Hosting A Wine Tasting Party – Tips for a Successful Event

Hosting a Wine Tasting Party, Tips for a Successful Event

If you ask any wine enthusiast or hobbyist, they all agree that attending a great wine tasting party is much less about the educational aspects, and much more about passionate people gathering together to share, well, a subject they are passionate about! Of course learning how to taste wine correctly is important in order to have the ability to discern and develop your wine palate. However, the personal adventures and experiences that people share with the group about their quests to discover what makes an award-winning wine exceptional are at the heart of the wine-tasting journey. We’ve pulled together a collection of tips to ensure your first attempt at hosting a wine tasting party will be a memorable and successful gathering for everyone.

To put an elegant, sophisticated spin on the event, you can send out written invitations to your guests. Make sure the invites represent the festivities in a unique and fun way. People jump at the chance to attend a soiree that they believe they will enjoy, and the head start you have is that wherever there is wine, fun is bound to follow. And receiving RSVP’s will ensure that you have the correct quantity of wine for the event.

Of course there are fundamental elements that must be present at your event to make it flow. Here is a list of those components:

– A variety of white, rose (rose is optional) and red wines. As far as whites go, a Chardonnay, a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio are all good selections. When it comes to reds, a Merlot, a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon will work well. You can also include a couple bottles of Champagne, and even a dessert wine if you’d like. Figure on about one-half to three-quarters of a bottle of wine per guest. And encourage your guests to bring one of their personal favorites as well. Be sure to start with the whites, and end with the Champagne or dessert wine. Some rich, ultra-sweet dessert wines can even be served over vanilla ice cream to finish off your tasting with a rich, sweet treat.

– Simple, clear (and clean) wine glasses. Resist using glasses that are etched or have winery logos on them. They may be pretty, but those details can distract the taster.

– A spittoon (any small glass or metal bucket will work) shared by a couple of guests so they can pour out any excess they don’t wish to drink.

– Several different wine openers and corkscrews. Providing several different styles will introduce guests to openers they may not be familiar with, thus adding to the educational aspect.

– A bottle of room temperature water for each guest, and a few extras. Make sure it is not chilled. Changing the temperature of your taste buds can alter a wine’s flavor.

– Oyster or table water crackers (or some other plain, unsalted crackers) to allow your guests to cleanse their palates between tastings.

– Some sort of tasting sheets and pencils so that your guests can take notes and make comments about the wines they sample. This can be as simple as a few sheets of paper with several columns to an elaborate empty chart with all of the wines pre-listed in the order they will taste them in.

– An ice chest filled with ice and water to hold the white wines.
A disposal camera for each guest or couple so they can take pictures of the wine labels for future reference.

– For the more informal parties, you can put out selections of food pairings – cheese, fresh fruit or chocolate are all popular choices.

Who Should You Invite?

To pull off the most successful party, invite a small (12 or less) group of eclectic, diverse people who will make your party fun and interesting. Those who are extroverted and passionate about wine (or generally passionate about life) will ensure lots of conversation and even banter. Include both newbies as well as more experienced tasters. That way the newbies can learn from the more experienced enthusiasts, and the more serious tasters can engage in friendly debates about the wines they enjoy and why. And by the time this group has tasted its fourth or fifth wine, the party will really start to roll.

Do You Need a Theme?

Although a theme is not necessary to throw a great party, it can definitely add to the fun. Some popular themes are choosing a specific country, or even a specific region within a country. Encourage your guests to come dressed in period costumes. Another fun theme is “old world wines versus new world”, and blind tastings are great as well. Make sure the theme is listed on the invitations you send out.

Which Wines Should I Serve?

When it comes to picking the wines you will serve, try to choose wines from wineries your guests may not have heard of before and that they are not familiar with. This pertains to both specific vineyards as well as particular varietals. This should be one of your goals for the party – introducing your guests to premium wines they are not acquainted with. This is important because all of us have picked up an obscure bottle of wine from the shelf at Trader Joe’s and have examined the label, wondering how it tastes. However we’ve been hesitant to spend money on a wine we might end up disliking, and ultimately wasting our money and pouring it down the drain. Your party will give your guests an opportunity to “try before they buy.” Do make sure that the wines you choose can be obtained locally at a retail liquor store or beverage warehouse, and tell them specifically where they can buy it.

If you are willing to conduct a little research ahead of time and put together a clever itinerary, your party will be a fun, unique event that your guests will remember fondly. If you are a relative beginner yourself, take advantage of the knowledge and advice of one of your local wine retailers. They can be invaluable to you as you plan your party.

The keys to a successful wine-tasting party are, 1) choosing the right wines, 2) choosing the right guests, and 3) keeping it casual and fun so that none of your guests feel uncomfortable or intimidated.


Cheryl Fallon currently works as a personal chef as well as a freelance writer/editor. She resides in a small farm town in Northern Arizona where she lives with her 3 Rhode Island Red hens, her pigmy goat Petunia, and her two little dogs, Lilly and Lucy.  

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