Hosting a Wine Party

Are you suffering from the mid-winter blahs?  If so, have you ever given any thought to hosting a wine party?  A wine party provides the opportunity for self-awareness as you may discover you like a wine you never thought you would.  It is a great way to expand your horizons and try different wines.

Depending on the number of participants, ask each person or couple to bring a favourite wine.  It doesn’t need to be expensive and you can even put a price cap on it if you like.

If you will be sampling both whites and reds then follow the standard practice of wine tasting – whites first, reds last.  You could also do a theme tasting, such as have all the wines from the same region or country, or wines made with the same grape varietal.

Blind tastings where the labels are covered can be both challenging and fun.  Doing a blind tasting allows your participants to try and identify the wine they brought.  You can try identifying the various types /varietals, and possibly even hazard a guess as to the country/continent of origin that each wine came from. 

When tasting the wine you can see if you can distinguish between the different smells and tastes, such as florals, honey, fruit varieties, cedar, chicory, earthiness, leather, tobacco, etc. and then see whether your perceptions match the wine reviewers’ claims.

Also consider suggesting food pairings that may complement the wines.

The portions for each tasting need not be more than 2 ounces and it isn’t necessary to swallow the wine.  For those who don’t want to swallow, disposable beer pong glasses make great spittoons.

It is also a good idea to provide water and plain crackers, such as Carr’s Water Crackers, so you and your guests can refresh your palate between wines.

I hosted a tasting where I invited several couples, asking each couple to bring a bottle of white and a bottle of red of their choosing.  I made up score sheets where each person indicated what they tasted, how they rated it, and guessed at the varietal of the wine.  I also provided them with a “cheat sheet” to help them organize their thoughts and aid in their decision making.  The rating card and cheat sheet are below.

The person with the highest score was awarded a prize.  The tasting was followed by dinner and each person could then select their own wine pairing from all the wines we had tasted.

If you don’t have an adequate number of wine glasses on hand, I suggest purchasing inexpensive glass ones.   Your local Dollar Store should have a suitable selection to choose from. In addition to being more environmentally friendly, they are also much less flimsy and less susceptible to spills than plastic glasses.

Your wine party can be as simple or elaborate as you want to make it.  The most important thing is to have fun.

Sláinte mhaith

Score Card

Judge # ______            Wine #______                                                                                 

Determine the Sweetness or Level of Dryness

  1. Do you feel a tingling sensation on the tip of your tongue?
  2. Is there a slight oily sensation in the middle of your tongue that lingers?
  3. Wine has a higher viscosity; wine tears on side of glass slowly. (also an indicator of high Alcohol)

WARNING:  A bone-dry wine can often be confused with a wine with high Tannin.

Do you consider this to be a        sweet        or       dry         wine?

Acidity

Acidity is tart and zesty. Tasting acidity can be confused with the taste of higher Alcohol. Wines with higher acidity feel lighter weight because they come across as ‘spritzy.’

Acidity Characteristics:

  1. Tingling sensation that focuses on the front and sides of your tongue. Feels like pop rocks.
  2. If you rub your tongue to the roof of your mouth it feels gravelly.
  3. Your mouth feels wet, like you bit into an apple.

HINT:  It is common for wines grown in cooler climates to have higher acidity.

Do you consider this wine to have a high acid content?       Yes       or        No

Tannin

Characteristics of Tannins

  1. The wine tastes bitter on the front inside of your mouth and along the side of your tongue.
  2. Tannin makes your tongue dry out.
  3. After you swallow you feel a lingering bitter/dry feeling in your mouth.

CAUTION:  Tannin can often be confused with the term “dry” because it dries your mouth out.

Does this wine have a high tannin content?       Yes      or       No

Fruit

Wines are often characterized by their main fruit flavours. Tasting for fruit flavours in a wine can help you better define your preferences. For instance, wines that have strawberry notes lead into a very different set of wines than enjoying wines that taste like blackberries. The level of fruitiness that you taste in a wine leads to very different growing regions.

Tasting for fruitiness in a wine

Red wind characteristics:  red fruits such as raspberry or dark fruits like blackberry and blueberry

White wine characteristics:  lemon and lime or peach and yellow apple

  1. Can you name 3 different fruits easily?  If so, what are they?    ______________________________________
  2. Do you find it difficult to pick out a single fruit flavor?     ___________________________________________
  3. Does the wine give you stronger impressions of other flavors such as grass, bell pepper, black pepper, olive or meat?  ___________________________________________________________________________________

Body: Light to Full-Bodied

Alcohol Level ABV (or Alcohol by Volume) adds body. The wine will have a higher viscosity which is easily seen in watching it bead on the side of the glass. A high alcohol wine typically tastes fuller bodied than a light-alcohol wine.

Tasting body in wine

  1. How does the wine seem       lighter        or           bigger  ?
  2. How long does the taste last in your mouth after you’ve swallowed?     _________ seconds
  3. Is the wine full bodied up front but then drops off at the finish?             Yes                No

YOUR OVERALL RATING

  1. I cannot tell a lie; this wine does not suit my taste in any way, shape or form.
  2. I am not a fan.  It is a bit of a “yawner” if you ask me.
  3. I would be willing to serve this as a house wine for dinner parties.
  4. Yummy, I would be willing to serve this to close friends and/or on special occasions.
  5. Share – no way.  I want to keep this all for myself.

I think this wine came from ______________________________________ (country or continent)

I think the type of wine is

 WHITE RED
 Gewurztraminer Gamay
 Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio Baco Noir
 Chablis Pinot Noir
 Pinot Blanc Valpolicella
 Riesling Merlot
 Viognier Zinfandel
 Sauvignon Blanc Cabernet (Cab Franc, Cab Sauv)
 Chardonnay Malbec
 Semillon Syrah or Shiraz
 Other  _____________________________ Other  _____________________________

Cheat Sheet

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