There's more to hosting a wine tasting than putting out glasses and crackers. These guidelines will help make your party a soiree to remember.
Step 1: Buy the wine Pick a theme. Contrast whites and reds from the same region; compare wines made from the same grape but harvested in different areas or years; or focus on a single wine producer and pick several of their wines for comparison.
TIP: One bottle of wine provides five to six glasses, or tastings for about 18 guests.
Step 2: Provide the proper glasses Provide the proper glasses. White wine glasses are smaller than red wine glasses, which have more of a bowl shape. Have paper cups on hand that guests can use as spittoons.
TIP: Avoid using cut crystal or colored glasses; being able to see the wine clearly is an important part of the tasting ritual.
Step 3: Prepare the wine Chill white wines for about an hour before serving; you don't want them too cold. Serve the red wine at cellar, not room, temperature, which is 55 to 58 degrees. If the reds have been sitting in a warm room, stick them in the fridge for a few minutes.
Step 4: Have palate clearers Have plain crackers or bread on hand, as well as water, so that guests can clear their palates between tastings. Hold off on serving food until the tasting is completed.
Step 5: Provide tasting sheets Provide tasting sheets and pencils so everyone can take notes as they sip.
Step 6: Pour a taste Pour everyone about a third of a glass of the first wine. If you're serving reds and whites, start with whites, moving from the lightest bodied wines to the fullest.
Step 7: Discuss the color Note the color – a white wine should be clear, a full-bodied red should have a deep, rich color.
TIP: To turn the evening into a parlor game, stick the bottles into paper bags so guests can guess what they're drinking. Or have them rate the wines from least expensive to priciest, and have a prize for the winner.
Step 8: Sniff and discuss Encourage your guests to swirl the wine in their glass and take a big sniff of the aroma. Compare notes on what you detect, like fruity, spicy, herbal, floral, or earthy scents.
Step 9: Taste the wine Instruct guests to take a sip, take a little air into their mouth, and then swirl the wine around in their mouth for about 10 seconds before swallowing or spitting. You are now the proud host of a successful wine-tasting party!
FACT: California has over 60,000 registered wine labels.