Hosting a Wine Tasting Party at Home

Do you have some wine loving friends and want to see who is the best taster? Or maybe you have a long list of wines you want to try and want an excuse to cross some off the list? Sounds like it’s time for a wine tasting party.

There are many ways to do a wine tasting so the first thing you should decide on is the theme. In other words, what type of wines are you going to be drinking? 

Themes for a Tasting Party

  • Country – all the wines are from the same country
  • Region – all the wines are from the same region
  • Varietal – all the wines are of the same grape varietal
  • Value – ie under $ 20.00 / inexpensive vs expensive
  • Style – ie crisp, dry whites / rich, bold reds / dessert wines
  • Vintage – all the wines are from the same vintage
  • Blind tasting – select 1 or more of the other themes and hide the identity of the bottles.

If you and your guests are wine newbies I would suggest choosing just 1 of the themes to keep it easier. As you get more advanced in your tasting skills you can make more challenging. After you pick the theme there are things you can do to prepare so you and your guests get the most out of the wine tasting experience.  

So here are some tips for setting the perfect tasting conditions.  

1/ Natural light is best.

In order to properly assess the colour of the wine you will need good natural light. Avoid fluorescent light as it will change the colour appearance.

2/ White background.

You will want a pale, neutral background when looking at the colour of the wine. The easiest way to do this is to use a white tablecloth. If that doesn’t work for you, give each guest a piece of white paper to use.  

3/ Odour free zone.

This applies to the room, the glasses and to you. You will want to avoid strong smells of cleaning products and even food when doing the tasting. Also don’t have strong scented candles or flowers on the table. They will interfere with the aromas of the wine and make it harder for you to identify them. Bring the food out after the tasting is done.

The glasses need to be clean, lint free and smell-free. You can put them through a rinse only in the dishwasher (if they are dishwasher safe) if they have soap smell or film. More on glasses later.

You and your guests need to be odour free as well. Now wait, don’t take offense, I’m not suggesting you rarely shower! By odour free I mean avoid the perfume, after shave and hair spray you may normally use.

Have you ever been in a winery, or anywhere for that matter, and had someone’s perfume or aftershave take over the whole room? Most of us have. There is no way you will pick up the aromas in a wine if all you can smell is Old Spice. Let your guests know this tip ahead of time so they come ‘odour free’.

4/ The right glasses

I’ve already mentioned they should be odorless. They also need to be colourless. When choosing the style of glass, you want to make sure they have a round bowl (for swirling) and inward sloping walls (to help retain the aromas).

Try to use smaller glasses as you will only be pouring a small amount, approx. 2 oz. for the tasting. It is best to have a at least 2 glasses per guest so they can compare wines together.

Tip: You can rent wine glasses and the great thing things you don’t have to wash them before sending them back. Or you can buy the official ISO glasses used in the WSET classes and professional tastings if you really want to get serious. Here is a link to buy the glasses on Amazon.

5/ Pitcher and cups.

You will want a pitcher of water so your guests can clean out their glasses, especially when moving from white to red, or any other major change. Just swirl a little water in the glass and pour it out.

Each guest should also have their own plastic cup for rinsing out their glasses and for spitting out the wine if they want to. If you are tasting quite a few wines it is best to spit them out or your palates will tire very quickly. Once the tasting is done you can go back and fill your glass with your favorite…no spitting required.

6/ Socks.

No it’s not a fashion statement, socks are a great way to hide the bottles if you are doing a blind tasting. I suggest large socks so the shape of the bottle is hidden since the shape could give away which wine it is. Just use an elastic band at the top to hold the sock on. Use different colours to distinguish the wines from each other.   

Other options are aluminium foil and even brown paper bags. The paper bags are great because you can number them to keep track of the wines. Keep in mind the foil will clearly show the shape of the bottle and that could give away the identity of the wine. For example, white wines and sparkling often come in fatter bottles than red wines.  

7/ Pen and paper.

Every guest will need a pen and paper to make notes for each of the wines. You can decide what information you want each guest to evaluate so everyone is on the same wine tasting page. You can download and print out our wine tasting scorecard for free in the resource section or click here.

It is also helpful to have a tasting mat so that guests can keep their wines in order. You can download and print out our tasting mats for free in the resource section or click here.

8/ Prepare yourself.

We know you want to avoid wearing perfume, aftershave and hairspray but there are also other things you want to pay attention to as you prepare yourself for tasting success.

Make sure you have a clean palate. Avoid eating strong food, smoking, chewing gum or brushing your teeth before a tasting. You know how bad orange juice tastes after brushing your teeth? Well, wine will taste bad as well. Have some bread or plain crackers on hand to help cleanse the palate before and during the tasting.  

Stay hydrated. Make sure you and your guests have water before and during the tasting. It may not be as fun as the wine, but it is very important for tasting. It is very easy to become dehydrated when drinking, or spitting out wine as you are spitting out silva as well. Hydration also keeps your nasal aroma receptors from drying out so you don’t lose your ability to smell.

Once you get all the prep ready you are set to have a fun evening of tasting wines with your friends. All you need are some bottles of wine.

Happy tasting!


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