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Ideas for Hosting a Wine Party
So you want to host a wine party at home to celebrate a special occasion, to learn more about wines or just have fun with friends?
It is always fun to have a themed wine party. Before choosing your theme, consider a few things:
- Even if you are a fan of reds all year round, if it is to warm outside, your guests may not like to taste or drink reds in the summer. A rose party or a sparkling wine party may be a better idea for the summertime.
- Consider having both a red wine theme and a white wine theme to make sure everyone can participate, as from my experience, many people prefer only one wine color.
- Consider whether the selected wine theme is going well with the food you are going to serve.
No matter the wine party theme, it is always good to welcome guests with a glass of champagne or another sparkling wine.
Wine party themes can go around many different topics. Here are just a few ideas:
- Wines made of the same grape varieties but coming from different wine regions. For example, we often do Cabs of the world. You can blind taste and compare Cabs from Napa, Chile, Australia and Bordeaux. For a warm summer day, light and fruity Sauvignon Blanc could be an option.
- A battle of Merlot and Cab. Test whether the popular belief that Merlot wines are boring is true. Don’t forget to throw in an excellent Merlot from Bordeaux into your blind tasting. Pomerol Merlots are particularly interesting. For example, Chateau Gazin or Chateau Beauregard, the neighbours of Petrus.
- Different vintages of the same producer. Select the same wine brand and get 3-5 vintages of the same wine. Choose years that were special in some way or another. For example, the summer of 2013 in Bordeaux was quite wet, so the wines will be more acidic and less ripe and balanced than in the perfect and balanced 2010. You could also compare aged wines and young wines from the same producer and discover wine development by observing changing colors, aromas and palates.
- Wines from different countries, e.g. French wines vs. Italian wines. You can set tasting around the same styles of wine from two countries. For example, compare Italian Super Tuscans with the Napa Valley Cabs and Bordeaux blends. Another set could be Pinot Noirs from South California or Burgundy with Chianti or with Barbaresco from Italy. Serve wines with different foods and appreciate the combination of Pinot Noir with aged Camembert cheese and Chianti with tomato sauce pasta or lamb chops.
- Wine party around unusual wines. Blue wine from Corsica, orange wines from Georgia, or Chardonnay from Bordeaux.
- Wines of your birth years. Everyone brings a bottle of their birth year.
- Celebrity wines. Miraval rose made by Brangelina, Drew Barrymore’s Pino Grigio or Francis Coppola’s Cabernet Sauvignon, to name a few.
- 90+ points wines by Robert Parker (Wine Advocate), Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, or James Suckling
- Wines from your last travel that you want your guests to taste. Share photos of your wine tours.
Blind Tasting Games
A guessing game in a blind tasting can be organized in a few different ways:
- Taste blind a few bottles with each taster ranking them by perceived value. In many cases, this game has proved that price and value aren’t the same things and it is not the most expensive wine that pleases people the most.
- Taste blind and guess the wine region or the main grape varietal in the wine. This requires your participants to have a bit of tasting experience.
- Guess the age of a particular wine.
- Give your guests a wine tasting note and make them guess which wine of those that they have tasted is described.
Use foil, gift paper, or special wine bottle socks or wine bottle bags to conceal labels. Remember that a wine bottle and its shape can give out a few answers, so if you are a knowledgeable wine crowd, make sure the bottle shape and the cork are not visible.
Other Entertainment Ideas
Other than just tasting, you can entertain your guests with wine games:
- Use an aroma kit and play a guessing game. Le Nez du Vin is a great set made in France. They also offer various wine aromas sets as well as wine faults set.
- Do a wine quiz. Prepare your known questions or use one of the many wine quiz books.
- Let your guests choose your next wine destination for you or guess your plans.
Prepare Prizes for Your Games
You may want to give good incentive to your guests and reward winners with prizes. For example,
Wine Serving Tips
- Decanter wines that show heavy deposit. Young wines can benefit from aeration. Do not decant aged wines. To prevent oxidation of aged wines, you may want to seal bottles between servings with vacuum bottle stoppers.
- Keep champagne, white wines and rose chilled. Use ice buckets and the new chilling sticks. How to open a bottle of champagne?
- Use wine dropstops especially with reds to prevent leaks and avoid stains.
- Cut small pieces of bread, they are the best to clean palate between tastings.
- Have still water available.
What Will you Need for the Wine Party
- Water, snacks, bread and coffee beans for clean palate
- Spittoons, wine cooler sticks and ice buckets
- Ice to cool down champagne, sparking wines, whites and rose
- A decanter. Young wines may benefit from aeration. Decant them a few hours before tasting.
- Many tasting glasses (regular ones will do as well)
- Glass markers. They will help identify everyone’s glass.
- Napkins, preferably black or dark coloured
- Bottle stoppers and vacuum savers.
- Corkscrews and foil cutters
- Coravin if you are tasting rare wines you won’t be finishing that night
- Bottle socks or bags for blind tasting (can be replaced with regular socks, paper bags or foil)
- Wine quiz books
- Le Nez du Vin or similar aroma kits
- Wine tasting notebooks
- Wine stain remover for emergency situations.
Enjoy your party!
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