How to Host a Wine-Tasting Party

wine tasting event
Photo: iStock
Get your friends together for a low-key evening of swirling and sipping. Cheers!
  1. Wine-Tasting 101

    Photo by Steve Giralt

    If you think wine-tasting shindigs are all uptight and full of wannabe sommeliers, think again. We'll show you how to make pouring and pairing fun, easy, and anything but stuffy.

  2. What You’ll Need

    Limit your tasting to six wines (a prosecco, two whites, and three reds). For a group of eight guests, buy two bottles of each wine. This will give you 10 (2-oz.) tastings (just a little more than a shot-glass full) per bottle, plus an extra bottle of each to enjoy later.

    Ideally, everyone should have their own champagne, white, and red glasses. If you’re running short and have only one glass per person, simply rinse it out between pours.

  3. What to Pour First

    Photo by Steve Giralt

    A wine-tasting rule of thumb is to move from the lightest whites to the heaviest reds. So start with prosecco (a fruity, sparkling wine), then sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, shiraz, and end with a full-bodied malbec. Take at least five minutes between pours; this isn’t a race!

  4. Let the Tasting Begin

    Photo by Steve Giralt

    Here’s how to taste your wine so you’ll look like a pro.

    1. See Hold your glass by the stem at a 45-degree angle so it catches the light. It’s really about appreciating what you’re going to sip.

    2. Swirl Hold the base of the stem between your first two fingers and move it around (slowly!) in a small, circular motion to aerate the wine and unlock its aromas.

    3. Smell Stick your nose way into the glass (no, it won’t get stuck) and deeply inhale. This ritual triggers your taste buds.

    4. Sip Take a nice-sized sip and let the wine touch all parts of your mouth, rolling over your tongue and hitting the sides to really get the flavor.

  5. Vino Cheat Sheet

    Tongue-tied? These terms will help you describe what you’re tasting.

    •    acidic The tart (or over-the-top sour) quality that wine gives off naturally.

    •    tannic Tannins create a dry, puckery, astringent sensation in your mouth.

    •    body A full-bodied wine feels heavy (the way whole milk feels thicker than skim).

    •    dry A wine is called dry if it’s not sweet. Most table wines are considered dry.

  6. The Perfect Pairs

    The cheese you serve with your wine is as important as what you pour, so try these combos:

    •    sauvignon blanc + humboldt fog goat cheese
    •    chardonnay + hudson valley camembert
    •    pinot noir + sottocenere
    •    shiraz + manchego
    •    malbec + piave

  7. More Vino-Friendly Nibblers

    Photo by Steve Giralt

    Beyond your cheese pairings, put out these easy crowd-pleasers.

    •    Dark chocolate truffles are a perfect match with shiraz.
    •    Water crackers have a neutral flavor; pop ’em in your mouth between sips.
    •    Almonds are rich and salty yet not overpowering -- a tasty way to cut through the creamier cheeses.
    •    Strawberries and peaches go best with the lighter, sweeter wines, like prosecco and sauvignon blanc.

  8. Talk It Out

    Photo by Steve Giralt

    The party’s not over yet! Now’s the time to open up those second bottles you’ve put on reserve.

    Take a moment to share your thoughts on each wine with your friends. Does it taste like berry heaven...or, uh, dirty socks? Which ones were your favorites? Everyone’s taste buds are different, so there are no wrong answers!