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Friday, November 12, 2010
How to Host a Wine Tasting

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By Michael K.

Nearly everyone enjoys a great glass of wine. From the crisp, dry bouquet of an Orvieto, to the round, fruity flavors of a Malbec, there’s something for everyone. Unfortunately, many Americans are relatively unfamiliar with the different varietals available around the world, and as a result, prefer to stick with the comparative familiarity of beer or other malt beverages when choosing to consume alcohol. That’s where you come in; try throwing a wine tasting!

While it’s true that the concept of a wine-centric get together is nothing new, it seems to have fallen out of favor in the last twenty years, having made way for other types of parties. GoodDeals.com appreciates the opportunities for fellowship and learning (as well as the excuse to drink great wine!) afforded by a traditional tasting, we thought it would be a good idea to outline a few quick tips on how to throw a wine tasting in the comfort of your own home, with your closest friends.

Step 1: Choose a format

“How many ways are there to do it?” you might ask – surprisingly, quite a few. But while they both involve selecting several wines to sip, there are two routes most hosts choose to go.
  • The “Guessing-Game:” In this method, any number of wines are selected, then divided equally, into numerically organized glasses, among your guests. Throughout the course of the evening, the wines are sampled, one at a time, by each guest. After having tasted each glass, the company is invited to write their personal remarks about the wine on a sheet of paper, along with a “guess” as to which wine it may be. At the end of the evening, the host reveals the identity of each wine, and reads a short description of the main characteristics of the wine including the grape variety, the growing region, and the name of the wine.

    A disadvantage to this method is that the wines left for the end of the tasting are subject to the ambient environment, and may warm or chill to less than optimal temperatures. If you choose to go this route, consider opening the bottles one at a time, and keeping the rest in a wine cooler so they can be enjoyed at the right temperature.

  • The Discussion: The more straight-forward of the two formats, the discussion affords the wine taster the best opportunity to associate the name and characteristics of a wine directly. Here, the host (or a wine dealer, as we will discuss shortly) opens a bottle, divides it among the guests, and describes the wine as it is shared.
Step 2: Pick your wine!

As there are far too many wines to be tasted in one evening available today, it is best to use some organizational method to narrow down your wine selections. The most popular include:
  • Varietal: If you select several wines of the same varietal, guests will be able to differentiate the wines mainly by growing region and vineyard.

  • Grape Variety: Similar to the varietal category, organizing wines by grape variety will edify your guests as to the difference in growing region, and in some cases, blend.

  • Region: Affording perhaps the most variety in flavor, this category will educate your guests as to the similarities and differences in wines grown in the same growing region.
It is also possible to hire/permit a sommelier or wine dealer to select your wines for you. This method assures your wine selection will maintain the highest level of continuity. In addition, many wine dealers will bring wine, many times, free of charge, to your home if given the opportunity to sell the wines at the end of your party.

Step 3: Select your cheese

Yes, it’s cliché, but there’s a reason for that. Pairing wine and cheese is an age-old tradition that accentuates the best flavors of both. Some of the most popular wine and cheese pairings include:
  • Red Wines:

    • Merlot: Brie, Manchego
    • Cabernet Sauvignon: Camembert, Sharp Cheddar, Danish Blue
    • Shiraz: Sharp Cheddar
    • Pinot Noir: Edam, Ballyoak
    • Chianti: Mozzarella Bufala, Pecorino, Provolone
    • Rioja: Sharp Cheddar, Havarti
    • Port: Stilton, Roquefort
  • White Wines:

    • Chardonnay: Mild Cheddar, Gruyere, Bucheron
    • Sauvignon Blanc: Danish Blue, Sharp Cheddar, Gruyere
    • Riesling: Colby, Gouda, Monterey Jack
    • Gewürztraminer: Boursin, Chevre, Swiss
    • Sparkling Wine/Champagne: Brie, Gouda, Chevre
    • Sauternes: Beeleigh Blue, Gorgonzola
Of course, there are many other classic food/wine pairings such as fruit and crackers. Feel free to arrange your presentation to include such delicious treats.

Step 4: Enjoy!

It is a party after all! Try not to get too wrapped up in the details of throwing the best wine tasting. The chances are, your friends will appreciate the effort you’ve put into the party, and will have a great time.

Cheers!




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