I never need an excuse to throw a party. Life is good and it needs to be celebrated. A party is just my way of getting my friends to come over for some good eats and drinks. My all-time favorite type of party to host is a Wine Party. (or a Wine & Beer Party) Here’s what you gotta do to host your own wine tasting party:
- Set the Date and Invite your Guests
Pick the date of your party and make a list of the people you would like to invite. Ideally, you should not have more then 12 people at a Wine Tasting Party. You can put as much or as little effort into your invitations as you like.
- Create a Facebook event and send out invitations through Facebook
- Create your own customized invitations and hand deliver or mail out your invitations
- Use an online invitation website that allows you to create customized digital invitations and track the responses of your guests.
- The Food
Planning the food is my favorite part of party planning. Most of the time when you’re hosting a Wine Party you want to keep the food simple. A delicious selection of dried meats, cheeses and olives will pair beautifully with just about any wine while breads, simple crackers and lemon water will help cleanse your guests palette between wine samplings. Spit buckets are an option during the tasting but most guests will want to enjoy the wine so feed them well!
If you feel a little more adventurous, I highly recommended some of the following appetizers. Think tapas style: small bite-sized portions with delicious flavours.
Have your food set up at different stations to encourage people to mingle and not gathered all in one corner of the room. If you decide to serve hot appetizers, try to have them planned so they make their appearance at different times of the evening and not all at once.
Chocolate is also an excellent pairing with wine. If you decide to offer chocolate make sure its dark and of high quality.
- The Wine
A wine tasting party can get expensive so ask your guests to help contribute by bringing their favorite wine, or something new they’d love to try. Perhaps you wish to choose with a theme: wines from a specific region (ie. Spanish wines), a particular price point or just keep it random. I invited couples to my last party so I asked each couple to bring 2 bottles of their favorite wines. We had a great selection and a wide variety to sample. Always make sure you have 2 bottles of each type of wine. One bottle will be used for sampling while your guests will the second bottle will be for drinking after the sampling. If you would like to have more then 12 guests, or you would never consider having your guests contribute to the party, I’ve added some extra suggestions just for you at the bottom of this article.
It is recommended you have ½ bottle of wine per person per 2 hours. I’d keep a spare on hand just in case. Wine certainly never goes to waste in my house and it can always be used as a hostess gift at a later date.
Have additional drinking wine on hand for when your guests first arrive. A light, crisp white wine is best. You’ll want everyone to be at the party before you start the sampling.
Depending on your budget, either rent enough glasses for each guest to have a wine glass for each of the different types of wine (12 guests x 6 different wines = 72 glasses) or provide one glass per guest. Start with your lightest wine first and work your way to the darkest, boldest flavoured wine. Do NOT rinse your wine glasses between wines.
When you are ready to start sampling, pour 2 oz of wine in each glass. If you’re not sure what 2 oz looks like, try using your index finger and middle finger to help measure. The wine should be poured to the top of your middle finger when your two fingers are stacked together horizontally from the bottom of the glass. A smaller amount now will ensure each of your guests receives a sample of the wine. Once everyone has had a taste, feel free to pour some more.
White wines should be served chilled at 40-50 F and red wines should be served between 55-65 F.
Provide your guests with little cards they can take notes about each of the wines they are sampling. At the very least, it’s an opportunity for your guests to record which wines they liked for another day. Note the producing vineyard, the year, a brief description and the price (most of this information can be found on the wine label). Provide a list of adjectives for your guests to use to describe the wine. (dry, fruity, buttery, robust) Find a complete list here.
If you so choose, teach your guests how to sniff, swirl and slurp the wine for the full wine tasting experience.
Optional: have a blind wine tasting by wrapping the bottles in wrapping paper and reveal them at the end of the night. You can also purchase (or make) adorable wine bags with labels on the outside so you can number each wine. Have people choose their favorite wine. Add an extra element by awarding a prize to the person who brought the favorite bottle of wine.
- The Décor
The décor will lend to the mood of the party. Wine Parties tend to be viewed as rather chic and if you like to host, you may enjoy the experience of decorating for one. Here are a few of my favorite suggestions.
- Use slate boards or chalk board paper to help identify your cheeses. At the very least, make little labels for each of your cheeses so your guests know what they are eating. Gouda goes well with a Merlot, while Brie pairs nicely with Chardonnay. (Check out your local hardware store for slate boards, much cheaper then buying slate cheese cutting boards from your kitchen supply store)
- You can also print out a cheese pair list for your guests. Display this list in a picture frame.
- Use white linen and white serving dishes as much as possible. White makes food look better and is great for those people serious about their wine and trying to gauge the color in their glass.
- Make the room inviting by hanging white lights behind sheer curtains and lighting white candles. Just make sure the candles are not scented otherwise it may conflict with the aroma of the wines.
- Provide your guests with a guest book to sign or leave a little message. I purchased some lovely pictures of wine that had a matte I had my guests sign. They now hang on the wall in my kitchen and I’m reminded daily of that fun evening.
- Provide your guests with a way to identify their wine glass. You can purchase fun wine identifiers or you can make your own. There are many different options available but it can be as simple as tying different colors of ribbon around the stem of each glass.
- Print off a copy of the menu items being served and display it in a frame.
If you are trying keep a realistic budget, make sure you check out my Party Planning on a Budget for some frugal party ideas.
They say the joy of traveling is 50% planning your trip and 50% actually experiencing your trip. In my opinion, planning a Wine Party is the same. Pinterest has so many fun ideas. I’ve created a board to help get you started.
Option #2: Parties with more then 12 Guests
If you wish to host a wine party with more then 12 guests, consider selling tickets to help cover some of the costs associated with the wines or perhaps you are willing to pay for everything yourself. I still recommend you do not sample more then 6 different wines at a time.
Have different wine tasting stations set up around the room and number them in order your guests should sample. Again, start with the whites and working your way to the deep burgundies. Perhaps you would also like to pair your wine with a specific appetizer. That could also be served at the same table.
My top recommendation is not to take the wine party too seriously. People are going to enjoy them selves regardless and everyone will get to sample some new, delicious wines that will hopefully end up on their favorites list. Cheers!