By: Angela Aiello
A wine tasting party is a great way to bring people together over the summer and learn more about wine under the sun or the stars. A successful wine party requires certain key ingredients, but with a bit of know-how, even the most novice host can be a wine party pro! By bringing together all of the elements including food, wine, décor and music, you’ll be well on your way to an evening or afternoon of great memories and learning!
Pick a Theme
A wine tasting party works best if it is organized around a theme, such as a specific country, grape variety or region. It will form the glue of the party and help to focus your activities and wine selections. To involve your guests, ask them to bring a bottle that fits the theme to contribute to the evening.
Open, Taste and Talk
Instead of opening the wine bottle by bottle, I recommend opening four to six bottles at a time so your guests can sample and compare. Pour small amounts at a time, which encourages “tasting” over “drinking”. As the host, you may also want to talk about the theme you chose, and ask others to share why they brought the wine they did. This gets everyone engaged and learning about the wines.
Tasting wine is all about the experience and flavours – and good glassware really does help wine taste better! To truly do your wine justice, invest in some good quality glass or crystal stemware instead of using thick glassware or plastic. Choose versatile glasses that can be used for both red and white wines, which makes hosting easy. To add some fun and creativity to your party, use themed stickers or wine charms to help your guests remember which glass is theirs. When you entertain outdoors you don’t have to go plastic – but if you do, keep your eye out for great plastic wine glasses.
When pairing food and wine, always match the weight of the wine with the weight of the food. If you are serving Shiraz, Zinfandel or Malbec as your grape variety (or a region that makes these varieties), choose food pairings that work with juicy red wines, such as beef sliders or chocolate. If you’ve picked Pinot Noir, Gamay or Merlot, choose medium-bodied fare such as duck and pork. If you’ve chosen Riesling, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, these crisp whites go well with seafood, cheese and chicken. To achieve the perfect pairing, look to align local wines and local flavours, such as Italian wines with Italian food.
Music is an excellent way to set the mood for your party. Is your theme focused on French wines, Argentina Malbec or California Chardonnay? Create a playlist that goes along with your wine theme to create a great party vibe.
If you entertain regularly indoors and outdoors, try to host your parties in different venues or areas of your home (by the fireplace, outside on the patio, or even a restaurant) to keep things interesting for your guests. Adding decorative elements is a great way to complete your theme. Look into restaurants with great patios if you happen to not have one where you can pay a corkage fee to bring in your own wine, so there is no clean up or prep and you get to sip and enjoy!
Sip and Play
Have decanters, ice buckets, and extra glasses out for the group to use and discover. I also recommend a game or two to keep things fun. People love getting interactive, so pick up a fun game (horseshoes, darts, etc) and get people involved. Playing a game gives the group a fun activity rather than just eating and drinking, and makes for a really memorable night.
Be sure to keep your guests hydrated. Have water on hand at all times and separate water glasses to encourage responsible drinking. Know who your drivers are and keep a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks available. Don’t over serve and remember to have fun!
Angela Aiello is the Founder of iYellow Wine Club home to over 10,000 members who build wine confidence through discovery through events, classes and tours. To learn more, join the wine club for free at iYellowWineClub.com or AngelaAiello.ca