If you have several like-minded friends who enjoy wine, why not throw a wine tasting party? Parties to taste wine can be a fun way to spend an evening with friends, and you may get to taste several wines you wouldn't otherwise have tried.
1. Decide on a Wine Tasting Theme for the Party
To start, come up with a theme for the party. Your theme will be the types of wines you want to taste, whether you'd like to taste wines of all one variety, wines from the same region, or something else.
Wine Tasting Party Ideas
Some suggestions for themes:
- Bring your favorite bottle of wine to taste
- All reds, all whites, or all rosés
- Sparkling wines and Champagne
- Fortified wines
- Sweet wines
- Wines from a certain country or region
- Wines of a certain varietal
- The same wine from different vintages (vertical)
- Wines of the same variety from different winemakers from the same vintage (horizontal)
- Wines in a specific price range
- Inexpensive versus expensive blind tasting
- Aged wines
- Wine and food pairings
- Flagship wines from nearby winemakers
- Old World wines versus New World wines (such as American and Australian Grenache versus Spanish Priorat or Oregon Pinot Noir versus Burgundy)
- Blind tasting
- Wine review tasting (tasting top rated wines from one reviewer such as Robert Parker or James Suckling)
2. Choose Your Guest List
Wine tasting parties work best when they're fairly intimate affairs. A smaller guest list allows more interaction and discussion about the wines. Since a standard sized wine bottle has 25 ounces, or about 12 2-ounce pours, inviting ten people (assuming you and a partner, spouse, or date will also attend) allows you to open one tasting bottle per wine taste, so you can quickly and efficiently open and pour without disrupting the flow of the tasting. Knowing the number that will attend will also inform how much food and other drink you will need for the party.
3. Invite Your Guests
You can invite guests on social media, via phone or text, through printed invitations, or using a party invitation services such as evite. Make sure that when you invite guests, you tell them the following:
- Date, time, and location of the party
- Theme of the party
- What they are expected to bring (if anything)
- Whether it is just a single person invitation or if a +1 is welcome
- How to RSVP
- Whether a meal will be served or you'll just be serving snacks or hors d'oeuvres
- Any additional information you wish to add
5. Plan Your Food and Drink
Once you know how many will be coming, you can address your food and drink needs. If you're planning to have a meal, such as a dinner party, the foods you serve will be different than if you're planning on having light snacks. Likewise, if you're serving dinner, you'll want to pair a few wines with your dinner as well. If only purpose of the party is wine tasting, you'll likely still want some beverages for before and after the tasting. These can be additional wines, soft drinks, water, cocktails, or anything else you'd like to serve outside of the wine.
Tips for Planning Your Wine Tasting Party Menu
Some tips for planning your menu:
- If you plan to serve cocktails, avoid serving them before the wine tasting so your guest's palates aren't dulled by the drinks.
- If you're serving a meal, serve it after the wine tasting so your guests aren't full for the tasting.
- Consider serving an apéritif before the wine tasting.
- Use wine and food pairing charts to determine your menu or appetizers you'll pair with the wines.
- Carefully calculate how much food you'll need for the party.
- Consider pairing cheeses with each wine during the tasting.
- Also include in your menu planning palate cleansers such as bread or crackers and still or sparkling water.
- Plan for beverages to serve along with the tasted wines. This can be more bottles of the wines tasted or something else entirely.
6. Plan Activities
While the wine tasting will be the centerpiece of your evening, consider other activities you may wish to engage in during the party such as wine tasting games, wine trivia, a guest speaker, or even fun activities such as coloring or having guests design a wine label for their favorite taste of the night. After you've decided what activities you'll engage in, be sure you add any materials you need for those to your shopping list.
7. Gather What You Need for the Wine Tasting Party
Some items you'll need regardless of what you're feeding guests. Others will depend on your menu and plans.
Printable Wine Tasting Mat
You can use the wine tasting form mat below. Simply click on the printable form and then print as many as you need. If you need help, consult this Guide for Adobe Printables.
To use the mat:
- If you're tasting more than four wines, have more than one mat per guest.
- Place the mats in front of the guests as you pour the wines and allow them to fill out each section.
- The mat has sections for information about the wine as well as tasting notes.
- Guests can also use the circle for the wine glass for additional notes, or they can use the wine flavor wheel on the bottom to write the number of each wine and where it fits within that wheel.
- If you're doing a blind tasting, you can also offer these blind tasting sheets.
Stemmed Wine Glasses
You have two options for wine glasses: have a separate glass for each wine you pour, or offer one glass and rinse between pours. The second option is definitely more economical, and providing the glass is rinsed between each pour, the type of glass you use won't affect the flavors and aromas of the wine enough to make a huge difference. Some tips:
- Do use stemmed glasses so tasters can evaluate color and swirl the glass by the stem easily.
- Balloon glasses may work best because they'll easily accommodate all types of wine and will allow easy access to aromas.
- Avoid using colored or decorative wine glasses because you want your guests to be able to evaluate the wine's color.
You'll also need some types of vessels you'll use as spittoons and dump buckets. Any large vessel such as a vase will work - try to have them not be made of clear materials because people don't really want to look at each others' spit. Offer one for each two guests - or even give each guest his or her own dump bucket.
You'll also want to offer palate cleansers between each taste. These are usually neutrally flavored foods - bread and crackers are the top choices for palate cleansers. Offer them in dishes cut up into small pieces so your guests aren't eating a lot of them; just cleansing their palate between tastes.
For tasting, you'll need one bottle for every 12 people to complete two-ounce pours. You may also want to have additional wines available (either more bottles of the wines you've tasted or different wines for sipping) after the tasting is over. You can use wine planning charts to help you determine how much wine you'll need.
You'll also need bottled or tap water, sparkling or still. You'll use the water to rinse glasses between tastes, and also your guests will use them as palate cleansers.
You'll also need other supplies including the following:
- Corkscrew or wine openers
- If doing a blind tasting, something to mask bottles and numbers for each bottle
- Any foods you plan to serve
- Cocktail napkins, plates, etc.
- Wine glass charms to help guests identify their glasses
- Supplies for any games or activities you have planned
8. Prepare for the Party
The day of the party, you'll need to do some preparations.
- Place the wine bottles you'll be tasting out so guests can look at labels.
- If the wine needs to breathe, open any bottles that need to breathe beforehand. Likewise, you should decant any aged reds that might need decanting before your guest arrive.
- Set your wine tasting area with the mats, pens or pencils, glasses, spittoons, water, and palate cleansers.
- If you're holding a blind wine tasting, mask the bottles with foil or bags and assign them numbers.
- Set out any hors d'oeuvres or finger foods you'll make available to guests.
- Set up any activities you plan to hold later.
- Plan any music or playlists and set them up so the music is playing when guests begin to arrive.
- If having dinner, set the table and finish up meal or hors d'oeuvres prep.
9. Enjoy the Party
It's important to manage the flow of the party. You can plan to taste multiple wines in a sitting so your guests can make direct comparisons, or you can intersperse tasting individual wines among activities. A sample schedule for a party might include the following:
- 7 to 8 PM - Arrival, apéritif, and light hors d'oeuvres or finger foods
- 8 to 9 PM - Wine tasting either with wines by themselves or wine and food pairings. Plan to pour a wine every 15 to 20 minutes or so. As you pour the wines, if you're not blind tasting, offer some basic information about the wine, allow guests to look at the labels, etc.
- 9 PM - 11:30 PM - Serve food, dinner, hors d'oeuvres, etc. with additional wines and engage in any activities such as trivia or games, etc.
Wine Tasting Fun
Wine tasting parties don't need to be stuffy or serious affairs. Regardless of the wines you taste and the foods you serve, give the party your own unique spin with decor, activities, music, and more. Instead, invite your friends for an evening of fun and friendship while you taste some really great wines.