During the holiday season, with parties and get-togethers common, we often get asked how to put on a wine-tasting party.
The simple answer is: Invite some friends over, then open several bottles. While this works, a little planning will make your wine party a success.
Here are a few tips you can use during the holidays or any time of year.
Use a theme: If you and your friends are wine aficionados or strive to be, putting on theme-based wine parties is a superb way to learn about different wines in a hurry. Heres how it works: Set a theme such as Walla Walla Valley Syrah or North Willamette Pinot Noir.
Next, find up to a dozen friends who want to join you. Why a dozen? Because you can get a dozen two-ounce pours out of a bottle of wine, which is a pretty good taste.
Assign each friend to bring a bottle of wine. They can decide what to bring or you can give them a list from which to choose. When everyone arrives, open the bottles and enjoy. There are any number of themes, everything from specific areas of Napa Valley to wines of Israel.
Make it blind: We love tasting wines blind because when you do not know who made a wine, that is a great equalizer. You wont be influenced by price, pedigree or the winemakers looks. The idea of doing a blind tasting will challenge you and your friends to look at each wine in a different light.
We recently put on a Pinot Noir challenge, pitting the wines of Oregon vs. California. We had people there who were quite sure Oregon makes better Pinot Noir, as well as fans of California wines. Weve also put on a blind tasting that included Syrahs from Washington, California, France and Australia. The goal was less about how to choose the best wine but rather to understand the differences among the four regions.
Go dark: Riedel, the world-famous wine glass producer, makes black glasses, and they are beautiful. The purpose is to taste and smell the difference between white and red wines without seeing the color. It doesnt sound hard until you try it. Take a red that isnt too tannic (Cab Franc, for example) and a white that isnt too aromatic (Semillon, Viognier or Chardonnay). Put them side by side and let someone taste. Most people will guess wrong as often as they get it right. One of our most memorable wine tastings was with black glasses.
Theme the food, too: We conducted a dinner party with friends that was built around Petite Sirah, the bold wine found primarily in California but also is an up-and-comer in Washington and Oregon. Each couple was assigned to make a dish that would pair well with Petite Sirah. It was a memorable event with delicious food, wonderful wines and great friends.
End the night on a high note: Have a treat for your guests at the end. This could be a special older wine or a rare bottle or even an ice wine. It will help create a great memory of the evening.
Have the right gear: Regardless of the theme of your wine party, make sure you have at least two glasses for each guest.
If youre serving white wines, have some ice buckets to keep them at the proper temperature. Have dump buckets so nobody feels compelled to drink everything in their glass. Dont forget to have plenty of water and coffee available.
Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman are the editors of Wine Press Northwest magazine. For more information, go to www.winepressnw.com.