Guide to Hosting an Intimate Wine Tasting at Home
Nothing pairs better with good wine than good friends. For an evening of lively conversation and companionship, a wine tasting with an intimate group of friends in your home is a perfect setting. For a more personal gathering and for logistical ease, this guide is geared towards a group of 10 people and less.
Whether you and your guests are exploring the latest trends in skin contact wines or indulging in an array of Burgundy grand cru, here is a guide to help you plan a memorable small gathering to celebrate wine and friendship.
Selecting the Wine
What is the Theme of the Tasting?
For an entertaining and enlightening wine tasting, a selection of wines that share a common theme provides a great template for comparing and contrasting. Here are a few ideas and examples of thematically curated wines that will spark lively discussion and deepen appreciation.
- A single grape varietal from different regions (sauvignon blanc from Loire Valley vs Napa Valley)
- Comparing two popular regions or countries (Willamette Valley vs Burgundy; France vs Italy)
- Various vintages or selection of wines from a single winemaker
- Different expressions of a single style (rosé, orange wine, sparkling wine)
- Wines from a less explored region (Jura, France; Lanzarote, Spain)
- Wines from overlooked countries (Austria, Greece, Portugal)
How Many Different Wines Should Be Served?
Depending on your goals and the scope of your wine selection, 5 to 8 different wines is a good range.
How Many Bottles is Enough?
The typical 750 ml bottle of wine allows for 10 tasting pours, which is 2.5 oz (a tasting serving is half of a full serving, 5 oz). If you have less than 10 guests, one bottle of each wine should be ample, but it never hurts to have two on hand, especially if guests are particularly keen on savoring a specific wine.
Having the Right Accoutrements
Unfortunately, wine itself cannot ensure a successful wine tasting. As with any social event (especially one involving alcohol) proper preparation is crucial for a successful wine tasting.
A Wine Glass Per Person
In an ideal world, our cabinets would be fully equipped with champagne flutes, Bordeaux glasses, port snifters, and decanters. Luckily, to appreciate wine, all that is really needed is a simple stemmed wine glass.
The bouquet (smell) of a wine is essential to flavor, and the curved bowl of a wine glass is crafted just for this purpose (even for sparkling wines). The stem allows you to hold the glass without your body heat affecting the temperature of the wine.
Changing glassware between wines is not at all necessary, even when changing between dramatically different styles, such as from a white to a red. It is recommended that when switching to a different style, a small drop of the upcoming wine be poured into the glass, swirled and then dumped.
Don't Forget These Tools & Steps
- A couple of wine corkscrews.
- Towels and other cleanup supplies.
- Spit bucket or proper receptacle for dumping excess wine
- If the wine needs to be chilled, be sure to have it at the proper temperature before the event.
Depending on how much wine is served, you may want to have snacks and appetizers to keep your guests satiated. You can pair finger foods and cheeses that complement the wines themselves, or serve dishes without strong spices and flavors that may clash with the wines.
And after all the wine is tasted, a perfect end to the evening is for everyone to sit down to a big dinner (with more wine, of course).