There are days where undiscerning drinking amongst friends is completely warranted (it’s called Friday). But there comes to a point in an adult’s life where you curiously find yourself wanting to learn more about the wine you’re guzzling. Sure, there’s always Google, or a book (yawns) but we think the best way to learn more about wine is by organising a wine tasting party at home. It’s totally casual, and if everyone does a bit of homework, can turn out to be an incredibly fun night out. Here, we provide some tips on how to organise a wine tasting at home. Don’t worry, there’s nothing stuffy, fussy or uppity about the way we go about it.
Keep the group small and pick a theme for the night
Remember, this isn’t a frat party that you’re throwing – your intention is to walk away from with some useful information that will make you a more knowledgable drinker (the hangover’s completely optional). It’s easier to prevent the night from going awry too early in the night by keeping the group small. A group of five to 10 people is ideal – you can actually have a group discussion with these numbers.
Set a theme for the night. For example, you could pick a certain grape varietal. That can be a bit limiting so it’s more fun to pick a particular region such as Tuscany. As the host, maybe you can prepare a few points that give your guests a broad overview of the chosen theme. Maybe you want to tell people a bit about the terroir in Tuscany and how it affects the wines in that region. Slip in some fun facts – remember, this is supposed to be a casual gathering, not a lecture.
Get your guests to bring one or two bottles of wine according to the theme but let them know to come prepared to present the tasting notes. One other tip is to set a price range for the bottles of wine. We’ve been for a wine tasting night where someone brought a very expensive vintage wine to a group of drinkers whose wine vocabulary didn’t go much further than “nice” (everyone felt guilty drinking the wine).
Set the table
There’s no need to have a formal table setting but having a white table cloth makes it easier for people to observe the different colours in their wines. A table seating arrangement is also more conducive for a group discussion. Sometimes, lounging around on the sofa makes it way too easy for everyone to ditch the learning part, and go straight to the drinking part.
Wine tasting is a lot easier when it’s served in groups – it gives people points of comparison. So be sure to provide three or four wine glasses per person. Each tasting portion is about 50ml so you can use whatever drink ware you have on hand. Provide glasses for water, or some plain crackers so people can cleanse their palate in between sips.
Talk it out
Some may be a little intimidated of saying more than “Oh, I like this one” for fear of looking like a fool in front of a group of people, but you’re with friends! Learning more about wine is about unpacking what you like or dislike about a particular wine. Tasting consciously and discussing what you’re tasting is a great way to becoming more aware of the components that make wine different, and picking up the vocabulary to be able to articulate your thoughts more effectively.
After all that nibbling and wine tasting, everyone’s definitely in the mood for some food! Keep things simple with some cheese and charcuterie, pasta salads or antipasti. Basically, stuff that you can prep or buy in advance. Cos really planning a party should always be easy-peasy.