November 25, 2019
Hosting an at-home wine tasting is a great way to gather your friends over the holidays and do something fun and memorable. But where to begin your planning? We’ve got some simple tips for organizing the ultimate wine tasting in the comfort of your own home.
Choose a Wine Tasting Theme
Wine tastings are usually better for smaller groups since this makes things a little more intimate. But before planning all the party details, you should decide what kind of wine tasting you would like to have.
You can do a simple wine tasting where your guests can sample random wines, the best wines under $20, or similarly styled wines, like dry white wines, sparkling wines, rich red wines, or dessert wines. You could choose wine from only one particular region, like Tuscan wines alongside Italian appetizers and dishes, or select wines from Spain, and serve tapas accordingly.
You can be the generous host and supply all the wine, or ask guests to bring one wine each under your theme.
“Get out of your rut, try wines you wouldn’t normally try,” suggests Co-op Wine Spirits Beer sommelier Mike Roberts. “Do a themed flight of wines, or choose a theme like ‘around the world’. Battles are always fun too; select your wines and make it France vs Italy. Of course, if you have any questions, don’t forget you can ask for help from the store staff or your local Co-op Wine Spirits Beer sommelier.”
Buy Enough Wine
When buying wine, make sure to have enough for all your guests. A standard bottle of wine has a size of approximately 25 ounces, which means you can serve 12 two ounce pours from one bottle. If you are going to offer more generous 6-ounce pours, you will serve only four to five people per bottle. Do the math to avoid disappointment.
“Decant the wines ahead of time to allow them to open up,” says Roberts. “Calibrate your palate with some sparkling wine to start, like Lanson Black Label Champagne and Mumm Carte Classique. If you are serving different types of wine, it’s generally customary to begin with those sparkling wines first, followed by whites, rosés, reds, and then dessert wines.”
Food to Serve at a Wine Tasting
Cheese is a natural side at your wine tasting party, and depending on the wines you’re sampling, you’ll want to offer a variety of complimentary cheeses. Look for a combination of aged cheeses (gouda, parmesan, gruyere, cheddar), creamy or soft (brie, camembert, burrata), crumbly (chèvre, goat, feta), and blue cheese (gorgonzola, stilton).
Add a curated selection of meats to your cheese board and call it charcuterie! Stacks of prosciutto, salami, speck, turkey, ham — the choice is yours. Condiments such as honey and fruit preserves go really well with cheese, but you can also add yogurt dip, whole grain mustard, or a Canadian condiment like Hellish Relish, which has a sweetly spicy bite that can be softened nicely with the cheese.
Don’t want to fuss with buying individual meats and cheeses? Choose a premade and packaged Charcuterie Box filled with things like soft cheeses, jellies and compotes and meats all in one convenient package.
Pickled vegetables are a great addition to a cheese platter, but you can slice some fresh veggies as well. Fruits, nuts, and olives are essential—try adding Kalamata olives, and black olives, along with some almonds, pistachios, or cashews. Fresh fruit will give a boost of colour to your board and will complement perfectly meat and cheese served. The fruit is a great way to cleanse your palate as well, so try adding apple slices, berries, and fresh figs to your board.
Don't forget to serve a selection of crackers and some bread as well; artisan crackers, fresh French baguette for, pita bread or whole grain crisps are a must when hosting a wine and cheese party.
Hosting parties is always so much fun, but organizing them can be overwhelming. To have your holiday wine tasting under control, make sure to get all the supplies needed for a smooth operation, and minimal work night-of.
Upgrade Your Glassware if Necessary
Good wine glasses are a must. At your tasting, be sure to serve wine in clear glasses that have stems so your guests can see the colour of the wines and their characteristics. If you don’t already have one, now’s the time to get a decanter which will help bring out the flavours in a red wine. You can buy multi-packs of glasses, or even rent them from party supply stores.
Make sure you’ve got a couple of corkscrews too, and place them around your tasting area.
Set out water glasses and a pitcher of fresh water for your guests. Not only is it important to hydrate, but you can use the water to cleanse your palate between flights.
If you’ve chosen food that pairs with certain wines, it’s nice to add small name tags or wee flags so guests know how to make the ideal match between the food and wine.
Finally, pick up an inexpensive bunch of flowers from your local grocer. Even carnations can elevate the look of a party if you create small mini arrangements and place them around the room.
If you need recommendations for your wine tasting party, or help pairing the perfect food and wine combo, head to your local Co-op Wine Spirits Beer for expert recommendations from our sommeliers.
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