Whether you're a novice or a full-fledged wine professional, being a part of a wine tasting group is a must!
It's a great way to improve your palate, learn more, and have fun. Here are tips on getting started, setup and theme ideas.
Consider the Guest List
Who is this party for? Wine lovers, of course! Consider who in your circle of friends is enthusiastic about wine. Remember, no one has to be an expert! The main guest requirement should be an interest in wine and a thirst to learn more.
You’ll also want to include people who can commit to monthly gatherings. People may leave and others may join but setting up a regular schedule helps the group grow. It’s similar to a book club.
For the best crowd size, consider how many seats are available at your table. It's much easier for your guests to take notes if they have a seat and enough room at the table to keep their glasses organized.
One of the first things to decide is whether your wine tasting group will meet at the same house each month or change locations so that each member gets a chance to host. It’s also a good idea to select one or two people to manage the group and send out invitations/alerts and coordinate with the host.
Supply tasting sheets
There's no better way to make your tasting group feel like the real deal than with tasting sheets. This is a great way to stay organized, keep track of which wine is which, and make notes.
Offer pens for note taking
This will encourage everyone to keep track of what they're learning and record tasting notes.
Grab information from a winery's website
Most every winery has a website chock-full of information featuring everything from tasting notes to the weather conditions for a particular vintage. Print some tech sheets before your guests arrive and have them ready to read at the table.
Supply Spittoons and water
Tasting, instead of drinking, is the goal of your wine tasting party. Encourage your guests to hold the wine in their mouths for a few seconds, then spit it into a spittoon. To keep a fresh palate, let your guests rinse with water between samples. Alcohol dulls the senses, and unfortunately this also applies to the palate. It's best to avoid drinking the wine until the tasting and note taking part of your event are done.
Keep it simple
It's easy to get carried away with wine tastings. Guests might show up with multiple bottles, and it's tempting to crack them all open.
Sticking to 4-6 wines hits the sweet spot: that’s enough to inform, not overwhelm.
Assign wines to bring
This is a good way to ensure that there aren't too many choices and you don't run out of one particular wine.
Keep food neutral
The best food to help with palate cleansing is water crackers. No matter what food you offer, the most important thing is to keep it neutral in flavor. Rich, sweet or savory foods can easily overpower a wine. Opt for foods like crackers and mild cheeses instead of cheese dip and salsa. You'll be glad you did!
When hosting a tasting group there are many different options and themes to choose from. Here are a few of our favorites.
Explore a wine region
Whether you're pouring a lineup of wine from an entire country like Austria or from a specific sub-region like Napa County, pick a wine region theme. Tasting through a region's offerings helps to get a feel of style and a sense of terroir.
Explore a grape variety
Pick your favorite grape! It's so amazing how one grape variety can express itself differently depending on the climate, soil, and the style produced by the winemaker. Example: pick a Pinot Noir from Sonoma County to taste next to a Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France, and Willamette Valley, Oregon. The choices are endless.
Food and Wine Pairings
Did someone say cheese? It's no secret, with the right pairing, wine has the potential to make food taste better and food can make the wine taste better. Click here for our food and wine pairing chart.
Whether you choose to explore classic pairings like Wine & Cheese and Wine & Chocolate, or to explore the "what grows together, goes together" motto, you're in for a fun experience! Do some research before your event starts and create cards to label food and wine pairings.
Studs and Duds
This is more of a laid back theme, but fun for any group of wine lovers. Have everyone bring two bottles; a stud (a $50 wine) and a dud (a $15 wine). The catch? All bottles must be concealed! Brown paper bags and aluminum foil are both effective for this.
Supply your guests with blank note cards, and taste all the "disguised" wines. Take notes and vote to choose the "studs" and the "duds" as well as an overall favorite. After all votes are collected, have a big reveal! It can be surprising to see a low-priced wine voted as an expensive bottle and vice versa. You might also find an inexpensive favorite.
Hosting a tasting group is a fun way to learn about wine. It's a great way to get discussions started and to strengthen your palate and tasting ability.
At Colonial we love to #CelebrateMore and we’re here to help with your tasting group! Want us to pick out the wines for your next tasting? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or come see one of the many wine consultants in our store.
We look forward to helping you celebrate more!