Hosting a Wine Tasting

Having a wine tasting at home is a great way to explore new wines and learn about wine culture in a more relaxed and less intimidating environment. It's also a really fun way to spend an evening with friends. It does not have to be complicated or excessively expensive. You just want to follow a few simple rules. 

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The Setup

Before you even send out invitations, you will want to pick a theme. There are lots of options. Feel free to be creative, but avoid getting overly complicated. A few ideas to get you started:

  • Old world versus new world. For each variety, pick one bottle from the Old World and another from North or South America. 
  • Single style. For example, find several different Pinot Noir's from different regions of the world in a relatively similar price range. Finding subtle differences in a single style can be a fun challenge. 
  • Price point. Put it to the test! Does how much you spend make a difference? At what point?
  • Variety is the spice of life. Pick a variety of styles, grapes, and regions. Staying within a certain price range can help avoid introducing too many variables.

Gathering supplies

You will need approximately one bottle per person, more if you plan to have dinner afterwards. Limiting the tasting to 8-10 varieties will keep people from overwhelming their palate. It helps to have two glasses for each person, so they can compare two at a time. You will need either markers or wine glass rings to keep track of glasses.

Make sure the room you will be hosting in has plenty of light so people can also inspect the color of the wine. For this same reason, you will want a white tablecloth or white butcher paper on your table. You should also provide a spitting bucket for guests who want to avoid getting too tipsy. Everyone will also need paper and a pen to take notes. You can make detailed descriptions and provide people with suggestions or an introduction to wine vocabulary, but it can also be fun to just let people loose and see what they say. 


At the very least, you will need to provide bread or water crackers and plenty of water so people can cleanse their palate between wine pairs. You may also want to do some heavy hors d'oeuvres before the wine tasting or a sit down dinner afterward to mitigate the effects of some of the alcohol. In either case, find some foods that pair nicely with the wines you have chosen. Wine and food pairings can get pretty complex, but here are a few common tips to help get you started. If you search for pairings with the specific styles you have purchased, you will find plenty of specific information. You may also find pairing a wine with food changes your opinion of the wine itself. Leave room on the notes page for people to share how each wine interacts with different foods. 

  • Cheeses. Wine and cheese are made for each other. As a general rule, you will want soft cheeses for light, sweet wines and hard cheeses for dryer, richer wines. For dessert wines, try something salty like a blue cheese. 
  • Chocolates. Wine and chocolate is also pretty amazing. Dark chocolates, in particular, pair very nicely with dry, rich wines. They also match up well with ports and other dessert wines. Try our dark chocolate cranberries with a sip of Cabernet or a slice of chocolate cake with your port. 
  • Meats. Again, this can get complicated, but generally, you will want sweeter wines with seafood and chicken and dryer, richer wines with red meat. 

On the night of your wine tasting 

As we mentioned above, keep your room well lit. If you are having a sit down event, you can have someone who knows a bit about wine give a few guidelines and vocabulary. Making it a blind tasting is a great way to take out the influence of labels, marketing, and price tags. Just wrap each bottle in a paper bag or foil and number them. It is always fun for people to check their notes after the big reveal. Sometimes we surprise ourselves. The order of events should be bubbles, white, red, dessert. 

Keep a bottle of your favorite stain remover handy. We all have that one friend. Best to be prepared. 

Here are a few guidelines to give on how to best taste wine. 

  • Swirl the wine in the glass to release the aroma. I once had a sommelier tell me he took his smelling cues from dogs, so rather than a deep breath, he would take short sniffs in quick succession. 
  • Really taste it. Swirl it around in your mouth. How does it feel on your tongue? 
  • Aerate the wine in your mouth by sucking in a little air while the wine is still in your mouth. It makes a little gurgling sound. It also allows you to experience deeper flavors because so much of our sense of taste is connected to our sense of smell. Take note of the little hints of flavor when you do this. It will make you sound like a pro. 
  • The after taste. How long does the taste linger in your mouth? A wine that lingers in your mouth for 30 seconds or more is likely a quality wine. 

Hosting a a wine tasting is a great way to spend time with friends and learn a little something. Let us know what wines paired well with our dried fruits or dark chocolates! Most importantly, please be sure everyone has a designated driver who either did not taste or used the spit bucket or calls for an uber or lyft home. Safety of our communities is always most important!