Updated: Sep 13, 2020
Tell me you're a lover of wine, guests, and parties? Or are you a stew or flight attendant who wants to elevate service by spicing up your charter with a wine tasting? Whatever the case may be, I am here to share my favorite tips as I walk you through how to host an unforgettable wine tasting.
I will cover everything from curating your selection, creating and pairing a palate- pleasing cheese board, how to set up and run a blind testing, with some Jack-of-all-trade surprises along the way.
So, create your guest list. Call up your closest friends, or mail them a formal invitation. Make sure you know the head count so you can host the bespoke Wine Tasting of your dreams.
Curating Your Selection
Help your guests break out of their comfort zone with your curated selection.
First, decide which type of wine you are going to taste.
I suggest 4 - 6 bottles for a tasting. IF you have a higher guest list add one or two more!
Will you choose…
a bold Red
a refreshing White,
perhaps a citrusy Rosé
a Sparkling selection of either Prosecco or Champagne
Maybe you choose to focus on a country; France, Italy, Argentina, USA, Spain
As the host it is your job to do a little research on the wine you choose. Take some notes for later when we begin to compile our cheese board!
Make sure to read the back label on your chosen wines, the vineyard usually includes a list of what pairs best with that specific wine.
- What Region would you like?
- What pairs well with your selection?
- What is your selections vintage?
- What temperature to serve at?
- What it doesn’t pair well with?
I do an assortment of wines ranging from expensive, middle grade and even include a cheaper wine. I even like to include a Cuveé (a.k.a. a wine blend) to throw the palate off a bit. Ironically,in my experience, most people rate the cheaper wines the best! It all depends on how they are paired... so let's dive into that!
Creating a Palate-Pleasing Cheeseboard
Now you have your selection and some notes on pairings, it’s now time to plate your food pairings for each wine taster!
My Rule of thumb:
Light colored wine means a lighter flavor with less alcohol content. Light wines generally pair best with white meat and fishes.
Darker colored wines have heavier legs, which means there is a higher alcohol content. Dark wines pair best with strong powered flavors and darker (red or gamey) meats.
I like to portion each plate. Not only is this method more personal, but it’s also a cleaner way of hosting a wine tasting. It’s important to remember, this is a sampling of cheese not a meal! We don’t want the guests too full for dinner! The food pairing is simply to enhance the flavor of your selected wines.
I recommend one to three pieces of each item; minimalism is in vogue. Like I mentioned earlier, I arrange my plates according to the notes of the wine, some pairings include:
Raspberries/fruits & vegetables
Crackers or crostini
Shot of Espresso
Embrace your creativity and explore exotic flavours - don’t be afraid to throw something wild on the plate like a piece of candied bacon or even a sprig of fresh herbs for aroma.
How to Set Up
You have your wines and you know the best food pairings, now let’s talk about how to set up the wine tasting!
Cover your bottles with decorative tissue paper; it is a blind testing!
Of course we are decorating the table. I want to see everything from corks, to wine openers, floral arrangements, bursts of color, fairy lights, shells or crystals. Be sure to add your unique flair as you decorate.
Arrange water glasses and tasting glasses by each place setting.
A Wine Rating Card needs to be alongside each cheese plate. Each Taster needs to record their thoughts and rate each bottle; make sure you include a pencil or pen.
You can handwrite or design your own on the computer! My template is included at the bottom of the post as a downloadable link to make it easier for you!
The elements I included are:
- The Bottle Number
- A space for description
- 5 empty Wine Glasses (instead of stars) for the final rating!
I also included the directions on how to properly taste the wine including important senses. To properly taste the wine:
Make sure you have a pitcher of Chilled Lemon Water to cleanse the palate between tastings.
Also be sure to have a bucket on the table to pour out left over or unwanted wine (I know that seems crazy, but each taster has their preference!).
Conducting the Tasting
Everything is arranged, the table is set, the wine labels are covered, the individual plates of food pairings are awaiting each taster, set the ambiance with a relaxing playlist courtesy of Coppola Concierge (follow @Coppola Concierge on Apple Music for some playlist options) ...
So what are you waiting for? Call over your guests!
It’s time for us to walk through how to conduct the tasting.
This is meant to be a one-of-a-kind experience and you are the host! Explain the parameters of the blind testing, remind your guests to record their observations and rate each wine on their score cards.
Pour your first wine for each guest. Have them look at the wine.
Ask them: What do you think of the color? What do you smell?
Swirl the wine- What kind of legs does the wine have? If they're unsure of what the means explain that the legs are When you swirl a wine glass, let the glass settle and observe the wine dripping down the side of the glass, these are called "The Legs," which represent the amount of sugar in the wine.
Make this interactive! Have them sip the wine- what is the after taste? Direct them toward what pairs best with the wine, or maybe ask them what they think on the plate pairs best; something spicy like a pepper-crusted salami, or a sweet raspberry, maybe dark chocolate followed up with some sharp parmesan. Have them try different combinations; based on the food pairings the tasters will either love or hate the wine selection!
Go through all of your bottles this way. Tell them when it is time to move onto the next round. It is up to you to command the room and keep the momentum moving forward before they have eaten all of their food pairings in the first round!
If your guests are experienced winos you can ask deeper questions like:
What region do you think the wine is from? What type of wine do you think you're drinking? How much do you think it is?
Challenge yourselves with the "Advanced Score Card" *Below* if you think your guests have what it takes to determine the right grape.
Well, there you have it. Thank you for joining me as I outlined my secrets to hosting a stunning blind wine tasting. If there is anything I didn't cover or some detail that needs clarifying make sure you leave me a comment!
Happy Wine Tasting!
Links to my Wine Rating Card below - enjoy a basic fun card or advanced card.