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How to Host a Wine Tasting at Home

Posted by: Erin March 30, 2020 No Comments
how to host a home wine tasting

Learn about wine at home. Pyjamas optional.

by Erin

During the Covid-19 quarantine I wanted to find a way to stay connected to The Wine Sisters’ clients, and maybe even offer a bit of lighthearted distraction from the dismal reality of life in isolation.

I started offering weekly Wine Wednesday virtual tastings on The Wine Sisters’ Instagram and so far, people seem to be having fun with it.

Once all this is over, some of us may still be wary of joining larger gatherings, so here’s some tips on how to host your own wine tasting in the comfort of your own home.

To get started

A basic checklist:
  • Wines
  • Glassware (at least one per person)
  • Corkscrew
  • Table and chairs in a place with good lighting
  • Spittoons (this can be as basic as a Solo cup)
  • White paper
  • Pens
  • Scent-free environment (put out that scented candle!)
  • Water and water glasses
Optional checklist:
  • Decanter
  • Large bucket for dumping wine
  • Crackers or breadsticks
  • Wine region maps
  • Tech sheets about each wine

Here’s how you do it:

Pick your theme

This is the the first question we ask all our clients requesting a wine tasting because everything else flows from here.

A Taste Tour of Italy? Comparison of Cabernet? Pick your theme and stick to it.

Keep it small

For home-based hosts, I recommend keeping your guest list to an absolute maximum of 12, but preferably no more people than you have dining room chairs.

The more voices there are, the tougher it is to accomplish on the task at hand. That prolongs the tasting, causes people to lose focus, and while it may be a fun party, it mutes the point of having a wine tasting at all.

Be exclusive. Very exclusive.

Look, as much as we love wine and think everyone else should as well, some weirdos just don’t.

Not long ago, we were hired by a lovely woman wanting to throw a wine tasting at home for her husband’s 40th birthday. She invited their closest 40 friends and was springing for the whole thing. We warned her that size of a group may have varying interests in wine, but she was sure they would all love it.

Sure enough, a group of them arrived 30 minutes late. A couple of bros (who perhaps have attention issues, but that’s not for me to judge) decided to loudly crack one-liners throughout the whole wine tasting, turning it into their show. A few ladies chatted with each other about kids and the latest Bachelor drama, ignoring the wine tasting going on around them.

I’m sure the host’s friends didn’t mean to be rude, but it certainly wasn’t the outcome she was looking for.

If you are hoping to host a home wine tasting, be sure to be very clear in your invitation the intention of the evening. If there are some that aren’t into it, they can always join the after party.

Decide on the setting

We’ve hosted wine tastings everywhere from boardrooms to back decks.

What you will need is a place for everyone to sit, a tabletop surface for guests to place their wine and perhaps write notes, and good lighting.

Where that is in your home is up to you.

Glassware

You can get away with one wine glass per person. However, if you are hoping for a comparison tasting, ideally you will have as many glasses as wines.

The glasses should be clear and plain (no etched crystal or “Welcome to Florida” logos). Our preference is for stemmed wine glasses.

Pro tip: consider renting your wine glasses or even asking everyone to bring their own if you don’t have enough.

How much wine

At The Wine Sisters, we estimate 2 oz per person, per wine. This allows enough for a proper taste, but it isn’t so much that we have to dump out and waste the wine, or wait for 15 minutes for someone to finish their eight ounce pour.

As for how many wines should be tasted, we keep it to a maximum of six wines for a mixed tasting, eight wines for comparison tastings. Anymore, and you risk fatiguing your palate or simply losing interest.

Keep it tight, keep it bright, keep it moving. Guests can always return to their favourite wines after the “official’ wine tasting ends.

Food

Unless this is a specific wine and cheese tasting, I’m not a big fan of having food at a proper tasting. The aromatics of the Limburger can detract from the notes of the wine. The flavours of the shrimp cocktail can interfere with your palate. Leave the food until afterwards.

If you really, really want to include a cheese plate, I suggest you try the wine first with a clean palate, then see how the wine changes when paired to a cheese.

If you want to get fancy and have some water crackers or bread sticks to “cleanse your palate,” go for it.

Educational support

To make your wine tasting as informative and interesting as possible, you should have some helpful talking points.

Talk to your local wine shop about how you are planning to host a wine tasting at home. Gather some basic notes on how, where and when the wine was made. Maybe learn a little bit about the wine region, or the grape. Three or four talking points is all you need, as most people won’t retain much more than that.

Similarly, if you are assigning a wine to each of your guests, have them bring research their bottle and bring supporting materials.

 

From now until the end of the Covid-19 lockdown (or maybe longer if interest is there), I’m leading virtual wine tastings on Wednesday nights live on The Wine Sisters’ Instagram. Follow us or sign up for our newsletter to get notified.

 

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