[custom_frame_right shadow=”on”][/custom_frame_right]We've reviewed dozens of wine clubs, including a few case clubs (Cellar's Wine Club Quarterly Case Club, Laithwaites, Virgin, WSJ or Zagat Wines, and Windsor's “The Collector”). Many of these clubs are great for keeping your wine cellar stocked. But they can also be used to host a wine tasting in your own home.
Most case clubs will give you 2-3 bottles per wine, so you'll get 4-5 different types of wine. Make sure you have a nice mix of sparkling, white, and red wines.
You'll want to pour no more than 2oz per tasting (a 750 ml bottle of wine will give you 12 pours). So if you invite 10 people (plus you and your spouse), one bottle will be enough for a taste.
What I've found is that at the end of the tasting, guests always ask for their favorite, so be ready with two bottles of each wine.
Serve sparkling wine as guests arrive, followed by white wines and ending with the reds.
[message type=”info”]Tip: Open each of the wines ahead of time, especially the reds, which need to breathe.[/message]
Most wine clubs ship with tasting notes. Make copies of these and have them available for your guests (one copy per couple is usually enough). They're not only great for reading along (or reading ahead) but also make it easy for your guests to remember the wines they tried during the tasting.
[message type=”info”]Tip: Have pens available, too, so your guests can write some of their own comments on their tasting notes.[/message]
Different wines call for different wine glasses: sparkling wines or champagnes should be served in flutes, while white and red wines have their own style of stemware, too. However, during a wine tasting, use what you have on hand. If you can switch from white to red mid-way, go ahead. But don't worry too much about this point (just don't grab the red solo cups – not for this party).
Pitchers of Water & a Spittoon
OK, it's not really a spittoon, but that's what I think about. Your guests may not finish what you pour for them, so they'll need something to dump excess wine into. We used a really big decorative vase.
Also, a pitcher of water is useful to keep on hand to let guests pour a little water into their glasses for a quick rinse.
Pairing food with wine can be an entire blog post itself. We've written about wine & cheese, wine & cookies (and even Girl Scout cookies!). For your tasting, head over to BJ's or Sam's Club and hit up the appetizer frozen food section.
Assorted mini quiches or flaky pastry bites are great to serve, and so are deli spirals. Also, grab some bricks of cheese, crackers, and summer sausage.
The idea is to give everyone something to put in their stomach, not to serve them dinner. Try a wine, then try a recommended pairing (read the tasting notes, or consult a pairing guide), then try the wine again. The taste, texture, and entire experience should change.
[message type=”info”]Tip: If you're expecting kids running around, grab some pizza rolls or cocktail weenies.[/message]
We found some nice wine-themed paper plates & napkins at our local Party City – perfect for the occasion (and to avoid doing dishes – you'll have enough wine glasses to wash).
We set up to pour & taste wine in the dining room, and set the food out buffet-style in the kitchen.
[message type=”info”]Tip: Put a white tablecloth on the table where you're pouring the wine. The white backdrop allows you to see the true color of the wine, not tainted by a colored cloth. Just be ready for red wine stains.[/message]
Above all, have fun! When you taste wine, there's no wrong answer to what you're experiencing. An at-home wine tasting is a great way to get together with friends, enjoy good food & great wine.