Hosting a wine tasting party is a fantastic alternative to having just beer and bowls of snack food! It demonstrates style, lending a feeling of elegance, class, and sophistication. However, for the neophyte it can be quite daunting to think of how to orchestrate such an event let alone deciding on appropriate types of wine. With the simple steps below, you will be well on the way to impressing your guests or clients!
Decide on what type of wines you wish to have present at the party. You can choose one particular vintner and go with their exclusive range. This is often better than confining yourself to something as ordinary as "red" or "white", so as not to exclude individuals that only like one or the other. On the other hand you might consider "domestic" or "imported" themes for your event, or introduce people to the wines of Australia, Africa, or Russia.
Establish the food situation before you proceed. It's always best to eat first. This holds up the wine in the stomach rather than the small intestine, so it's absorbed much more slowly. The objective is not to get your guests drunk. Provide food to slow the absorption of the alcohol they are ingesting. Good suggestions are modest carbohydrates such as a small cracker, with a fatty component such as herbed butter or cream cheese, topped with complex proteins such as cheese, or piped-salmon, caviar, or gently spiced meat. During the wine tasting, you will need something like plain bread or crackers to help cleanse the palate.
Make sure you have the proper stemware on hand for each wine. Generally white wines are served in tall, slim glasses and red wines in the larger, rounder sorts.
Ensure that you have all your supplies ready. Consider the implications, for example, of having a single corkscrew. What happens if it breaks as you're opening the very first bottle for the evening? Your party just ended. I actually have four in every event, and so should you. You also need a spittoon, decanters & aerators, and a couple of ice buckets for the current white or champagne being tasted.
To help your guests enjoy the party while participating, provide a handheld tasting-grid so they can record their impressions of each wine. Some prefer a small wrist strap arrangement with an attached pencil. This allows both hands to be free between tastings.
When you invite your guests consider whether they are oenophiles (knowledgeable connoisseurs) or enthusiastic amateurs. Your guests or clients will probably be most comfortable with people like themselves, with similar knowledge. You can however have one expert who was willing to pass on their knowledge. Thus it becomes a fun learning opportunity for all the attendees.
Selecting the time for your event takes a little thought. As mentioned earlier, it's generally best to taste wines a reasonable time after a meal, so based on typical eating patterns, a 2:00 PM event or a 7:00 PM event might be the best choice.
Before the guests arrive, make sure that you have everything properly laid out. Aesthetics are important. Avoid scented candles which can detract from the scent of the wine. Accessorize traditionally with bread, crackers, cheese, and a beautiful bowl of grapes. Have your hot canapés warming in the oven and bring them out once half of your guests have arrived.
If required, briefly explain to your guests the appropriate methodology for tasting wines. Let them know the swirling the wine for a few seconds allows the wine to breathe and develop its flavors. Also let them know that they may either swallow or spit out the wine, according to their preferences. Provide luxurious, absorbent serviettes for guests that choose the latter so that they don't drip on their clothing.
Wine tasting often proceeds from the lightest wine in color to the darkest. If you have a dessert or ice wine on menu, ensure that it is the last to be tasted, as its taste is often the richest and can overwhelm lighter wines.
Allow people to take sufficient time when it comes to wine tasting. Some people know that they are not experts and may even be shy about expressing their opinions. Ask helpful questions that might guide them into greater insight such as asking "Does it linger pleasantly after you swallow?" "Is it too dry or sweet?" or "Did you notice the lemony or cherry notes after the initial spiciness had vanished?"
Promote the use of the spittoon, and demonstrate how it is done. Enjoying a nice glass of wine without getting tipsy is completely acceptable. By spitting it out you're not "wasting" the wines; rather you are learning about them and it is an educational experience.
Holding a wine tasting party is fun, mature, and classy. It's a very practical way to bring people together socially, and can act as a lubricant for social networking with new business contacts.
The perfect dénouement for a wine tasting party can include a rich dark chocolate dessert, fruit salad, or small flans and tarts. These are easily digestible and make an ideal sweet ending!
And, of course, at the end of the party, tally everyone's wine scoring sheets to see which wines your guests enjoyed the most. Just for fun, maybe you would like to give a cute little parting gift to each guest, too, such as a novelty wine glass.
However you approach it, make it fun for your guests or clients. It is not as difficult as it might appear at first glance. Give it a try, because with a little enthusiasm it will be a real treat for your guests, and they will appreciate your effort. You can do it!
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