Fans of the beloved documentary/buddy comedy Somm know—wine professionals aren’t born knowing the difference between Burgundy and Bordeaux. They study. A lot. If you want to learn about wine, the best way to do it is by tasting. The good news is that you don’t have to do your homework alone. Trying a few bottles with friends is a great way to practice and have fun doing here. Here’s how to host a wine-tasting party at home.
How to host a wine-tasting party
Choose the wines
Opening and tasting several bottles of wine at the same will allow you to observe their differences.
There are a lot of options for creating a fun wine-tasting experience. Try choosing two bottles made from the same grape, but produced in different areas of the world. You might be surprised by the difference between a subtle French Sancerre (made from Sauvignon Blanc) and an aromatic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
If you’re tasting any bold red wines, uncork them about 30 minutes before pouring them. This will give them a chance to open up and show the full expression of their aromas.
Blue Apron offers wine bundles that deliver an assortment of different wines to your home. It’s an easy way to assemble a collection of bottles with different attributes.
Do some research
Have some information about the wines ready so you can learn as you sip. This will help you understand what you’re tasting and how the winemaking process creates flavors. Collect information about the grape composition and the region. If it’s available, it’s helpful to know some basic information about how the wine was made. Factors like oak aging, whole cluster fermentation, and malolactic fermentation will have a noticeable impact on the wine’s flavor.
If you’re hosting a wine-tasting party with Blue Apron bottles, all of this information is available on the wine’s product page.
Consider your glassware
Wine glasses are designed to enhance the aromas of wine. If you don’t have enough glasses for all of your guests, just choose any glass or tumbler with a large enough opening to stick your nose in. This will help you when it’s time to smell the wine.
It’s ok to reuse the same glass for multiple wines without rising. If you’re switching to a very different wine, like from white to red or dry to sweet, you can give the glass a little rinse. Using water to rinse may dilute the wine. The best way to rinse between tasting is the ‘prime’ your glass with wine. Just pour small amount of the new wine, swish it vigorously around your glass, and dump it.
Offer some wine-tasting snacks
Food enhances and alters the flavor of wine. A few snacks will help you understand what foods the wine will pair with. Plus, it’s always a good idea to have a little something in your stomach if you’ll be having a glass or two.
Plan to serve a few salty and rich snacks. A cheese board with crackers is a great choice. For a simpler option, try serving buttery bread, Marcona almonds, and tortilla chips. Taste a tart wine like sauvignon blanc, then take a bite of tortilla chips and taste it again. Notice how the acid in the wine refreshes the palate, making the salty chip less overwhelming. Try a rich, full chardonnay with a Marcona almond— the buttery wine will enhance the lush, fatty nut. Take a bite of buttery bread and then a sip of bold Cabernet sauvignon. The tannins in the wine will cut through the fat of the butter, cleansing your palate.
Spitting during a wine-tasting: yes or no?
In the world of wine, spitting isn’t considered rude. Professionals may taste dozens of wines a day and then keep working. Master sommelier Madeleine Puckett says she frequently tastes up to 40 wines at events. Spitting is a way to keep working without clouding the mind with alcohol and falling asleep before lunch. If you’ve been to a tasting at a vineyard or winery, you’ve probably noticed silver buckets lining the tasting counter. These are known as spitoons and yes, they’re filled with wine spit.
There’s no need to stock your home with spit buckets for your wine-tasting party, but it’s a good idea to have some opaque spitting cups available for guests who don’t wish to consume too much. White paper cups or ceramic mugs will work well.
Don’t be shy! The key to discreet spitting is to spit with confidence. Just pucker up, use a little force, and spit a clean stream into your cup. Now you’re tasting like a pro!
Set the mood
If you love a theme, it’s time to go crazy. Play some french music, put some wine movies on for background, or wear an entirely burgundy outfit. Just avoid lighting scented candles, they’ll interfere with your ability to smell the wine.
Looking for the best way to kick off the evening? You can’t go wrong with a glass of festive sparkling wine.