the expertise of your local wine store staff or dive into little online research.

Or ask me!

We follow two criteria when making selections for a wine tasting party:

  • wines that we would enjoy drinking
  • wines that would be interesting for our guests to try

Variety is also good. Try to have options that appeal to different tastes: a few reds, a few whites, maybe some champagne for a little “je ne sais quoi” and “ooh-la-la”.

2. Have A Theme

A theme makes any party more fun!

A wine tasting party theme could be something like:

Location, Location, Location – Pick a place like Napa or France and explore different wines from that region.

A Variety Of Varietals – Serve a bunch of different red wine varietals ranging from Pinot Noir to Zinfandel. Ask your guests to step out of their comfort zone.

Vintage Matters – Try to get a couple of different vintages of the same wine and see if one year was better for wine making than the other. Or pick a particularly notable vintage (like Napa 2012) and celebrate the excellence.

A+ or B-, You Decide – For our most recent wine tasting party, Peter selected wines with very disparate expert reviews. For instance, Wine Advocate gave the 2011 Hall “Eighteen Seventy-Three” a score of 95 while Wine Spectator gave it an 89. What’s up with that?!?! We asked our guests to weigh in.

wine tasting party score sheet

Joe’s Wines – How about exploring the wines available at your local Trader Joe’s? Or Piggly Wiggly? Or Wegmans? (Although I can’t, in good conscience, endorse serving your party guests Two Buck Chuck. Please see #1.)

The theme possibilities are endless.

3. Supply Plenty of Glasses

Please, please, please, I beg you. Do not serve wine at a wine tasting party in plastic cups. Even the pseudo-fancy plastic wine glasses.

Wine should only be served in plastic glasses in an extreme emergency. Or maybe at a pool party. Certainly NOT at a wine tasting party.

wine glasses

You can purchase glass wine glasses pretty reasonably at a place like Target or buy in bulk at restaurant supply store.

One glass per guest is fine. Your guests can rinse their glasses between tastes at The Rinsing Station (aka The Kitchen Sink).

Speaking of glasses, if any of your guests are over 40, please kindly supply some of these.

reading glasses

4. Use Markers or Charms

Be sure to have some way that people can identify their wine glass after they have put it down. Otherwise, you might run out of glasses and chaos will ensue.

We like these fabulous wine markers. Guests write their names on the glasses and the marker washes off easily at the end of the night.

wine tasting party tips markers

Wine glass charms are also effective as long as everyone remembers which charm they selected.

At our last party, one guest brought personalized wine charms for everyone made from a little wooden tile and two very powerful magnets.

wine tasting party tips wine charm

How cute are they?!

5. Research Tasting Notes

It may be the wine nerd in me but I love reading tasting notes. They give valuable information about the wine and help appreciate the flavor and unique qualities of each bottle.

wine tasting party tips tasting notes

Tasting notes are pretty easy to find online at the website of the wine producer. Or check out Cellar Tracker which offers reviews and notes from the professionals and over 400,000 Cellar Tracker members.

We print out notes, put them in (inexpensive) frames and place them next to the bottles. Our guests can learn a little while having fun.

6. Choose The Right Food

There truly is an art and a science to creating perfect food and wine pairings. If you’ve ever experienced a perfect pairing you will know that it is magical and makes both the food and wine taste even better. But the perfect pairing takes a lot of work and is best left to the professionals.

Your goal in choosing food for a wine tasting party should simply be to do no harm.

Think sweet, mild and savory dishes rather than bold, hot and spicy dishes.

There are certain foods for which beer (or milk) are a better match than wine. I’m lookin’ at you Mr. Jalapeño Popper.

Whether you are serving just appetizers or a full meal, we have found that finger foods work best. With a wine glass in one hand, silverware just gets in the way.

Simple ingredients and simple flavors are the key. Chicken, shrimp, fruit, veggies with a creamy dip, mini-quiches, spanakopita, mini deli sandwiches all work well.

And of course, cheese is wine’s best friend.

wine tasting party cheese plate

You can’t go wrong serving a lovely cheese plate with a little chocolate dessert chaser.

7. Invite Fun Guests

Perhaps as important as the wine selection, having enthusiastic guests is crucial to the success of a wine tasting party – or really any party for that matter.

wine tasting party guests

The best guests are those who are excited to join in, willing to try new things and drink responsibly.

Remember to facilitate the responsible drinking by having plenty of non-alcoholic drinks for the designated drivers and encourage everyone to have the Uber app on their phone.

As an intimate gathering with a few pals or a big, blow-out celebration for your entire crowd, a wine tasting party is the perfect way to share your love of wine.

Now I want to hear about your experiences with wine tasting parties. Do you have any theme ideas to add to the list? Favorite wine tasting stories?

Do not drink and drive!

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Thanks for stopping by!

Comments

  1. Great post, Mo. What a great way to spend time with good friends. Wonder if SLC will have any of these good wines. Here’s hopin’. Have a great week!

  2. I LOVE this post and will have to share it with my readers……my husband and I have been talking about doing a tasting party for about 10 couples. This definitely gets me excited to plan one…….great tips!! Happy 2016 to you:)

  3. What a wonderful idea for a great evening with friends! And don’t forget the chocolate! I love finding a good wine that pairs well with a deep, fruity chocolate. Now that I think about it, maybe I’ll just have a chocolate tasting and find some wine to go with it! Ha!
    A great, fun idea for the new year! Thanks.
    Leslie Anne recently posted…Comment on Torta for L’Epifania by katie clooneyMy Profile

  4. I have never been to a wine tasting party! Maybe I will have one at some point – I do love a party. Pinned this for future reference!
    Dana recently posted…Let’s get this year startedMy Profile

  5. This post totally has me wanting to plan a wine tasting party! Thanks for the great tips! Have a wonderful weekend, Mo…xoxoxo

  6. what fun! we did a tasting years ago when our kids were in jr. high and we grownups needed a cheap night in. each guest brought an inexpensive and an ‘expensive’ wine to try – I think our dollar amount was $10-$25. Each bottle was placed in a paper bag and we sampled and judged and tried to guess which was which. not very scientific but a fun way to sample a nice variety.
    ps- love the wine markers. going to need to get some of those!
    Laura Ehlers recently posted…Well Played Neptune…Well Played…My Profile

  7. Once again. I wish I lived closer.
    Kelly L McKenzie recently posted…Show Me How To MoveMy Profile

  8. Hi Mo, actually I was going to organise a tasting party for about 7 couples next week. Can you recommed any good chocolate for a red wine? Thanks for sharing anyway.

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