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By Samantha Burnett

How to plan a smashing good wine tasting party

Hosting a wine-tasting party might sound hard, but it doesn’t have to be. And it doesn’t need to replicate what you would experience at a winery’s wine tasting. Here are some tips:

Party size

Your budget might dictate how many people you invite. Wine pours at a tasting generally consist of two ounces. A typical wine bottle holds 250 ml, which is 25.4 ounces, so one bottle will accommodate 12 wine pours. If this is your first such party, start with six guests to keep things manageable.


A theme can help give your party a focus. One great example is a blind wine tasting. The wine bottles are concealed (think fun, pretty wine sacks) and labeled numerically. You want at least four different types of wine to make this work. Perhaps you do a blind wine tasting party of Washington State vs. California red wines. In this case, you would purchase a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and a Pinot Noir from California and Washington State. Hold a round for each type of wine. For example, start with the California Merlot, then the Washington Merlot, then have your guests vote for their favorite. Continue with the other varieties. At the end of the evening, reveal your bottles–your guests may be surprised by their preferences. You can also do this with a varietal, or type, or grape, year or even price points.


Having enough glassware is key. Some people do just offer one glass for each guest and have the guests rinse them out after each taste. It is up to your preference and inventory. In addition, have a pitcher of water and water glasses available to your guests. This will be extremely handy to refresh their palates between tastings (and keep them hydrated).


Though not mandatory, certain accessories come in handy. One is a wine bucket (a simple but presentable household bucket is just fine). This will allow your guests to discard wine should they choose to do so. Also, a wine pourer is a fine choice for a nice, smooth pour and to aerate the wine. Finally, consider a label system for your guests’ wine glasses. You can find festive yet affordable wine charms in culinary shops and housewares stores. If you happen to be gifted in crafts, these are also simple to make on your own.


You will want to offer something to eat with the wine you are serving. Consider doing tapas-style small plates of savory appetizers. If you are serving red wines, a good option is thinly sliced prime rib with a fig compote. For white wines, such as a Chardonnay, pears with brie, or melon wrapped with prosciutto are other delightful choices. You will want to have at least two choices for each type of wine you will be serving.

When choosing wines for your party, you may want to visit your local wine shop and speak with an associate who can suggest some good ones. It is always good to buy the wine ahead of time and store it. Give yourself and your guests enough time to plan (four to six weeks is best), so you can all thoroughly enjoy the party.

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