Plan a Simple Wine Tasting
A wine tasting party is a great way to get family and friends together, or spend an evening with the girls/guys. It a fun, relaxing way to learn about different wines and to spend time socializing with others.
To start, decide on how many people will be invited. Send the invites at least two weeks before the event. Ask each guest to bring a bottle of wine with them. It’s best if there are a varieties of different flavors, such as red, white and dessert wines. Have each guest call or e-mail you to let you know the type of wine they are bringing.
- A variety of wines
- Two large plates/trays
- Bread and cheese
- Wine glasses
- Tasting cards
- Pens or pencils
- Pitcher of water (to rinse glasses between wines)
- A dump bucket (in case not all wine in the glasses are consumed)
- A well-lit area (to see the distinct wine colors)
- For a classy look, go for crystal plates for the cheese and bread, and crystal wine glasses.
- Use a white table cloth to see the contrasting colors better.
- Decorate the tables with fancy napkins and red and green grapes still on the vine
- Use wine glass charms to distinguish the cups from one another.
- You can use a wine cabinet, a wine rack or put the bottles in woven baskets with cloth in with loaves of bread.
- To create a classy, relaxing atmosphere play some calming background music, such as jazz, to add to the mood.
During the party:
- When tasting wines, you will want to work from sweet to dry with white wines and progress from light to full-bodied with red wines
- Have each guest introduce to the group the wine they brought. They can tell the name, make, where it’s from, year, etc. All the information is found on the label.
- After the wine has been introduced, poor one ounce into each person’s wine glass. Have your guests sample each wine by itself, assessing the wine’s unique color, smells, and flavors
- Introduce the appropriate cheese pairing
- Have the guests assess the wine’s qualities and flavor.
- Design a tasting card that specifies the type of wine, where it was produced and the year it was made. Have each guest write down the distinct appearance, aroma, flavor, and complimentary cheese
- Provide bread between the different wines, to start them with a clean slate.
- Be sure to have some laughs and keep the mood light and friendly
- Finish the party with a dessert wine and a piece of rich cheesecake for each guest
Wine and Cheese
To make sure you have enough wine and cheese for your guests, prepare the following:
For eight people: Three pounds of cheese, four bottles of wine
For 16 people: Six pounds of cheese, eight bottles of wine
For 24 people: Nine pounds of cheese, 12 bottles of wine
For a well-rounded plate, choose at least one cheese from each of the four basic categories below:
Category 1 — Aged: Aged Cheddar, Comte, Goat Gouda
Category 2 — Soft: Constant Bliss, Camembert, Brillat-Savarin
Category 3 — Firm: Manchego, Mimolette, Parmigiano-Reggiano
Category 4 — Blue: Gorgonzola Dolce, Valdeon, Stilton
Buy more hard cheeses than soft ones; they have a much longer refrigerator life, so you can nibble on leftovers days and even weeks after the party.
Remove the cheese from the refrigerator an hour before serving — cold mutes flavor.
Arrange the cheeses on cutting boards, saucers, platters, or plates. (Soft cheeses can go on anything, but hard ones work best on a sturdy surface.)
Offer a selection of breads, including sliced baguette, bread sticks, and crackers in all sizes and shapes.
Place the cheese platters and the other nibbles on several different tables to avoid guest gridlock.
Set out a separate knife with each cheese. Soft cheeses spread well with a butter knife, firm ones cut best with a paring knife, and aged ones require a cheese plane.
Label each cheese to avoid reciting the names all evening. If you like, also jot down a few poetic adjectives describing its flavor.
Spoon jarred condiments — sweet preserves or honey, tart chutneys, spicy mustards — into small dishes. The spreads create a dynamic contrast with the rich cheese.
Before the party, refrigerate the cheeses in their original packaging. Afterwards, store soft cheeses in resealable containers, blue cheeses in plastic wrap, and firm and aged cheeses first in wax or parchment paper, then in plastic wrap.
What to Sip
Cheese-friendly varietals have either a lively acidity or strong tannins, says master sommelier Andrea Robinson, author of Great Wine Made Simple (Broadway Books, $28, www.amazon.com). Try Riesling (Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Riesling, $10), Sauvignon Blanc (Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc, $9), Cabernet Sauvignon (Franciscan Oakville Estate Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, $25), and an inexpensive alternative to Champagne, such as cava (Segura Viudas Aria Cava Brut, $12).
A twist on wine tasting
Instead of knowing which wine is what, have a blind taste test, pour the wine in a separate room, and bring the glasses out on trays. Have each guest choose from a list of what wine they think it is. The person with the most correct can win a prize, like a special bottle wine or a book on wine tasting for beginners.
Most importantly, drink and serve responsibly