A tasting party is a great way for people to have a good time together and learn about wine at the same time. Here are a few tips for holding a successful event:
One glass per person is sufficient, especially if people will be standing up or walking around. Make sure to provide opaque pitchers to pour excess wine into, so that people don’t have to drink everything in their glasses. Choose good, all-purpose glasses—the Riedel Vinum Zinfandel is ideal for tasting both red and white wines.
Six to 10 wines is a good range for a tasting; any more, and people tend to lose track of which ones they’ve tried. A tasting pour is about two ounces, which means there are 12 tasting pours per bottle.
Making a tasting sheet listing each wine, with space for comments, is a nice touch; it’s also helpful to have background information on each wine—the price, where to buy it, who made it, interesting facts about the vineyard or grape variety and so on.
Though it’s possible to taste a random grab bag of wines, it’s more enjoyable to make a selection around a theme—for instance, one wine each from several different regions in Italy, or from several different Italian grape varieties. Alternatively, it can also be informative to taste several different wines made from the same grape variety or from the same region (10 Chianti Classicos, say, or six different Barberas).
Serve white wines lightly chilled—about 50 degrees. An hour-and-a-half in the refrigerator or 20 to 30 minutes in ice water will do the trick. Red wines should be served slightly cooler than room temperature, about 65 degrees. If the venue is warmer than that, put red wines into the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
Offering hors d’oeuvres or tapas is a good idea. Stay away from highly spiced dishes, which affect people’s ability to discern the flavors in wines. One simple, appealing choice is to offer cheeses and charcuterie from the same region(s) the wine is from, along with bread or crackers.