The Official Wine Tasting and Party Guide (At Home)
Whenever one is hosting a wine party, it is said that the people that you invite must cherish every sip. And as a wine lover, such as you, holding a wine party is one of the creative ways you share your passion with relatives.
A wine tasting party is a type of dinner party (or luncheon) where you sample different bottles of wine, compare vintages and regional varieties, and enjoy some lively discussions.
Wine can be fun to learn about and the subject of endless fascination to be shared and discussed with the like-minded fella. There is a great deal of pleasure derived from shared interest and shared experience. It is somewhat a way to enhance friendships.
So, here are some points for wine basics that you may enjoy for the first-timers.
- Sit down and make a list.
- What wine to serve? (what are the ingredients used)
- How much wine?
- Wine tasting supplies
- The food
- Familiar yourself with the many tastes of wine
Some of the wines listed are readily available, some are hard to find though. Remember to ask your preferred wine/alcoholic beverage merchant or retailer for help before selecting wines.
How much wine?
You should figure on doing tasting pours of two (2) ounces. Since there are approximately 24 ounces in a 750 ml bottle of wine, one bottle will serve up to 12 guests (depending always on how many of you are in your family).
Retailers and merchants recommend tasting between 4-6 wines. So, if your party has 6 guests (including the host), and you stick to the pouring size of 2 ounces, buy 6 bottles of wine and you should have plenty of wine leftover for dinner.
How many glasses will you need? One glass for each bottle of wine for each guest. So, 6 guests tasting 6 wines means 36 glasses. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask people to BYOG (bring your own glasses, especially when there will be people coming from other places).
*Note: The critical thing to remember is to make sure your driving guests do not exceed the blood alcohol levels set. (Walking guests are at an advantage here.) Remember! Wine is a food and is best enjoyed with other foods.*
Wine tasting supplies:
Basically, here’s what you’ll need.
- Any wine glass, as long as it has a stem (helps to swirl the wine).
- For cups: It should be made of glass (paper, plastic, or foam cups are a no-no).
- Tulips-shaped, all-purpose wine glasses work best, as the shape helps concentrate the aroma of the wine so you can better enjoy and evaluate it.
- You’ll need a white surface, such as a table cloth or paper.
- Caution: Due to Murphy’s Law of Wine Tastings, there will probably be stains, so be prepared to bleach or toss.)
- You’ll need plenty of water
- Pens, and pencils
- Plain or thin slices of fresh baguettes or wafers. Avoid salted crackers.
- Probably the most critical element: a corkscrew.
- You’ll also need a “dump” bucket for guests (family members) who wish to dump their excess wine and–brace yourself– spit out their wine if they do not want to swallow when tasting.
- A funnel
- Wine pourers
- Glass charms or a wine glass marker
As a general rule, serve most reds at a cool room temperature of 60-62 degrees (15.5 C – 16.5 C), whites at 50-55 degrees (10 C – 12.8 C). This, of course, begs the question, “How do I take a wine bottle’s temperature?”
Familiar yourself with the many tastes of wine
There are four (4) basic steps to wine tasting: Appearance/Color, Smell, Taste, and Savor.
- Appearance/ Color: Color can tell you quite a bit about wine. With whites, the older they are the more color they gain, ranging from greenish tint to amber. Reds do the opposite, tending to lose color as they age. They appear to be more purplish in youth, aging into a breaking hue.
The best way to evaluate the color and clarity of the wine is to hold it against a white background such as a linen napkin.
- Swirling: Swirl the wine in its glass to allow oxygen to enter and kick up the bouquet of the wine. The swirling technique is entirely an individual choice. The glass must likewise be swirled clockwise.
- Sniffing: Once your swirl has activated the wine, it’s time to put your nose to it. Don’t be timid about inhaling it fully. With a sensitivity 10,000 times greater than the taste buds, the nose knows when it comes to wine. Aroma is the fruity smell of the grape. Bouquet is a term describing a particular smell acquired through the aging process.
- Taste: Saltiness doesn’t apply to the wine. What your mouth will taste, however, is sugar, acidity, body, flavor, and astringency. To begin tasting, take a small amount of wine in your mouth while simultaneously sucking in the air.
Then, roll the wine around in your mouth as if you were chewing it, allowing it to contact all the taste buds throughout your mouth.
- Savor: How did it taste to you? Spicy, woody, fruity? There is much to learn if you so desire, but again, the only thing that matters is that you enjoy the wine experience.
The Many Tastes of Wine
- Sweetness: Found on the tip of the tongue. If the wine has any detectable sweetness, you’ll taste it right away.
- Fruit and Varietal Characteristics: Found in the middle of the tongue.
- Acidity: Found on the sides of the tongue and cheek area. It is most commonly present in the white wines.
- Tannin: Found in the middle back of the tongue. Red wines or wood-aged white wines. It dries the palate excess when the wines are too young.
- Aftertaste: The overall taste that lingers after you taste the wine. How long does the taste linger? 15-20 seconds after you’ve swallowed it (usually of a high-quality wine).
The Different Types of Wine and Wine Tasting
Despite the fact that all wine is made from grapes, there are so many different types that vary in taste, aroma, acidity, body, sweetness, etc.
Types of White Wine
- Chardonnay: Dry, flavors of apple, citrus, and tropical fruit flavors, medium-bodied
- Riesling: Ranges from off-dry to sweet, fruity flavors of green apple and lime, light-bodied
- Moscato (Muscat Blanc): Sweet, juicy fruity flavor, light-bodied
- Pinot Grigio/Gris: Off-dry, light fruit flavors like peach and citrus, light- to medium-bodied
- Sauvignon Blanc: Off-dry, green fresh fruity flavors, light- to medium-bodied, acidic
Types of Red Wine
- Cabernet Sauvignon: Dry, flavors of black cherry and black currant, full-bodied
- Merlot: Dry, flavors of black cherry and chocolate, medium- to full-bodied
- Pinot Noir: Off-dry, flavors of cherry and raspberry, light- to medium-bodied
- Zinfandel: Off-dry, berry and fruit flavors, medium- to full-body, high alcohol level
- Malbec: Dry, flavors of dark fruit and chocolate, full-bodied
- Syrah: Dry, flavors of blueberry, plum and chocolate, full-bodied
Other Types of Wine Tasting
- Rosé: Rosé wines are made from red/black grapes, but they’re lighter in color than red wine because the skins are only left to soak (macerate) in the grape juice for a short period of time. Types of Rosé can vary just as much as Reds and Whites, from dry to sweet, and are made from all different types of grapes.
- Sparkling Wine: The difference between wine and sparkling wine is the bubbles, a result of carbon dioxide that gets trapped in the wine during a second fermentation process.
Now that you’ve made it through this Wine guide, you can graduate from Wine Newbie and start enjoying it on a whole new level. Or, at least, you’ll finally be able to talk about wine confidently. Enjoy!